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Esquire Magazine Published “The Snows Of Kilimanjaro” 84 Years Ago. We Celebrate With An Excerpt.

In Ernest Hemingway’s story, “The Snows Of Kilimanjaro”, the main character, Harry, a writer on safari with his rich wife, lies dying on a cot, his leg gangrenous from a thorn cut he neglected to treat. He reflects on his writing and his wasted talent, dissolute lifestyle and the few incidents in his life that could have redeemed him from failure.  Several times he drifts into an internal monologue where he writes in his mind what he could have written, but never did.  Here is Harry’s remembrance of skiing in Austria after the war. These scenes are considered autobiographical, reflecting Hemingway’s own excursions and experience of skiing in the 20s and 30s in the Voralberg region. You can read the whole story by clicking here.

Madlern Haus in the Austrian Alps, circa 1930s
Madlern Haus in the Austrian Alps, circa 1930s

From “The Snows Of Kilimanjaro”

Ernest Hemingway skiing in the 1920s.

In Schrunz, on Christmas day, the snow was so bright it hurt your eyes when you looked out from the Weinstube and saw every one coming home from church. That was where they walked up the sleigh-smoothed urine-yellowed road along the river with the steep pine hills, skis heavy on the shoulder, and where they ran down the glacier above the Madlenerhaus, the snow as smooth to see as cake frosting and as light as powder and he remembered the noiseless rush the speed made as you dropped down like a bird.

They were snow-bound a week in the Madlenerhaus that time in the blizzard playing cards in the smoke by the lantern light and the stakes were higher all the time as Herr Lent lost more. Finally he lost it all. Everything, the Skischule money and all the season’s profit and then his capital. He could see him with his long nose, picking up the cards and then opening, “Sans Voir.” There was always gambling then. When there was no snow you gambled and when there was too much you gambled. He thought of all the time in his life he had spent gambling.

But he had never written a line of that, nor of that cold, bright Christmas day with the mountains showing across the plain that Barker had flown across the lines to bomb the Austrian officers’ leave train, machine-gunning them as they scattered and ran. He remembered Barker afterwards coming into the mess and starting to tell about it. And how quiet it got and then somebody saying, ”You bloody murderous bastard.”

Those were the same Austrians they killed then that he skied with later. No not the same. Hans, that he skied with all that year, had been in the Kaiser Jagers and when they went hunting hares together up the little valley above the saw-mill they had talked of the fighting on Pasubio and of the attack on Perticara and Asalone and he had never written a word of that. Nor of Monte Corona, nor the Sette Communi, nor of Arsiero.

Alpine town Bludenz, long a skiing and hiking center in the Voralberg.
Alpine town Bludenz, long a skiing and hiking center in the Voralberg.

How many winters had he lived in the Voralberg and the Arlberg? It was four and then he remembered the man who had the fox to sell when they had walked into Bludenz, that time to buy presents, and the cherry-pit taste of good kirsch, the fast-slipping rush of running powder-snow on crust, singing ”Hi! Ho! said Rolly!’ ‘ as you ran down the last stretch to the steep drop, taking it straight, then running the orchard in three turns and out across the ditch and onto the icy road behind the inn. Knocking your bindings loose, kicking the skis free and leaning them up against the wooden wall of the inn, the lamplight coming from the window, where inside, in the smoky, new-wine smelling warmth, they were playing the accordion.


Voralberg region, Austrian Alps, was visited by Hemingway and friends.
Voralberg region, Austrian Alps, was visited by Hemingway and friends.


  1. Hope to see more content like this. Always wondered if Hemingway was using telemark technique, or whether they had switched by that time to parallel turns? Anyone know?

  2. Avatar Michael O'Meara says:

    Bludenz is only about 50 km from St. Anton where Hannes Schneider had his Ski School that taught the Arberg Technique. So I would think Hemingway would probably be on alpine skis and probably doing stem christie turns of some type.


  3. Hemingway spent his first two winters there in 1924-25 and 1925-26. I’ve no doubt the ski technique was Arlberg but remember that steel edges and the Kandahar weren’t patented yet, and would only be marketed beginning 1928-32. So it wasn’t yet alpine skiing as we understand it.

  4. Kandahar binding, the first binding to lock the heel down.

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