MARQUETTE, Mich.—The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University will offer a free public presentation titled “Mining is our Bread, but Skiing is Our Soul” on Thursday, Jan. 17. Tom West, director of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum, will give the talk at 7 p.m. in 105 Cohodas Hall.
West will look at the early days of ski jumping and the impact of people such as Ishpeming’s Carl Tellefsen, who was the founding president of the National Ski Association. Included will be an overview of the Ishpeming Ski Club, the “Flying Bietilas” and prominent international athletes from the area, such as Coy Hill, Rudy Maki and George and Gene Kotlarek.
The National Ski Association of America was founded in Ishpeming in 1905, allowing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to lay claim to being “the birthplace of organized skiing in America.” The sport had been tried as early as the 1880s during the silver mining rush in the Colorado Rockies and Utah, but never lasted once the mines dwindled and the miners moved on. The Upper Peninsula benefitted from the immigration of Scandinavians, who were attracted to the area because of logging and mining employment opportunities and brought with them their passion for skiing, especially ski jumping. Skiing would evolve from primarily a spectator sport to more participatory in nature in the years following World War II, when the alpine form came into prominence.
This talk is being held in conjunction with the Beaumier Center exhibition, “U.P. Power! High School Sports in Upper Michigan.”