Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing


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That it has developed into the leisure and sporting pursuit of choice by so much of the globe bears testament to its elemental appeal. In polar exploration, it has changed the course of history. Elsewhere, in war and peace, it has done so too. The origins of skiing are bound up in with the emergence of modern man and the world we live in today. Your review has been submitted successfully. Not registered? Forgotten password Please enter your email address below and we'll send you a link to reset your password. Not you? Forgotten password?

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Not long afterwards, Huntford left the UN and asked the Observer if he could become its Scandinavian correspondent. The editor, David Astor, asked him if he found writing easy. Huntford said: "Far from it; every piece is a struggle", to which Astor replied: "Good, I don't want any facile writing on the Observer", and gave him the job.


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For the next 15 years or so, Huntford was happy dividing his time between cold-war politics and winter sports, and also wrote a couple of books, The New Totalitarians - "an analysis of the Swedish political system. It has since turned out to be a fake, but the novel was quite well received and sold out two small editions. By the mids, though, Huntford began to suspect his star was on the wane at the Observer and started to look for a way out. He got lucky. I agreed with him and was astonished to find that when the piece was published he had added a footnote saying I was working on a new biography of Scott and Amundsen.

So that sort of settled things. He's lived there ever since. Huntford reluctantly agreed, but was then forced to down tools for a while after Scott's supporters managed to get him temporarily banned from both the university library and the SPRI. After the fireworks of Scott and Amundsen, many, including Shackleton's surviving family, wondered whether Shackleton might be in for similar treatment. Quite the reverse. While never overlooking the explorer's shortcomings - "He may have got all his men out alive from a desperate situation, but he did get them into trouble in the first place" - Huntford's book gave Shackleton the role of national hero that Scott himself had once held.

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I just went where the facts took me and was as surprised as anyone at how much readers warmed to Shackleton. Huntford was now free to tackle Nansen.

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Though the explorer came with no real baggage in England, he had a saint-like status in Norway, and Huntford was forced to tread carefully. Huntford is now editing a book for the Fram museum named after Amundsen and Nansen's ship in Norway, and he's contemplating a book on Sweden and the winter war between Finland and the Soviet Union in But whatever else he does, it will be for his polar cycle that he is best remembered. So how will he feel if his history of skiing, the final piece in the jigsaw, doesn't see off the Scott faction for good?

I feel a certain affinity with him in his last line in the play - 'The strongest is he who is most alone'. I would have been seriously concerned only if 'the compact majority' had agreed with me. So if I am irritated by a particular attack, I tend to reread the play - in the original Norwegian, of course - and all is well again. We have now eaten and drunk our fill of what we can manage; seal steak and biscuits and pemmican and chocolate.

Yes, if only you knew mother, and you Susanna and T and Svein and Helga and Hans, that now I'm sitting here at the south pole, you'd celebrate for me. Here it's as flat as the lake at Morgedal and the skiing is good.

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I have always felt that it is a great pity that Bjaaland and Captain Oates never met. Although from different backgrounds - Bjaaland a Norwegian peasant farmer from the winning side, and Oates, one of the losers, an English captain of dragoons - they would have got on famously. They had much in common. Both were natural aristocrats.


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He can name nearly every World Cup downhill champion of the past 30 years. On his living room bookshelf you will find copies of Ski Racing magazine stretching back to the early s. After all, hearty dogs and good skis made the difference for Roald Amundsen in his bid for the South Pole.

Somewhere along the way he abandoned his duty to include gripping stories and just started packing in trivia. For instance: The ski predates the wheel. The earliest known fragments, circa B. Huntford reproduces a 4,year-old rock drawing from Russia that depicts three Stone Age hunters on skis stalking elk.


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In the ancient world, the ski was known across Northern Europe and Asia — though not North America, curiously — and the Lapps and the Norse were the acknowledged masters of the pursuit. Their descendants today prefer Sami. The Lapps hunted and herded reindeer on skis, so good technique was essential to their survival.

Farming and fishing sustained the Norse, so they skied for winter travel and pleasure. The development of skiing was largely a Norwegian story, though, not a Lappish one, because of three forces: war, play and travel.

The Dramatic History of Skiing

The Norwegians used skis to defend their country the Lapps, by contrast, had no organized state and for leisure. When they traveled, they took their skis and their skills with them and spread the fun across Northern Europe. Thus were born the biathlon, the slalom, the downhill and the cross-country races. The gear those old soldiers used was awful. Cross-country skiing on wooden planks requires good wax, which forms a temporary bond with the snow as a skier pushes down and forward to gain momentum and then releases to allow the ski to glide.

Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing

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