The Joys of Snowshoeing and Skiing
Their appreciation by the women of Norway - Ski Running as an art.
They typical modern Norse woman is a peculiarly interesting member of her sex. He must be but an unobservant traveler who, on first landing in Christiania, does not remark the brilliant eyes, rosy cheeks, and general air of active well-being of the majority of the young women whom he meets.
On deeper acquaintance he will find their minds as quick and vigorous as their colors; their modes of though and ideas of the possibilities and ends of life characterized by remarkable freshness, direct simplicity, strength, ambition and independence.
But if our traveler be of an inquiring turn he will discover this condition of things to be strictly a new growth. Twenty years ago the whole duty of the Norse woman -- and very nearly her whole existence, too -- consisted in minding the household, mending the clothes, watering the flowers, and keeping as much indoors as possible, except when she went to church, or to a solemn and might dinner, with her husband.
To walk in the streets more than was absolutely necessary was regarded as a sign of reprehensible levity of character. A habit of strolling in the fields would have occurred as a possible feminine resource only to the most antic intellect. And, like all plants that grow in the dark, those were apt to be faint and pale.
A woman was a housewife -- actual or potential -- rien de plus -- and a housewife, moreover, whom the inheritance of generations had thought to keep very strictly to her own preserves, without any infringement on the prerogatives of her lord and master, or any unseemly indulgence in whatever individuality she might happen to be born with.
All that now belongs to the past. The rising generations know it no more. And why? Dare I say it is because the rising generations go snowshoeing? That sounds absurd, yet not one who has not lived in Norway can have any notion of the immense social force that a mere sport may become.
Whether Norwegian women learned to stand alone in life because they had first found their feet or ski, or whether their great and glorious ski-running in itself a product of the new era, it is difficult to say, but certainly there is a new era, and there are ski, and both are so closely interwoven as to seem integral parts of each other.
It is not hard to understand how a sport that puts every muscle of the body into thorough action, and sends every drop of blood rushing through the veins, when practiced unceasingly during half the year by women of all ranks, must have its effects on the minds of those women.
If the daughters are embodiments of hard health, keyed to high spirits and steady nerve by daily exercise of the finest and most strenuous kind in the bracing mountain air, one cannot expect these daughters to repeat mentally or physically, the characteristics of their house bred mothers.
Fresh health and fresh spirits have brought new ambition -- until now few tasks are too difficult for a Norse woman to undertake undaunted. The university which is co-educational has no students on its rolls whose work is better (none could be more earnest) than that of the girl students who are sure to be ski-runners.
They enter the professions, they go into grade, they attack social problems, and seeing new needs, invent new occupations; they talk of high things, they start new charities, they work at old ones; if they are poor and proud, they emigrate to America, having received a university education, and begin at the bottom of the ladder as house servants, if they must, until they way opens.
But, in success or defeat, whatever they do they do with heart and soul -- with a lasting fire, a tireless energy, a singleness of purpose, that is very touching to see, like any unconsciously beautiful and spiritual thing in this weary old world of ours.
Ski-running has been practiced from remote times by the peasants and country people generally, of both sexes, and that of necessity, as the only feasible means of locomotion off the beaten roads, during a good part of the year. But its existence as a sport of dwellers in towns is of recent growth.
It can hardly be more than ten years since women adopted it, yet it is in that then years its conquest has been complete. Children are now put on skis as soon as they have a serviceable acquaintance with their own legs. Learning the art at that age when all things are easy, and upsets are not dreaded, by the time they are school girls they are familiar with their show shoes as the American small boy is with his skates, and have formed a love for them which never grows less.
Instantly lessons are over of a winter afternoon small Ragnhild or Daguy hastens to array herself in the blouse, knee breeches and short skirt, which with high gaiters, long mittens and a bright cap, compose her war array, and is off to the trysting-place where other small ski-shod Ragnhilds and Daguys await her.
A winter's holiday means a day on skis, with a package of luncheon in the pocket -- and those notorious monsters, the school principals themselves, are too sensible of the charms of the sport, though they may not personally practice it, to let the holidays come too far apart.
Source: New York Post, Evening Times, Monroe Wisconsin March 19, 1895, Page 2