Sondre Norheim – The Father of Modern Skiing

The great Sondre Norheim was a Norwegian skier and pioneer of modern skiing. His life began on June 10, 1825, in a little town called Morgedal, Telemark. At the time there were only a small number of people living in this Southern Norway village – 500 people. With a restless and dreaming nature, he was destined to stand out from the crowd!

Sondre Norheim

Sondre’s birth home. Photograph: skihouseoftheday

Sondre Norheim and His Restless, Dreaming Nature

Growing up, Sondre was a bit different from his peers. As often as he could, you’d catch him putting on his pine skis, which his father had made for him. Norheim made great use of these skis as he used them for as long as he possibly could. According to Morgendal.com, “everyone knew that once he had started his wild snow dancing in the hills, it was difficult to get him back home”. Being in the mountains might have been nice and all, but it sometimes got him in trouble. His father became unhappy from time to time as he expected his kids to help with farm work. However, Sondre was excused at times because his restlessness.
Skiing became part of Sondre’s family and part of their routine. Sundays were specially kept to discuss ski ability and techniques with friends and other enthusiasts. All of this would go down whilst having fun out on the slopes. At an early age, Sondre effortlessly became a strong inspiration, not just for his skill and excellent ski abilities, but also because he was wherever the fun was.

Photograph: morgedal

The Perfect Craftsman

Fun was what Sondre Norheim lived for and being on the crazy man’s slopes was the most fun he could have as he never hesitated to experiment creatively with the challenging terrain. He never backed down from a challenge as challenges usually led to greatness. Morgedal.com states that, “to navigate between the trees and cliffs with high speed, the skis had to be attached tighter to the foot and he determined that a ski with slightly curved sides would be easier to turn, so something had to be done”. Luckily, he was a versatile craftsman who was able to create the equipment he needed so that he could adjust and develop new turning techniques and styles.

Sondre Norheim

Photograph: Morgedal

 

Sondre Norheim – A Man Known by Nations

In 1868, Sondre was invited to attend the very first national skiing competition in Christiania – now known as Oslo. The invite had Norheim over the moon with excitement and the added bonus was that there was prize money involved. He wasn’t alone as he skied with two other people to reach the capital. Yes! Skiied. They had to ski for three days to reach the capital 200 kilometres away. The long hours, that turned into days of skiing, paid off when Sondre won the competition with brilliance. Sondre Norheim was 42 years old when he took victory over competitors 20 years younger than him. In addition, he won over the crowd with his breathtaking performance and the media was immediately interested.

And Here’s Where the Fame Kicked In

In a blink of an eye, Sondre Norheim was famous and known by many. With no desire to look back, the dreamer became his ultimate self. The man who we’d later dub The Father of Modern Skiing.  At the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Sondre Norheim was honoured during opening ceremonies. It did not stop there as this was only the beginning of his fame with the crowd. He was also honoured at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California and at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. While being well-known by the nations it was astounding to know that when Sondre died his grave was originally unmarked, but a memorial stone now marks its spot.

You can’t deny that his story is of movie-making stature and that’s what he received. In 1970, NRK produced the documentary The history of Sondre Norheim, the Father of Modern Ski SportHis next great accomplishment was in 1984 when he was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame as the first class of inductees. He continued to show his importance in the history of skiing, as a statue of him was sculpted by Norwegian sculptor Knut Skinnarland. It was unveiled in 1987 in the Scandinavian Heritage Park, in Minot, North Dakota and during 1988.

Tove and Knut during the unveiling of the Sondre statue in Minot, North Dakota Courtesy of Norsk Høstfest Assn. Photograph: Sondrenorheim.com

An identical statue unveiled in 1993 was the Sondre Norheim Eternal Flame Monument

 

The Sondre statue is unveiled by HM King Olav. Photo by Tore Øyvind Moen, Varden. Source: Sondrenorheim.com

Sondre was truly a remarkable skier with a daring and dreaming nature that changed not only his own life, but the life of every skier after him.
Want to read more about Sondre Norheim’s life and the legacy he has left? Click here

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About the Author : David du Plooy

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