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Fashion and technology helped skiing boom

Lauren MoranColorado Ski and Snowboard MuseumVail CO Colorado
Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum | Special to theSki equipment, lift technology and ski fashion all experienced rapid growth after World War II, largely thanks to the 10th Mountain Division veterans who returned from Italy and jump-started the ski industry.
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As skiing became easier, safer and popularized with improvements to technology, equipment and transportation after World War II, the ski fashion industry also grew. Suddenly skiing was fashionable, and the industry capitalized on the increasing number of female skiers. During the 1930s, men dictated the sport, yet now women were learning to ski, mostly for social prestige.The ski fashion industry really took off in 1952 when a German by the name of Willy Bogner designed a nylon stretch pant that came in various colors and styles. The new ski pant attracted both sexes for its slim, sexy, fast look, and its popularity soared.Fashion was now embedded into skiing, and the sport had captured the adoration of Americans everywhere.As fashion developments in skiing rose, so did the appearance of “snow bunnies” around ski resorts. In 1959, The New York Times published an article describing a snow bunny as a woman, typically a beginner, who frequented ski resorts in order to chase men and spend time in hot tubs. Many women only took lessons and learned the sport in order to keep up with men, who were often too concerned with skiing as much as possible and didn’t want the extra hassle. However, skiing was much easier to learn and improve upon in the post-war economy. Both men and women excelled at the sport, including Andrea Mead Lawrence, who won two gold medals at the 1952 Winter Olympics. The daughter of the owners of Pico Peak, part of the Green Mountains in Vermont, Lawrence moved to Aspen in the 1960s.As Bob Parker, a 10th Mountain Division veteran, recalls, “It was a time when everything was sort of falling into place for the growth of the ski world. There was the Head ski, which was the first ski that was easy to use by the average person; we had the beautiful Bogner stretch pants; we had buckle boots; we had release bindings; the airlines were beginning to promote winter travel … .”Ski, boot and binding technology improved and so did the lifts and ski runs. These changes turned the aspects of skiing from an inconvenience into an easy and enjoyable experience. Even the fashion industry adapted to the popularization of a new sport, with styles that attracted everyone. This re-established popularization of downhill skiing helped solidify a post-war recreational activity that the 10th Mountain Division veterans could capitalize and improve upon with their experience and knowledge of the sport. Dick Wilson, a 10th veteran, credits the boom of the ski industry to the many veterans who came back and poured life into the sport: “If it weren’t for the 10th Mountain Division veterans, the ski industry never would’ve take off like it did after World War II.” Fashion, equipment and technology were improved, but members of the 10th were driving forces behind the entire industry, continuing their lifelong passion – spending time outdoors. Their experience and love for the mountains helped shape the modern ski industry in countless ways.Sources for this article included:• David Leach’s 2005 senior thesis for Middlebury College, “The Impact of the Tenth Mountain Division on the Development of a Modern Ski Industry in Colorado and Vermont: 1930-1965.”• “Fire on the Mountain,” First Run Features/Gage & Gage Productions, 1995.• “The Last Ridge,” Abbie Kealy, 2007.• Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum archives


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