Cinch up your tie and fold down your lapels, you’re out for a ski day in 1942. Otto Schniebs was one of the Germanic invasion of the late 1930s and early 1940s that brought “modern” skiing to the U.S., and truly laid the foundation for alpine skiing to become a mainstream sport.
Schniebs was a big proponent of ski mountaineering, which in those days was not that far removed from “normal” skiing as nearly anything on skis was human powered. He was also known for his lectures, during which he was fond of repeating his personal mantra in a thick German accent: “Skiing is more than a sport, it is a way of life,” frequently shortened these days to “Skiing is life.”
In his how-to book “American Skiing” (Dutton, 1939), Schniebs shares sartorial wisdom. He’d received a letter from a lady skier asking for fashion advice, and wrote it up thusly…
“Dear Mr. Schniebs: I enjoyed your lecture very much. I tried hard to get close to you after, in order to ask a question. However, I had no luck as there were too many people around you, so I am taking this way to get my question answered. I am 19 years old, 5 feet and 2 inches tall, blond, blue eyes and weight about 110 pounds, and I am considered very attractive. Please, would you tell me what color I should choose for my ski suit, etc., etc.”
Schniebs responds: “What can one answer? Fortunately, I have been married for nineteen years and I have two daughters, both of whom ski, and as a result of past experiences, I am positive that if I should suggest a grey ski suit with some trimming, my letter-writer would choose a red one.”
One can bet that Schniebs wrote this as much for his wife and daughters as he did for the would-be groupie!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.