Thursday, May 17, 2012

Birthplace of Skiing

Since today is Norway Day, the Ski House of the Day celebrates Norway, of course; and also celebrates skiing's Norwegian history.

This isn't just any ski house...this is the birthplace of skiing.  Really!  At the time that Sondre Norheim (1825-1897) was born, skiing was the primary mode of transportation in the mountains of Norway...the free-heeled version that they used was strictly utilitarian, allowing them to travel the mountains to collect firewood, and get around the mountains for their other daily needs.  But after pushing the limits of his utilitarian skis, Sondre discovered that with some design changes he was able to make skiing much more fun.   Among the changes were his invention of a heel binding which he made out of twisted willow from birch-roots:

...and his invention of a shorter ski that was shaped to be narrower in the middle.  These innovations allowed for more control and enabled Sondre to be the first to demonstrate parallel turns as well as Telemark turns and big jumps to a mesmerized audience.  He introduced the joy and fun of downhill skiing, ski-jumping, and ski-racing to the world, and in doing so changed the nature of skiing from transportation to sport.

The Ski House of the Day is the birthplace of Sondre Norheim, and so is also the birthplace of skiing as we know it.  It's a tiny cabin called Overbo, in the village of Morgedal, in Telemark County in southern Norway:

Overbo actually consists of three structures:  Sondre's birthplace cabin (rebuilt on the original stone foundation), his adult cabin (relocated to this site ), plus a cow-shed, and is now owned and operated by the Morgedal Sports Club which allows visitors to tour Sondre's adult cabin, and rent Sondre's birthplace cabin!  (It amazes me that you can actually stay in an historic place like this and ski right out onto the slopes where the "Father of Skiing" did!).

The primitive cabin sleeps 4-5 people, and although it does have power, it has no indoor plumbing (there's an outdoor well for water), so it's more historically accurate than it is luxurious.

You can see numerous items that Sondre made himself, including, of course, various skis and bindings:

There's an interesting fireplace...and not just interesting because of the way it looks...the fireplace here at Overbo has been a source of the Olympic flame three times!

Here's the Olympic Torch leaving this ski house (on skis) in 1960 en route to Squaw Valley:

...and here's the Olympic Torch leaving this ski house in 1952:

"Playful and charismatic and always out skiing--there developed around him (Sondre) a ski culture here in Morgedal in the 1860's which grew into a thing of legend."

And a thing of legend, too, is this unique, historic Norwegian Ski House of the Day where skiing was born!

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