‘History of Skiing’ comes to Concord Public Library

  • In this Sunday, May 3, 2015 photo, ice clings to a cliff at Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Avalanches, falling ice, crevasses and undermined snow are some of the dangers faced by backcountry skiers at the birthplace of extreme skiing. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

  • A backcountry skier hikes in Tuckerman Ravine in this March 31, 2013, file photo. AP

  • Skiers at Tuckerman Ravine for the third of the legendary American Inferno races, April 16, 1939, photograph by Winston H. Pote (1899–1989), showing an unidentified racer on the headwall.

  • FILE - In this March 10, 2015, file photo, Greg George, of Macon, Ga., skis the Lobster Claw, a steep ski route in Tuckerman Ravine on New Hampshire's Mount Washington. Skiers have been hiking up to ski the Northeast's tallest peak for nearly 100 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File) Robert F. Bukaty

  • Dartmouth Arlbergers, the style of the 1930s. Courtesy—New England Ski Museum

Monitor staff
Published: 3/21/2022 4:49:35 PM

Downhill skiing is a staple of life in New Hampshire. It’s mountains are renowned in the east for their beauty, accessibility and the excitement they afford.

John Allen, professor emeritus of history at Plymouth State University, has dedicated the better part of his career to the history of skiing.

He’s tracked the roots of Granite State skiing back to an influx of Austrian and Scandinavian immigrants who introduced new equipment and techniques when they moved here.

Decades later, in the 1930s, the first ski lifts arrived in New Hampshire that spawned today’s billion-dollar ski industry.

“You get a whole different clientele that comes skiing because life is made easy,” said Allen.

Allen, who is also the historian for the New England Ski Museum in Franconia is hosting a presentation titled “New Hampshire on Skis” this Wednesday through the Concord Public Library. The event will take place at 6 p.m. on Zoom and in-person at the main library’s auditorium; those looking to attend should register online through the library’s website.

Allen, who has writtenThe Culture and Sport of Skiing: From Antiquity to World War II, said that skiing was utilitarian for much of its existence. And when the Scandinavians brought it to America, it stayed that way.

“Particularly the Norwegians who came over here in increasing numbers,” said Allen. “They brought a certain type of skiing with them, which today we call Nordic.”

When Nordic skiing came to the U.S. it became part of the “muscular Christianity movement,” which led to skiing as a form of recreation and exercise.

“Especially among young, wealthy men,” said Allen. “There was a feeling that somehow industrialization was doing bad things to body and soul and so to get out into nature’s grandeur, to get out into the purity of the snow to get out into God’s great wilderness and all that type of stuff was a very attractive proposition.”

The focus was not on enjoyment but rather a religiously-motivated exercise. That shifted with the arrival of Austrian immigrants.

“The second group of immigrants were the Alpine skiers coming with a very different technique, the so-called Arlberg technique,” said Allen. “And also with a different sort of attitude towards skiing. The Alpine people come with the idea that we better have a socially good time while we do it.”

Allen said he plans to discuss how this new ski culture emerged. He will discuss not just the emergence of lifts but all that came with it such as ski instruction, competition and even fashion.

The Granite State is still known as the birthplace of extreme skiing thanks to Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington. This spring will be no exception as thousands of adventurers will travel to New Hampshire’s highest peak to test their skills.

For more information on this and other programs visit, concordnh.gov/library.

This story has been updated to reflect the correct date and location of the event.
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