Schussing through time

A Utah library holds a comprehensive archive commemorating ski sports.

 
  • Men standing on a road holding their skis and broomstick “poles” over their shoulders after a ski journey from Park City to Brighton.

    Frank Whitney Photograph Collection
  • Maxine Bounous skiing, 1960s.

    Junior Bounous
  • A Brighton ski lift ticket, 1969-1970.

    Brighton Ski Resort Photograph Collection
  • A skier scouts out a route at a Utah ski resort.

    Snow Basin Photograph Collection
  • Family ski and snowshoeing outing, circa late 1800s.

    Alan K. Engen Photograph Collection
  • Frode Lillefield, University of Alaska skier, at the 1999 NCAA Championships.

    University of Utah Ski Team Photograph Collection
  • Early Wasatch Mountains ski map, 1938.

    Alan K. Engen Photograph Collection
  • Gretchen Fraser skiing, circa mid 1950s.

    Alan K. Engen Photograph Collection
  • People leaving the chair lift at the top of Ogden City.

    Snow Basin Photograph Collection

Feeling nostalgic about neon ski-suit onesies? Intrigued by ski bindings from the 1930s and curious how their users made it downhill alive? Ever wonder who was the first to ski Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah’s Wasatch Range, a once-quiet area now chock-full of resorts?

The Utah Ski and Snowboard Archive holds the answers. In 1989, Gregory Thompson, former associate dean for special collections at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, and the late Sue Raemer, a ski instructor and the library’s development director, started the collection to preserve a slice of the Intermountain West’s ski history. This comprehensive archive takes us from the 1870s to the mid-2000s, documenting the region’s ski competitions, the founding of its major resorts, the growing understanding of snow safety and avalanche control and the evolution of equipment and style. The 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games are covered, as are cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, freestyle skiing and even the relative newcomer on the scene — snowboarding. The archive, which centers on Utah but also has materials from other Western states, features 300 oral histories from ski industry pioneers, 500 video and audio tapes, more than 300,000 photos, resort lift and layout maps, even old competition rosters and lift tickets.

Incredible stories are woven into the collection. Norwegian immigrant Alf Engen, for instance, came to the U.S. as a young man, his only English words “coffee” and “donut.” Engen went on to set numerous ski-jumping world records, helped coach the U.S. Olympic ski team — his two younger brothers were members — and taught thousands to love skiing as a ski school director at Alta Ski Area. 

Kylie Mohr is an editorial intern for High Country News writing from Montana. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. See our letters to the editor policy. 

 

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