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1930s ice skates
Nov 12, 2014 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
1930s ice skates, the world’s oldest pair of salopettes and furry coats fashioned for the trenches: The surprising history of cold weather clothing revealed
From early ice skates made from bone to the secret of designing the perfect pair of salopettes, the history of stylish snow gear is almost as fascinating as the sports themselves.
Now some of the world’s oldest winter wear is to go on display – alongside some unique modern pieces that include a chilly-looking gown made from white plastic.
Fashioning Winter, a new exhibition dedicated to all things ski and snow, also includes a pair of skates dating from the 1930s and a ski that once belonged to Sir Arnold Lunn, the man who pioneered the downhill slalom race.
Other highlights include delicate vintage postcards of Parisians showing how stylish cold weather dressing is done and a 1962 bottle of Piz Buin sunscreen.
Launched to coincide with the opening of the annual festive ice rink at Somerset House, the exhibition also boasts an early Burberry snow suit as well as a poignant set of photos showing British Tommies wrapped in fur gilets as they prepared to spend their first Christmas in the trenches.
Wonderful though they are, it is the ski wear that really catches the eye and points to the evolution of the sport from essential mode of transport for hardy Swiss, French and Norwegian mountain-dwellers to seriously stylish hobby beloved of the world’s wealthiest.
Thought to have originated more than 7,000 years ago in Russia, the modern form of skiing has its roots in Scandinavia – as does the name, which comes from the Old Norse word skíð.
The Kalvträskskidan ski, the world’s oldest, was unearthed in the Swedish village of Kalvträsk in 1924 and has been carbon-dated to 3300 BC, with the second-oldest, the Vefsn Nordland ski, found in neighbouring Norway.
Traditionally used as a means of transport during the long, dark Nordic winter, skiing also formed part of Norse mythology with Skaði, the Norse goddess of winter, frequently depicted on skis along with fellow member of the Nordic pantheon, Ullr.
Later, skis were used in warfare with both Sweden and Denmark maintaining specialised ski battalions during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Military skiers were also the first to take part in ski races, with records dating from 1767 detailing competitions such as downhill skiing in rough terrain, shooting while skiing and cross-country skiing while carrying a hefty backpack.
By the early 1800s, skiing was becoming increasingly popular as a sport with Olaf Rye becoming the world’s first ski jumper in 1809 and the first public race taking place in Tromsø in 1843.
But despite the sport having its origins in the snowy north, the first Alpine ski resort was founded in Australia in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.
Clubs and resorts in the US and Norway followed, with the tiny province of Montenegro unveiling its own ski club in 1893.
The Swiss, the traditional home of skiing as far as many Britons are concerned, didn’t get its first ski resort until 1895 – 34 years after Australia.
It didn’t take long, however, for Switzerland to eclipse Australia and Norway as skiing destinations, thanks in no small part to tourism pioneer, Thomas Cook.
Despite his best efforts, Idaho was the first place to introduce modern chair lifts – in 1936 – with the first commercial snow maker making its debut in New York State’s Catskill Mountains in 1952.