Skiing Pioneers of Glenwood MN
By Gene Estensen
The area around Glenwood, Minnesota opened up to settlement around 1862, just before the Sioux Uprising. Indeed, the Uprising drove the setters out for a time. By 1868, Halvor Jorgenson Hjelstad, who was the first settler in Ben Wade Township, had come from Telemarken, Norway. His nearest trading points were Alexandria, Sauk Centre, and St. Cloud, all some distance away. Swedes surrounded him and the closest Norwegian settlers were south of Lake Minnewaska, some distance away. Thus, on Sunday he would don his home made skis to visit the Norwegian families Overson, Swenson, Simons, and Mickelson. An old settler described Hjelstad as "the most graceful skier of all, in those Pioneer Days, and Ed Benson says that as a boy, six or seven years old, he remembers this graceful skier as he returned from a visit with his Telemarken friends". He went on to describe the graceful skier; "When he approached the slope, leading to the little Chippewa River just west of Ed's home, Halvor would sashay gracefully down the slope of the river until he found a narrow place, then he would re-trace his ski marks and get a good start down the slope and jump across the narrowest place in the stream".
One time when Hjelstad was hunting and trapping on skis and his dog started barking loudly at a hole in the ground. As Hjelstad approached the hole, a big black bear came out. Hjelstad, on his skis, with an ax in his hand killed the bear.
In 1868 Knute Simon lived on what became the Selnes farm. He made many trips to St. Cloud during the winter. G. G. Torguson's father met Mr. Simon on skis between Glenwood and Sauk Center. Knute was "carrying a one-hundred pound sack of flour on his back and another bundle of groceries under his arm". Both men met on skis.
Nels Austvold told G. C. Torguson that his father, Bjorn Austvold, told of the first winter he came to Pope County, which was the winter he stayed with Ole Livdalen. He skied to Glenwood during a heavy snowstorm and someone stole his skis, much to his dismay.
Ed Barsness, son of pioneer and Civil War veteran (15th Wisconsin, the "Norwegian Regiment") Erick Barsness told how his father used skis very often to get a supply of groceries from St. Cloud, Alexandria, and Sauk Centre. One of his best pals, Hans Urness, lived in Douglas County. They had been pals throughout the Civil War "and it was no effort for either Hans or Erick to tie on their skis on a Sunday morning and Erick would go to Douglas County or Hans would come to Barsness.
Torguson went on to mention the upcoming ski championship at Glenwood on February 18-19, 1939. He set the stage by describing the earlier championships. "When the first ski championships were held at Glenwood, and other places in the state, those who skied built their own hill and slide and were glad to have the opportunity to do so. On the day of the tournament, and very often one or two days before the tournament, all skiers were at the slide building a perfect hill. Now the skiers of today do not seem to have that same ambition. They expect NYA or Lester Serrin or Tuddy Kaldahl to build a perfect hill for them. My admonition to these modern skiers is that they kindly get the spirit of the old skier; go to the slide and help Lester and Tuddy; and use the members of the Glenwood Ski Club to make a perfect slide for you to use".
The first National Ski Championship was held at Glenwood, Minnesota in 1916.
The Association publication, SKI ANNUAL, contained the following announcements:
The National Ski Association of America has reason to congratulate itself over the selection of Glenwood as the National Ski Tournament city for 1916. A more ideal location than that of Glenwood would be hard to find. The city itself is beautiful, modern, and progressive, with a citizenship of which any city would be proud. Coupled with this, its unrivalled advantages as a ski tournament town, where the ski lover may indulge in his favorite sport under the most favorable natural advantages and amid pleasing scenic beauty, as well as a population whose appreciation of the sport is on a high intellectual plane, leaves nothing to be desired. Glenwood has made good.
Nearly one hundred skiers participated in the tournament, and twenty-five delegates attended the convention. Former Governor Eberhardt of Minnesota attended the tournament and convention and addressed the delegates in the behalf of St. Paul. Former State Auditor Iverson and Lieut. Governor Theo. Frankson also honored the tournament and convention with their presence.
Three motion picture cameras had operators present and took films of all tournament contestants as well as the cross-country run. Exhibitions of these in all parts of the country, not to mention in foreign lands, will hardly serve to detract from Glenwood's fame as a city of winter sports.
The following were winners at this first National Tournament:
1. Henry Hall, Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
1. Andeas Olson, Iola, Wisconsin.
Class C. - Boys
1. Oliver Kaldahl, Glenwood, Minnesota.
Thanks of the skiers, visitors, and banquet guests are due to:
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