by Bob Soden
Previously published in the Journal of the Ski History Congress – 2009 – Mammoth Mountain, California
All rights reserved by author
The story of the ski pole is a long one; the short of it is that poles may have been here first – and are likely to stick around.
It’s a good bet that when the first human found the cave door blocked by a snowdrift and tried to traverse this impossibly feathery stuff, which wouldn’t support a child, the solution was to lie prostrate and try to crawl or swim out. The next best was probably to walk on the knees trusting to the surface area of the shins as sort of proto snowshoes to buoy up the situation (I tried this as a thirteen-year-old fetching back the family Christmas tree from our woodlot in Vermont – and it worked!). The latter position being less stable, a ready staff or stick would have been used to support the venture (I used my axe handle). Thus was born the ski pole. Possibly antedating the ski.
The snowshoe, whether a plank or woven frame tied to the foot, is likely the parent of the ski – first walk, then run. The plank that was used to walk on might have been discovered to slide at times – by a youth.
But poles, or sticks, or alpenstocks, or skistavs, or staffs, as they have been variously called over the years, have accompanied the advancement of skiing step-by-step.