Ski history snippet

6th April 2011, by DavidMLees

Typical 1960's style ski attire   [Copyright - David Maxwell-Lees]

Typical 1960's style ski attire [Copyright - David Maxwell-Lees]

Do you ever gaze up at the old pairs of wooden skis often nailed to hut walls, wondering what it is like to ride them? Perhaps you have tried leather boots and ski poles that almost reach head height? Well, in Crans-Montana recently they recreated a little piece of history by doing just that - riding the slopes in old ski gear to celebrate 100 years of an original Alpine downhill race.

It also prompted one of our readers, David Maxwell-Lees, to reflect on his early family days on the slopes that included a trip to Crans-Montana. He sent us some pictures of his mother learning to ski in 1969, using similar equipment to that used in the Crans race.

David writes: “My mother had leather boots and ankle-breaking cable bindings. The skis were made by Elan, wooden with screw-on edges; the poles had leather baskets held by simple metal ring. And brakes were unheard of in those days. In the picture she is trying them out near Glossop in the Peak District.”

Note also the lack of Goretex and other high-tech clothing that we parade around in today. Woollens were the fashion.

“When I skied in Crans in 1981 things had moved on; we had plastic boots, however the bindings had a leather strap and toggle that fastened around our ankles (they later realised that if a ski unclipped it would whip around and could cause some serious damage).”

Also included here is an old piste map of Crans-Montana - not quite the 100 year old version, but from 1981 and David’s first skiing holiday. Quite a difference from the 2011 map. Simply produced and with many more T-bars. And the pistes are all drawn as black on the map, but actually the coloured discs mark their real classification.

The original Alpine race route started at Plaine Morte and finished in Montana. The 2011 recreation followed an almost direct line from the glacier to a point just above Barzettes-Violettes, to the east of the Montana base – a long and attractive run.

Any other readers with a story or pictures from the old ski era? Email Wendy.

[Photos: David Maxwell-Lees]

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