At the dawn of the new century, most Coloradans remain unfamiliar with the great ski jumping tournaments in Norway or the ski culture of the Midwest (largely contained within the Scandinavian populations.) Nor are they aware of the improvements in ski equipment that evolved in Norway during the previous decade.
In the Scandinavian countries and the Alps, the first few years of the 20th century are a time of transition from using one long ski pole to using two shorter push sticks for climbing and running cross country. The Finns are credited with the first use of the shorter push sticks (Vol. 11, #4 Skiing Heritage, p8)
The word "ski" or "skee", rarely used before 1900, is common usage after the turn of the century. In mid-winter, 1903, the Steamboat Pilot describes "Winter Sport on the Treacherous and Speedy Skee." "Skees are swift but mighty treacherous. The learning of the art of skeeing is the most exciting, dangerous, exasperating, yet satisfying of experiences." (Quoted in Jean Wren's book, Steamboat Springs - and the "Treacherous & Speedy Skee)
**Enos Mills, a ski mountaineer, becomes a "Colorado Snow Observer" for three years circa 1904. He travels into the backcountry on skis and webbed snowshoes, measuring snowfall and charting weather conditions. In Spell of the Rockies, published in 1910, he describes outskiing an avalanche. Mills lobbies tirelessly to have the pristine high country west of Estes Park protected by the federal government.
In the Midwest, the U.S. National Ski Association is founded with 17 charter members. (From Skisport to Skiing)
The first American book on skiing, The Winter Sport of Skiing is published by the Theodore A. Johnson Company, Maine. A catalogue in back offers for sale several different models of skis, a harness binding, and push sticks as well as the traditional long alpen enpole. In the Midwest, Martin Strand and Aksel Holter are also manufacturing finely crafted skis. But in Colorado such good quality is rare.
Ski fashions decree that women wear ankle-length skirts.
**Carl Howelsen, the great Norwegian ski champion, arrives in Denver to pursue his trade as a stonemason. In 1905 he immigrated to the U.S. due to poor economic conditions at home. Settling first in Chicago, he signed on with Barnum & Bailey’s circus where he was billed as “The Flying Norseman.” His ski jumping act became a star attraction. Eventually, he tired of the circus, longed for the outdoors and mountains and headed west. (The Flying Norseman by Leif Hovelsen)
**Peter Prestrud contours a small jumping hill from a mine dump at the mouth of Ten- Mile Canyon in Summit County and uses it for recreational jumping. Later, he and Eyvin Flood build the big jumping hill at Dillon where **Anders Haugen breaks a world’ s distance record in 1919. (Prestrud bio)
The First International Ski Congress (forerunner of the FIS) meets at Oslo Norway to promote and regulate international ski competition (Nordic). The U.S. receives notice of the meeting too late to send a delegate, but sends a letter explaining that Americans "are not contented with good form alone in a ski jumping contest, they want something more, they want long daring leaps and the establishing of records." (A History of the USSA)
**Carl Howelsen and Angell Schmidt get off the train at the summit of Rollins Pass, and ski down the western slope 44 miles into Hot Sulphur Springs. There they find a winter carnival in progress. They hastily improvise a small jumping ramp. Howelsen soars off the ramp and flies 79 feet through the air, astounding the townspeople who immediately plan a jumping tournament for February of 1912. (Middle Park Times and Grand County Historical Association Journal, Vol.IV, #1, 1984)
Hot Sulphur Springs hosts the first official winter sports carnival in Colorado to include a ski jumping tournament. A special train is run from Denver. The Denver press reports on the sensational new sport and the ski-sport is born in Colorado (Denver Post, Jan 7, 1912) The Hot Sulphur Springs ski tournaments continue until the onset of World War II.
The big snow of 1913 goes down in the record books as one of the worst storms of the century. The 5-day blizzard paralyzes Denver, the Front Range, and the mountain communities as far west as Breckenridge. But skiers glide easily over the snowy streets. **George Cranmer watches **Carl Howelsen and other skiers sliding down Capitol Hill and stops to inquire about the long runners. Cranmer will later take up skiing himself, become Manager of Denver’s Parks System, and be the moving force behind the development of Winter Park. (Municipal Facts Jan/Feb 1922; Denver Post Jan. 19, 1914; Dec. 8, Denver Post; Denver Times of Dec. 4, 5,6)
The big snow of December 1913 inspires the sports men and women of Denver to form the Denver Rocky Mountain Ski Club and plan a ski jumping tournament at Inspiration Point (in northwest Denver) for January 18, 1914. Although the jump at Inspiration Point is used off and on until 1920, snowfall in Denver is marginal. The Denver Ski Club soon looks for a new ski site with better snow conditions. They find it at Genesee in the foothills west of Denver. (Denver Post, Jan. 18, 19, 1914)
It is probable that **Carl Howelsen first visited Steamboat Springs after the 1913 Hot Sulphur Springs ski tournament at the urging of **Marjorie Perry, a sportswoman who owned property there. On Feb. 12, 1914 the first Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival gets underway with Howelsen and **Peter Prestrud making a twin jump. Steamboaters are so taken with the new sport they decide to make their winter carnival an annual event and feature ski jumping—a tradition that has lasted over 90 years. (Steamboat Pilot, Jan. 28, 1914)
**Enos Mills’ hard work pays off. Rocky Mountain National Park is dedicated and will play a major role in the history of skiing in Colorado. (Enos Mills bio)
In Steamboat Springs a new jumping hill is contoured under the watchful eye of Carl Howelsen and christened “Howelsen Hill” in his honor. The new facility is recognized as being extremely fast. In 1916 Ragnar Omtvedt sets a new national distance record on the hill with a jump of 192 ft, 9 inches (16 feet better than the old record.) The following year Henry Hall breaks the 200-foot distance barrier with a jump of 203 feet. (The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs by Sureva Towler)
The Colorado Mountain Club begins the first of many winter outings to Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Trail & Timberline)
On Mar. 8th and 9th of 1919, the Dillon Winter Sports Club holds a jumping tournament on a new hill built under the direction of **Peter Prestrud and Eyvin Flood and designed to be one of the fastest in the world. **Anders Haugen sets a new world’ s record distance jump of 213 feet.
**Denotes Colorado Ski Hall of Fame
(Compiled by Patricia Pfeiffer, Chair, CSM History Committee)