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Short Turns: 1300 Year-Old Ski, Artist Tycho Odberg



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Short Turns: 1300 Year-Old Ski, Artist Tycho Odberg

Retreating Ice Reveals Mate of 1,300-Year-Old Ski

Seven years later, Norwegian archaeologists have a full pair

In 2014, archaeologists found a lone “pre-Viking” wood ski frozen deep in the Digervarden Ice Patch in southern Norway, where it had been entombed since the eighth century. The ski was remarkably well preserved and included remnants of a birch-and-leather heel-strap binding, according to scientists from Norway’s Glacier Archaeology Program (GAP), who led the discovery (see “Glaciers Yield Ancient Skis,” Skiing History, March-April 2019).

Photo above: Credit Espen Finstad,

Since skis travel in pairs, the scientists have monitored the ice patch for seven years, hoping that summer thaws and glacial retreat would reveal the ski’s partner. In late September, scientists discovered the site of the ancient yard sale: They exhumed the second ski less than 20 feet from the original discovery.

Buried deeper in the ice than the first ski, the second ski is better preserved, reported Lars Pilø, an archaeologist with GAP, on the organization’s blog, The ski measures about six feet long (187 centimeters) and 6 inches wide (17 centimeters). The skis had been repaired repeatedly, indicating heavy use. They were not a matched set and were paired after each had been used previously, which didn’t surprise Pilø. “The skis are not identical, but we should not expect them to be. The skis are handmade, not mass-produced,” he blogged. “They have a long and individual history of wear and repair before an Iron Age skier used them together and they ended up in the ice 1,300 years ago.”

Pilø reports that the two skis now stand as the best-preserved ancient pair on record. In 1924 a pair was found in a bog in Kalvträsk, Sweden—along with a ski pole—later carbon-dated about 5,200 years old, but one of the skis is in fragments and no binding parts survived (see “The European Origin of Skiing,” by Maurice Woehrlé, Skiing History, July-August 2021).

Squaw Valley Is Now Palisades Tahoe

After decades of consideration across multiple regimes, the resort scrubs the slur from its name.

Monument to the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Palisades Tahoe photo.

A year after announcing that it would change its name, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows made the move in September and is now officially Palisades Tahoe, a reference to the rugged granite walls and vertiginous terrain that earned the resort early fame as the birthplace of American extreme skiing.

The name Squaw Valley pre-existed the founding of the resort in 1949. The term “squaw” is now widely considered a sexist and racist slur against Indigenous women. The new name unifies the Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows base areas under one banner.

Members of the local Washoe tribe had advocated for years to rename the resort. Former resort owners Nancy and Alex Cushing told reporters in the 1990s that a name change was under consideration.

“We were compelled to change the name because it’s the right thing to do, especially for the generations yet to come, who will grow up without having to use a slur to identify the place where they chase their dreams down the mountain,” said Ron Cohen, who launched the name-change process when he served as the resort’s president. “We spent more than a year making sure that we were doing right by the community,” said Cohen, who now runs California’s Mammoth Mountain.

Efforts to wash offensive names off the map are gaining traction. The Reconciliation in Place Names Act was recently re-introduced in Congress to update the names of more than a thousand locations in the U.S. that are considered derogatory. For instance, Denver skiers heading to the slopes can see the peak of Squaw Mountain. The governor of Colorado has established an advisory board to consider name changes throughout the state, with similar efforts underway in Utah and other places.

Squaw’s name change has led to other updates within the resort. The base area village on the Olympic Valley side is now called The Village at Palisades Tahoe. The process to rename Squaw One and Squaw Creek chairlifts is underway. Officials expect the process of updating physical name designations and corporatewide branding to be a multi-year project.

“Part of me is going to miss the old name,” Charles Carter told the California Globe news website. Carter worked as a parking attendant at the 1960 Olympics and has lived in the valley ever since. “If you ask anyone here, the name doesn’t matter so much as these mountains,” he said. 

SKI ART: Tycho Ödberg (1865-1943)

Tycho Ödberg painting, 1928, from the
inside of an envelope.

