A Short History of Catastrophes

When it snows, skiers ski, even amid calamity. That could change with Covid-19. By Andy Bigford

Skiers and the industry have confronted and overcome a variety of disasters—wars, gas shortages, recessions, and terrorism—none of which affected the sport more than the biggest annual influencer of all: the weather. This disaster is different. The novel coronavirus already has trimmed one-sixth of the prematurely closed 2019-20 season, an estimated 8 million skier days and $2 billion in revenue, according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Travel concerns, social distancing constraints, and the cratering economy could take a much bigger bite out of the upcoming 2020-21 season. Or not.

Just prior to the modern skiing age, World War II was the obvious exception to the weather rule. Many of the 60 or so “ski areas” operating in the U.S. closed during the conflict, as did countless community rope-tow hills, with resort improvements coming to a standstill. 

Stowe stayed open. With gas rationing in force, skiers commuted by train and bus, but the lifts spun just six hours a day. The sport supported the war effort in other ways. Stowe skier C. Minot “Minnie” Dole, who founded the National Ski Patrol in 1938, persuaded the U.S. State Department to create the 10th Mountain Division ski troops. At the 10th’s headquarters at Camp Hale in Leadville, Colorado, Ski Cooper was created and then opened to the public after the war...

Want to read more? You’ve got options!

1. Join ISHA! Your annual print ($49) or digital ($29) membership includes six issues of Skiing History, starting with the current issue. Click here to get started, and select the best option for you under “Print & Digital Membership” or “Annual Auto Renewal.”

2. Sign up for a free six-month digital membership. Read every new issue online—plus back issues to 2009—for free! We’ll be in touch when your free trial membership is about to expire.

To get started, scroll down to “Digital Membership” and select “Six Month — Digital Only Membership.” Add the code FREETRIAL18 to your cart at checkout.

3. Or request a free print copy of the magazine mailed to your home. Sign up for your one-time free trial issue of Skiing History here:

(Due to the high cost of postage, this offer is limited to North American residents only.)