News of Norway, January 20, 2004
The newly released Sondre Norheim, the Father of Modern Skiing tells the story of the poor cotter from Morgedal in Norway who escaped the hardships of daily life by finding new and adventurous ways of skiing fast downhill. The technique of telemark skiing was invented by Norheim, whose home town lay in the Telemark district of central Norway.
Born in 1825, the ski enthusiast soon found out that in order for him to take full advantage of his skis we would need to fasten them more securely to his foot. In order to achieve this he found thin roots of birch, soaked them in water to make them flexible and then twisted them together and wrapped them around his heel.
In 1850, he had perfected the classic telemark swing and in effect invented the sport of slalom.
"Sondre Norheim laid the foundation for a new sport which became global less than 50 years after his death [in 1897]," said the then Norwegian ambassador to the United States, Tom Vraalsen, when he visited a wreath-laying ceremony at Norheim's gravesite in North Dakota in 1997.
"Without Sondre Norheim," he continued, "[there would be] no Aspen, no Vail, no Val d'Isère, no Holmenkollen. I even doubt there would be any Olympic Winter Games, had it not been for this great man. He is the Father of Modern Skiing.
Sold in the US
The new book of Norheim's life and legacy was written by Anne-Gry Blikom and Eivind Molde. The two are also the people behind the website www.sondrenorheim.com.
"This book is the only one which offers comprehensive coverage of all aspects regarding Sondre Norheim's life," the authors say in a joint statement.
They are convinced that there exists a market for this kind of book in the United States.
"Based on the response on the website, we feel secure that there is an interest in having the complete story about Sondre available between two covers, too."
Norheim is buried in North Dakota because he was one of the many Norwegians who emigrated to the United States in the latter parts of the nineteenth century. After he had made a name for himself as a skiing pioneer in Norway, he left for new grounds in 1884. The plain fields of North Dakota gave Norheim the opportunity to be a free farmer for the first time in his life, but he missed the hills and never grew comfortable on the prairie.
His legacy still lives on, though, in the United States as elsewhere. Telemark skiing is a popular sport all over the world, and the bindings we use today for almost all types of skiing derive from the early prototypes made my Norheim.
But most of all, Norheim changed the perception of skiing from being only a means of transportation into being a source of a great deal of fun, as well.