Many years ago, while searching a catalog for old skiing-related postcards, I came across this 1928 painting by Tycho Ödberg, a Stockholm illustrator and graphic artist who was respected for his landscapes. In 1888, like many Scandinavian artists of his era, he made the trek to study at the Académie Julian in Paris. Upon his return, he was a regular at the Academy of Fine Arts in the Swedish capital from 1891 to 1897.

I was charmed by its direct and simplistic appeal to the joys of skiing in the winter landscape. To my amazement, it was an illustration on the inside of an envelope—the first I had ever seen. It was specially designed for seasonal greetings: Gott nytt år (Happy New Year). This was an extraordinary find: Not only does Ödberg portray correctly all the technical elements of skiing, but the context seems just right; a civilian-military mix that was partially responsible for the way modern skiing has developed.

More envelope art from Tycho Ödberg.

The catalog listed another Ödberg ski painting and it, too, was on the inside of an envelope. I acquired both items and used the skijoring painting as the cover for my book Culture and Sport of Skiing from Antiquity to World War I, the first time, I believe, it has been given any publicity.

Ödberg illustrated a number of books, including Viktor Balck’s Gymnastics in 1889, so he was no stranger to portraying sporting activities. This was impressive—Balck was Swedish sport’s “Trumpet of the Fatherland.” Ödberg also turned a number of his paintings into postcards, as many artists did in the 1920s and ’30s.

Ödberg works hang in the National Museum, Stockholm’s City Museum and City Hall, as well as in Uppsala and Gothenburg. For me, pride of place in my varied ski image collection are these two paintings on the insides of envelopes. —E. John B. Allen



Snapshots in Time

1956 Shrewd Planning
Sirs: I am returning the $3 two-year renewal form unsigned though I have always enjoyed reading your magazine. On Jan 22, I will be married to a girl with one year left on her subscription. — E.C.S., BUFFALO, NEW YORK, “HOME ECONOMICS” (LETTERS, SKI MAGAZINE, FEBRUARY 1956)

1969 Price Hike
An increase in price for lift tickets was announced yesterday for the state’s two ski areas, Cannon and Mt. Sunapee. The price for adult tickets at both areas on weekends was raised to $9. Weekday tickets were raised to $7. Season tickets were increased about 20 percent to $145. — “PRICES FOR SKI LIFTS RISE” (NEW YORK TIMES, SEPTEMBER 21, 1969)

1979 Fully Crazed
The gelande jumpers are a traveling gaggle of fully crazed ski addicts without a brain in their heads who party ’til sunrise and fly over the 50-yard-line on 223s without helmets or insurance. Oh, wait. They asked me not to write that. — DAN MCKAY, “LIKE A GOLF BALL” (POWDER MAGAZINE, OCTOBER 1979)

1988 Measuring Up
When in doubt, go shorter. One of the main advantages of today’s improved ski technology is that you can get the same smoothness and stability from a 203 that once was only possible on a 210. — JACKSON HOGEN, “THE RIGHT SKI LENGTH” (SNOW COUNTRY MAGAZINE, MARCH 1988)

2021 High Expectations
This is not science fiction. This is real Olympian life. Shiffrin is entering a World Cup alpine ski season that begins this weekend in Soelden, Austria. It will include her third Olympics, this one in February in Beijing. She is 26 and won gold at each of her previous Games—in the slalom as an 18-year-old in Sochi, Russia; and in the giant slalom four years later in PyeongChang, South Korea, where she added a silver in the alpine combined. Win three medals— a distinct possibility, if not an expectation—and she’ll match Janica Kostelic of Croatia and Anja Parson of Sweden with the most Olympic medals of any woman on the slopes. — BARRY SVRLUGA, “MIKAELA SHIFFRIN KNOWS PAIN AND LOSS. NOW SHE’S BACK ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN” (WASHINGTON POST, OCTOBER 21, 2021)

2021 Aging Well
When he set off down the mountain, he skied straight into a Guinness World Record. No one his age had ever done something like this. [Junior] Bounous was 95 years and 224 days old on April 5—230 days older than the existing heli-skiing record-holder, a Canadian named Gordon Precious, who checked in at 94 years 306 days when he made his run in 2019. It was an achievement for the ages, literally. — LEE BENSON, “PRESENTING THE WORLD’S OLDEST HELI-SKIER” (DESERET NEWS, JUNE 6, 2021)


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