Ski museum show makes County tour

15 years ago

    Maine’s skiing history goes back to the founding of the Swedish Colony in Aroostook County in 1870.
     Thanks to that landmark event, Maine’s skiing heritage dates back farther than any other New England state. And Maine’s leadership continued into the 20th century, when a Mainer wrote America’s first book on skiing. 

     A Maine company built the world’s tallest ski jump and the first chairlift in the East. Two Maine manufacturers were leading producers of skis in the mid-20th century. Two dozen Maine skiers have competed or coached at the Olympics. Maine has hosted five ski, snowboard and biathlon competitions at the World Championship and World Cup level.
     These are a few facets of a narrated digital slideshow produced by the Ski Museum of Maine. The 45-minute show, titled “Down-Mountain and Cross-Country: 140 Years of Skiing in Maine,” will be presented free to the public at numerous locations in Aroostook County Jan. 4-8. Public dates and venues include Fort Kent on Monday, Madawaska on Tuesday, Caribou on Wednesday, Presque Isle on Thursday and Mars Hill on Friday. In addition, several in-school presentations are scheduled in Fort Kent, Caribou and Presque Isle.
     More than 140 photos – some more than a century old – have been assembled from the Kingfield-based museum’s collections and more than 30 other sources, including historical societies and skiing organizations in The County.
     Photos and graphics to be presented cover the entire span of skiing in Maine, from the arrival of immigrants from Sweden in the 1870s to present-day happenings. Subjects include ski jumping, cross-country, alpine, freestyle and biathlon.
     The narrator will be Scott Andrews, a ski journalist and museum director who assembled the photos and performed much of the research. In 2008-2009, this show was presented 30 times between Kittery and Fort Kent. This year’s presentation will include many additional photos and stories connected to the Crown of Maine.
     “Aroostook County represents the bookends of our state’s skiing heritage,” says Andrews. “The County is where the sport first got started in Maine in the 1870s and today Aroostook is at the cutting edge of the 21st-century ski scene thanks to all the activity inspired by the Maine Winter Sports Center. These happenings include World Cup biathlon competition, top-level cross-country races and the Healthy Hometowns program that aims to create skiing opportunities in every community.”
     Some Aroostook aspects of the show include the 1870s Swedish Colony, early 20th-century ski craftsmen, winter carnivals of the 1920s-1930s, cross-country marathons of the 1930s and the post-World War II boom in building rope tows and community ski areas. One of the most fascinating photos shows Maine’s first chairlift, built in Soldier Pond shortly after World War II. Aroostook’s long ski history is capped by today’s developments sparked by the Maine Winter Sports Center.