Hall of Fame Class of 1972
Erling Strom was always highly regarded as a storyteller and non-professional entertainer. In fact, his ability in this line was almost equal to his mastery of skiing. Over the years he appeared before scores of audiences from coast to coast lecturing and urging Americans to get out in the winter and enjoy the thrills of skiing.
Erling Strom was born on August 26, 1897 in the mountains of Norway. The first eight years of his life were spent above the timberline in Norway where winter lasted for seven or eight months. His father was an engineer who put in big installation tunnels.
Given his first pair of skis when he was two years old, Strom began winning prizes as a jumper in 1907, when he was ten, in small-boy competitions in the hills above Oslo. In 1916 (age 19), he became involved in major competitions and continued this for four years with a number of firsts in top competition. He represented Norway in the Stockholm “Nordiskaspelen” which was the forerunner for what is now called “The Winter Olympics”. During these years, he took part in the Holmenkollen on a much more difficult jumping hill than it is today.
In 1918 he served in the King’s Guard and was among the ski experts who coached the Crown Prince who became King Olav.
Erling came to America in March, 1919 and during his early years rode the range and herded cattle as a cowboy in Arizona. Hay fever finally caused him to give up the range life and go to Colorado to visit a friend who was an engineer. Here he discovered that Colorado was a ski jumper’s Mecca. Borrowing skis, he entered a meet, won first prize the first day he put them on and soon after became the Colorado State Champion in jumping. The following year he also won the title in cross-country. In 1927, he was U.S. Western Champion in the combined, winning the prize given by The Denver Post for running up the highest point score in Colorado’s five major ski meets in both jumping and cross-country. Johan Satre beat him in cross-country but was not a jumper, so Erling won the combined. That same year, on a dare, with several other Vikings he made the first and, so far as we know, the only ski ascent of Long’s Peak. Also when the jumping season was over, he and Lars Haugen, when told it was impossible, crossed the range on skis making the trip from Estes Park to Steamboat Springs and back. “Quite a trip” said Erling Strom, “when you have to break trail in deep snow all the way.”
In the autumn of 1927, he was asked to go to the lake Placid Club and spent eleven winters there instructing people in recreational skiing. Among those who took their first ski lesson from Erling was none other than C. Minot “Minnie” Dole, father of the American Ski Patrol System and sometimes referred to as father of the 10th Mountain Division. Because Erling Strom was one of the first to give instruction in what was then a simple form of “downhill”, he helped give skiing its early momentum in this country.
The Marquis d’ Albizzi, a Russian –Italian-English soldier-of-fortune and former officer in the Czar’s cavalry as well as an officer in the Italian Mountain Troops in World War I, was associated with Erling at Lake Placid. “The Markee” also went with him to the Canadian Rockies where they started spring ski trips to Mt. Assiniboine. Later, Erling had his own ski areas, including ski schools in the Canadian Rockies and at Stowe, Vermont.
One of his most notable achievements was in 1931, when accompanied by Alfred Lindley of Minneapolis (later head of Sun Valley Ski Club and prominent in the American ski world), he led a 250-mile expedition across the Canadian Rockies for a winter ascent of the Columbian ice fields. The following year, Strom, Lindley and two Alaskans, Grant Pearson and Harry Leek, climbed Mount McKinley on skis, the first time this had ever been done.
Erling Strom was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1972.
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