George Hovland - Olympian, resort developer

Passing Date

George Hovland, Jr., Olympian and resort developer in Duluth, Minnesota, passed on May 9, due to complications after hip surgery. He was 94.

Born in Duluth, Hovland won the Minnesota slalom and cross-country championships at age 16 and later was caption of the University of Minnesota ski team. He served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.

After racing cross country at the 1952 Oslo Winter Games, Hovland returned to Duluth and became an active resort and nordic trails developer in the region. In 1954, he competed in Nordic combined at the FIS World Championships in Falun, Sweden. That year he developed Ski Kenwood, the city’s first Alpine ski area. Hovland designed and supervised construction of Chester Bowl ski area and founded Spirit Mountain. He also opened Duluth’s first ski shop and worked as a representative for lift and ski gear manufacturers.

Hovland co-wrote a study for Wisconsin’s Telemark Ski Area on the potential of cross-country skiing. The study resulted in expanded trail development and training programs at Telemark, which eventually led to the launch of the American Birkebeiner. He raced in 33 Birkebeiners, was age class champion 12 times and in 1983 was a National Masters Champion in the 10k and 30k events. He won four Central Division skimeister championships, and was NASTAR age-group national champion year after year, the last time at age 91.

George is remembered fondly as a longtime friend and supporter of ISHA.