Fun & Interesting Facts About Alpine Skiing: Part II
Thousands of people ski the Alps every season and in 2003, I was one of those people. My parents took my sister and I to Austria for a vacation that included skiing in the Alps. It was worlds away from skiing at Wilmot Mountain in southern Wisconsin, and there is one story in particular that still makes me laugh to this day.
One of the biggest differences between skiing here in the ol’ midwestern flatlands and in the Austrian Alps is the fact that here, you go up on the ski lift to the top (which takes a whopping 5 min tops) and then back down to the bottom… and repeat. In Austria, we took a gondola for about 30 minuets and then a series of ski lifts from there. We just went up and down runs all day and it was so, so, fun. When we decided it was time to call it a day we checked out the map and realized that we honestly didn’t quite know how to get back down to the town we came from. There were some blue and green runs that took you down the mountain, but we would end up in a different town than our car was in. Just to be sure we asked a local woman and she confirmed our fears… there was one run to get us down to the car… a double black diamond.
“Are you f*ing kidding me?!” (those were the words going through my mind) this isn’t a double black like we’ve gone down hundreds of times at home… this was the mother-flipping alps!!! It was full of moguls and pretty much looked like a straight drop down. My dad (who is a pretty damn good skier) looks at us and says, “OK… let’s go!” and shoop, shoop, shoop… down he goes, like a freakin' Olympian. The three of us start slowly but surely making our way down… one mogul at a time. It took us about 5x longer to get down than it took my dad, but we made it. Just seeing my dad disappear down the mountain still makes me laugh to this day, even though at the time we were straight up terrified. Alpine skiing has been around for thousands of years and there are so many fun and interesting facts about the sport. Here are a few more for your enjoyment!
- More than 80 countries in the world now offer some kind of skiing activity. But the western European countries, especially Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, and Norway have the busiest ski resorts in the world. Over 25% of the population of these countries participate in the sport.
- In the 1850s, Norwegian-born Sondre Norheim gave birth to the modern day skiing by developing the 'Telemark' bindings that perfectly bind the ski to the boot. Due to these bindings it was possible for a skier to fearlessly takeoff into majestic jumps without any concern of losing the skis while in-flight.
- The person who introduced the sport in Switzerland was none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who gifted the world with one of the most amazing fiction series ever: Sherlock Holmes.
- Germans have always been quick to deliver what the public needs. Just like in many other cases, Germany made alpine skiing a much more interesting sport by building the world's first ski tow, in 1908. So, today people no longer have to climb great heights on their own and consume all their energy, all thanks to the Germans. ;-)
- An interesting story lies behind the rescue dog breed of the alps: St Bernard. Bernard of Montjoux worked tirelessly for over four years around the Alpine mountains. He laid foundation to countless churches and schools and was internationally known to have built two Alpine Hostels that were to aid lost travelers in the mountain pass. Bernard was declared the Patron Saint of Alpine Skiers and mountain climbers by Pope Pius XI in 1923. The locals showed a unique way of giving tribute to his work by changing the name of the breed of the famous rescue dogs in Alpine mountains to St Bernard.
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As always, ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. - Erika