Northland Skis: Fire and Feud in St. Paul

By Greg Fangel and Paul Hooge

How Christian Lund mopped up rivals while making the world’s best-known hickory skis.

Illustration above: Henry Hall (1893-1986), of Ishpeming, Michigan, was just one of many professional ski jumpers who swore by Northland’s hickory skis. After his 1917 world record, he served in World War I, and returned to reclaim the record in 1921, jumping 229.5 feet at Revelstoke, British Columbia.

America’s ski-making industry, as a mass-production enterprise, began along the banks of the upper Mississippi River in Minnesota. Fueled by a ready market of Norwegian immigrants and the availability of high-quality timber, men like jumping champions Mikkel and Torjus Hemmestveit set up workshops to hand-carve dozens, perhaps hundreds, of skis each year. It was Martin Strand, a civil engineer born in Rendalen, Norway, who in 1896 began mass-producing skis using power equipment, in St. Paul. But the signal success was the Northland Ski Manufacturing Co., which grew to be the largest ski-maker in the world, while producing what many considered the best hickory skis available (at least until Thor Groswold began making skis in Denver in 1934)...

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