Risky Regencies


I just got back from a day on the slopes. Conditions were good, the weather was glorious (for a change!) and we all got back in one piece. 🙂

Of course, since this is my blog day I had to think about whether skiing as such even existed during the Regency and whether anyone in our stories might have seen or done it. So I did some appallingly brief research into the subject and read an article on the history of skiing at http://www.skiinghistory.org/history.html.

There I learned that there are Stone Age rock carvings around the Artic rim showing “ski-shod hunters in hot pursuit of game”. There are further references and images throughout ancient history, including this picture of a skiing Lappish woman (or goddess–what is the difference?) by Olaus Magnus (1553).

So skiing has been around a long time, although it first began as a practical means of transportation in northern countries. The first skis were of the cross country type, attaching at the toe but allowing the skier to lift his/her heel.

Mountain farmers in the Telemark region of Norway refined cross country skiing, introducing a technique for turning which is known by the same name. I’ve seen Telemark turns performed by expert cross country skiers on regular alpine slopes and it’s quite impressive.

Interestingly, according to the article the British gave the impetus to the development of alpine or downhill skiing. “This idealistic sport of the Norwegians, stressing endurance on snow and fearless flight through the air was wrenched around by British skiers on the Continent to focus on the experience of ski descent on the snow, a form much more appealing to many more people.” This happened around the late 1800s and the popularity of downhill skiing rose when Mathias Zdarsky of Austria popularized the “stem turn” sometimes called the “snowplow” which is still taught to most beginning skiers.

What I have not been able to discover is what British tourists on the Continent might have witnessed during their Grand Tours. I can certainly imagine some hardy young gentleman seeing skiers racing down a slope in the Alps and deciding to emulate them. Anyone read an account of a Grand Tour to confirm this notion?

By the Regency the Little Ice Age (which some theorize is partially responsible for the glorious sound of Stradivari violins) was ending, so I doubt conditions existed in most of the British Isles to really encourage skiing. It’s fun to imagine some hardy Scotsman flying down the Cairngorms, perhaps not in a kilt. An intriguing image, though. 🙂

So do any of you know more about this than I do?

And does anyone else ski?

If you do, are you one of the brave souls who attempt slopes like Outer Limits in Killington, Vermont (pictured above)? I have looked at it from the safety of a lift and freely admit that a 45 degree slope covered with moguls (bumps) the size of VW bugs does not appeal to me. But I have friends who love just that sort of a challenge.

Or are you an intermediate like me? Here’s one of my favorite runs: Alcmene at Greek Peak. Steep enough to be interesting but not too scary.

Or would you prefer to stay in the lodge sipping hot chocolate or crooked coffee, perhaps wearing a fake cast?

Elena 🙂

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Keira Soleore
15 years ago

I would be the one on the comfy wing chair in the bay window, a roaring fire nearby, a cup of “enhanced” (not crooked) coffee in one hand, and a book in the other.

The last time I went skiing, on the green slopes, mind you, I ended up on my padded backside, skis pointing up the hill. I was rescued from my ignominous position, not by my husband, who was enjoying himself on the intermediate slopes, but by a ten year old!! O Horror. O Humiliation. I promptly hustled myself off to the lodge and returned the skis.

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

I’m with you, Keira! I’m inhabiting the chair next to yours. And I’ve never been brave enough to even try the bunny slope. Being outside in the snow and cold does not appeal to me.

I had a friend who the first day of learning to ski, fell (even before the lesson started) and broke her leg.

Not for me!!

Kalen Hughes
15 years ago

I remember loving to ski as a kid, right up until I decided I wanted to do it all the time (and that I wanted my own gear). My mom said, “Great, we’ll sell your horse.”

I never skied again. LOL!

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Kalen, learning to ski as a child is such a blessing. We hope to teach our daughter as soon as her pediatrician okays it.

It’s easy to break parts of your body as an adult, mainly because of the fear of falling, and the high center of gravity means, we fall a lot.

Janet Mullany
15 years ago

I was an incompetent and graceless cross-country skier when I lived in Colorado–never learned to Telemark. In fact my technique for a sharp curve was to hurl myself into a snowbank and get up facing in the right direction. But I enjoyed it anyway.

Don’t you think those very early skis were some sort of snowshoe where you plodded rather than glid (glided? what is the past tense?)

Elena Greene
15 years ago

Keira, you’re right that starting early helps. My parents put me on skis when I was four. That doesn’t mean I’m an expert now because much of my skiing was in Ohio, which is not known for its challenging terrain. 🙂

Janet, maybe that turning technique should be designated the Mullany. 🙂 The article implied that people did glide on them using poles to steer. But it makes sense that they probably evolved from some sort of snoeshoe when clever people realized they could adapt the design to go faster. Some of the images like this one show what looks to me like a cross between ice skates and skis.


15 years ago

I would love to go to a lodge in the snowy mountains somewhere. But I would be staying in too. LOL Well, I wouldn’t mind building a snowman or such. But I would be in front of a fire, with hot chocolate and reading. 🙂 Just perfect! 🙂


Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

Hope you had lots of fun on the slopes, Elena! I used to live in New Mexico and learned to ski there, but was never good at it. I wish I had known that “Mullany move” back then! 🙂 Plus my younger brother, a great snowboarder, always made fun of me. So I vote for staying at the lodge, with hot chocolate and a good book.

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