Aesthetic Exploration – Early Recreational Skiing

The aesthetic I have chosen to explore is Colorado skiing in the 1930’s and to the 1960’s. While skiing had existed in Colorado for a considerable about of time before, the true sportiness of skiing was beginning to take shape during this time period as the soldiers of the infamous 10th Mountain Division were making their return home to the States. Through returning to Colorado, veteran soldiers had developed the desire to ski in a more recreational manner, leading to the creation of many of the famous Colorado ski resorts that we know of today.

The earliest known skiing in Colorado was recorded in the 1860’s by missionaries using 9 to 14 feet long, 4-inch-wide spruce skis. Originally called snowshoes, the missionaries used these skis to travel into alpine mining camps to perform sermons. 80 years later, in 1939, the first chairlift was built in Gunnison. This was a major pioneering age in the world of skiing, with ski resorts popping up all over the state; Winter Park 1940, Aspen 1946, Arapahoe Basin 1947. Colorado gained international notoriety as a ski destination through hosting the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship at Aspen in 1950.

In this era, ski equipment was rudimentary, leather boots, basic winter clothing, crude wooden skis, one large pole, used for both braking and propulsion. This is what draws me to this timeframe of skiing. Skiing was transforming from a method of transportation to a recreational pastime and even professional sport within a matter of decades. The pioneering spirit possessed by these early skiers is admirable and responsible for the sport that we know and love today. Skiing was slowly being taken over by a group of free-spirited, adrenaline chasing adventurers and, in the process, developing a way to enjoy the great Rocky Mountains. I think the aesthetic I discovered through this era is the pioneering spirit of early skiers, with the courage and passion to create and participate in something so novel and dangerous.

A deeper dive into the equipment of the era is necessary to fully communicate the aesthetic of early recreational skiing. Up to the 1930’s wool dominated the ski clothing world, however in the 30’s, Eddie Bauer, which still exists today, pioneered the first goose-down jacket. This along with the development of waterproofed synthetic materials created a shift in ski clothing. Early ski clothing could be described as what we would call business casual today: turtlenecks, wool sweaters, and trousers. Through the 60’s ski clothing transitioned to more tight-fitting pants, with puffy jackets, and the introduction of double lens ski goggles. Advancements in skiing during this time period were rapid and everchanging, with elements being influenced by the emergence of professional ski competitions and military needs.

In conclusion, the world of recreational skiing was in its infancy and going through a period of rapid development. Through this, early skiing pioneers paved the way for modern recreational skiing, with elements of skiing fashion, ski area expansion and on mountain expression.


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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Chris, I enjoyed reading about the aesthetic you chose. I liked how you talked about the military influence on early recreational skiing. It is interesting to imagine skiing not being for some sort of entertainment. I also liked your commentary on early ski apparel, and how it made the jump to synthetic materials. One thing I would like to know more about after reading about your aesthetic, is how competition skiing emerged during this period of recreational skiing. Does competitive skiing fit into the genre or timeframe of your aesthetic, or does that emerge in a later time period? Overall, I really enjoyed your commentary on the history and aesthetic of early recreational skiing.

    • Duncan, thanks for the comment. This could be a great addition to my post, I like to believe that recreational and competative skiing are fairly different but it would be worth touching in the post. To answer your question in short form, competetive skiing was taking place and gaining traction in the same way and during the era that I have chosen.

  • Ari Matrajt Frid
    January 24, 2024 5:00 pm

    Hi Chris, I like that you chose this aesthetic. I wasn’t aware of the origins of skiing in Colorado so I am glad you incorporated some historical background into your piece. I would have liked if you included some of the early Eddie Bauer skiing clothes, or if you did point out which image it is. Overall, I like this aesthetic and I feel like you captured it perfectly.

    • Ari, thanks for the comment. I am glad that you found my history exploration interesting. I can dive into the clothing aspect a bit more and see if I can find better and more specific photos.


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