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For the week of January 31 through February 6, 2001

Skiing’s past arrives in spring

Ski and Heritage Museum to serve up local history

"I can hardly wait to get some of this over to the new building."

Museum curator Pat Butterfield

Express Staff Writer

Gregvig, Northland and Fahlin are hardly names that come to mind when one thinks of skiing and the boards used to scoot over snow in winter months, but once upon a time they were commonplace in ski country.

Near the turn of the 20th century, when Kevlar and fiberglass were nothing more than pipe dreams, skiing in general was an entirely different proposition, and skis were more a means of transportation than play toys.

When the Ketchum-Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum opens the doors of its newly expanded facility in a few months, a tour of vintage skis—including the aforementioned brands—will be available to those who seek the archaic knowledge of skiing’s past and the comprehension of the sport’s evolution through present day.

Including the recent donation of 70 pairs of skis from Hailey resident Gordon Yates, and a prior donation from Hailey resident David Elie, the museum has a conservative estimate of 300 pairs of old skis, curator Pat Butterfield said Thursday.

"It’s probably closer to 400," she said.

A storage room at the museum’s Ketchum Forest Service Park facilities is overflowing with relics from the past, including a 40-foot-long wall littered with old skis.

Some, dating from the 1880s, sport attached canvas boots and rounded wooden edges. Other old models are painted white, designed to match the outfits of Tenth Mountain Division skiers in World Wars I and II.

More recent models are mounted with metal toe-and-heel bindings, and metal edges run their lengths.

The attic above the storage room, too, is filled with old-but-more-modern skis, many of which were also part of Yates’ recent donation. The brands are more recognizable: Head, Fischer, Hart and Rossignol.

"I can hardly wait to get some of this over to the new building," Butterfield said excitedly as she perused the old gear.

The museum’s new building is on the same property as the existing museum. It has been undergoing renovations for the past four months, and is expected to be finished by this spring.

Yates’ donation helped spur the museum to expand its facilities, Butterfield said. "Without his donation of skis, I don’t think we would have really had the push to get the other building done."

When the museum is finished, Butterfield said, antique skis, boots, bindings and poles will line the walls in chronological order, and mannequins will model apparel from representative decades.


The earliest evidence of skiing comes from Scandinavia, where petroglyphs dating to 6000 B.C. show men skiing. The oldest ski known, which was found at a Norwegian archaeological site, dates to 2500 B.C.

Modern skis haven’t changed too dramatically in basic form, only in the quality of construction and materials.

Early American skis were made of wood, and skiers strapped themselves to the skis using leather straps or canvas that was leftover from the mines and nailed to the skis’ surface, Butterfield said. Early miners’ skis were generally eight to 12 feet long and almost an inch thick.

The early skis were used to move mail and ore, as well as for general transportation.

The early skis were all handmade, Butterfield said.

By 1900, skiing was catching on, and the first manufactured skis started hitting the market. Some included metal, Telemark-style bindings.

"The early European skis were more sophisticated," Butterfield said. "Metal edges arrived shortly before World War II. After the war, there was a big technological change."


Today’s skis are a world apart from early models, using carbon fiber construction, high-tech bases, magnetic dampening systems and cap construction.

But a walk through the past of wooden relics isn’t too far in the future. The new museum should open this spring.


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