Was ever anything so vexatious?”

One of the most enthusiastic English Victorian tourists who made a ski trip to Norway was Mrs. Alec Tweedie, author of A Winter Jaunt to Norway (1893). Not only did she sketch a vivid picture of Norwegian skiing equipment, technique, and terrain, but she also reported on the second-ever Holmenkollen Day events.

Mrs. Tweedie, then a young widow, travelled with her sister to Christiania (now Oslo) where they were met by her brother and a friend, then joined by “Herr Schmelck, one of the best skiløbers in Norway.”

Never having skied before, she decided to try it. As it turned out she loved skiing, which she described as “one of the most exhilarating and enchanting sports in the world . . . [which] bids fair to become a fashionable winter amusement for English people.”

Her description of the gear used at the time:

“An ordinary-sized man’s ski are eight or nine feet long. They are about four and a half inches wide and an inch at the thickest part, immediately under the foot, but towards either end they taper to half this thickness. . . . In the middle the toes are fastened by a leather strap. Another strap goes round the heel in a sort of loop fashion, securing the foot, but at the same time giving the heel full play.

Although Mrs. Tweedie’s description of her “ski costume” included “short skirts, reaching but little below the knee . .  .[worn over] thickly lined black knickerbockers,” the commercial photo used as a frontispiece in the book shows her skirt going right down to the ankles. The photo also reveals that the skiers used just one pole for control and balance.

Their first attempt at skiing was frustrating:

“We struggled on to the incline of the hill. Hardly had we arrived there, when off started the ski, taking us unexpectedly along on them. The pace increased each yard of the way, until over we went, dejected bundles, into several feet of snow. Was ever anything so vexatious?”

As the English tourists gained more confidence, they took a ski tour to a saeter [mountain pasture], staying in a log cabin, and working on their form, assuring the reader that “No amount of tumbling in Norwegian snow would ever give as much as a bruise. It is like falling into sand or flour, and one has only to have a shake to be as dry as if nothing had happened.”

On their last day in the mountains the determined Brits even organized races:

“We tried who could steer most equally between two given posts with only a few inches to spare on either side of the ski. Then we raced in couples, which nearly always ended in some frantic spill. Oh, how we fell over, and how we laughed and enjoyed ourselves, while the way we improved was marvelous!”

Herr Schmelck remarked, “Why, there is nothing you English ladies will not dare,” a kind observation considering that the local expert had surely seen many Norwegian ladies expertly skiing since their childhood.

One Comment

  1. charles r. wilson says:

    my stats are: 97 areas in ten western states, Vermont, Canada, Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland,
    Spain, and Andorra. one country let me ski free. another was only 3 euros.
    I have accumulated the clothe ski patches from all of the areas, framed them under glass, and hung on the wall.

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