The timeless appeal of alpine skiing lies in the sport’s distinctive mix of mountain nature and modern thrills. This lecture examines the evolution of the relationship between skiers and the mountain environment since the late nineteenth century, focusing primarily on the European Alps. It traces the history of the sport from embarrassed “plank hoppers” forced to ski at night to the transformation of the Alps by the tourism industry. It closes with a discussion of the contemporary status of the sport and its continued viability in an era of climate change.
Andrew Denning is Associate Professor of modern European history at the University of Kansas, where he studies mobility, infrastructure, and the environment in twentieth-century Western Europe. His book, Skiing into Modernity: A Cultural and Environmental History, appeared with University of California Press in 2015, and he has published articles in American Historical Review, Central European History, Environmental History, Technology & Culture, and The Atlantic. He is currently composing a book-length manuscript on the history of roads and motorization in European empires in Africa, titled Automotive Empire: Roads, Mobility, and the Making of Colonial Africa, 1900-1945.