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Asario Autio

Hall of Fame Class of 1966

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Asario Autio was known as an “Iron Man” on cross-country skis. Self-proclaimed World Champion, no one who raced against him disputed his claim to that title. He won the first U.S. national title race.

A native to Finland, Asario Autio was the national champion of Finland for several years in the late 1880’s and 1890’s. He was world champion on at least one occasion during this period. Good record keeping in the 1890’s was not one of skiing’s strong points and the records on cross-country skiing are quite sparse. However, cross-country skiing in this era was dominated worldwide by the Finns. It was not unusual to have 2000 starters in every race in Finland and a rare occasion when anyone but a Finn would place higher than 20th place in competitions.
Lured to the shores of America, like many Europeans at the turn of the Twentieth Century, Autio came brought his skis with him. He settled in Ely, Minnesota where he dominated the cross-country courses in the Minnesota area.

In 1907 Autio entered the inaugural National Ski Association sanctioned National Cross-country Championship in Ashland, Wisconsin and won easily, thereby becoming champion. He was the first person awarded the Gale Cotton Burton Memorial Trophy given to the winner of the men’s 15K race and was posthumously awarded the National Ski Association’s Bronze Plaque in 1966 for his cross-country feats.

He apparently had an ego that matched his skiing prowess as indicated in the following account in the Ely Miner on February 22, 1907 describing a ski race sponsored by the Ely Finnish Athletic Club: “Asario Autio won first prize covering the seven miles in 45 minutes and 45 seconds.” The article concluded: “A. Autio, winner of the men’s race, who resides in this city and claims to be the champion ski racer of the world, is anxious to meet anyone in the United States for a purse of $100.00 or over, the number of miles to be covered to be named by the party accepting the challenge.”

Not one to stand on his laurels, Autio not only declared himself world champion but issued an open challenge to anyone for a race. It is not known if he had any takers (after all $100.00 in 1907 was quite a sum of money). Sadly, although some old timers were able to recall him, skiing eventually lost track of its self-proclaimed “World Champion”.

Asario Autio was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1966.

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