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Jakob Vaage

Hall of Fame Class of 1976

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Information submitted in a nomination letter to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame by Bill Berry, USSA Historian.

Jakob Vaage was considered the world’s foremost ski historian. As curator of the Norwegian National Ski Museum at Holmenkollen, he contributed many little-known facts until his retirement and assisted in the memorialization programs of the NSA and USSA for many years. Vaage was a prolific writer who willingly shared his vast ski sport knowledge with other historians.

The library archives of Norwegian ski historian, Jakob Vaage, contained what may have been the world’s greatest collection of recorded ski facts. Hundreds upon hundreds of ski books, ski annuals and historical documents were neatly shelved from floor to ceiling of Vaage’s study in the home he and his wife, Berit – both retired educators – occupied in Bekkestua, a suburb of Oslo. The house was close by the Norwegian Ski Museum at Holmenkollen and of which Vaage had been curator since 1947, gathering ski material for the library and memorabilia for display from all over the world, including many treasured items from the U.S.

Born in Oslo on February 9, 1905, Jakob Vaage was an accomplished skier, student of languages, educator and scholarly botanist.

Twice a Holmenkollen competitor, Jakob won the Norwegian Junior Ski Jumping Championship (18-20 years) in 1924. He served as a certified ski jumping judge from 1925 on. With the revival of F.I.S. interest in slalom, he turned to the alpine aspect of the sport in 1933 and three years later became the first chairman of the Norwegian slalom committee; in 1939, he was named first chairman of the ski instructors’ committee. Vaage coached the Norwegian jumper for the F.I.S. World Championships in Poland in 1935 and managed the Norwegian Olympic slalom team during the Winter Games in Germany in 1936. Chairman of the Norwegian ski judges for many years, he also served on the F.I.S. judges’ committee for a decade.

Vaage’s writing career was launched by a book about slalom racing, On Steel Edges (1939). He also wrote The Holmenkollen Hill (both Norwegian and English versions) and Sports Books of Norway, a monumental research project listing of 1500 titles published over the previous 200 years. For 30 years, Vaage contributed historical and technical articles to the Norwegian yearbook, Sno og Ski, about skis, poles, waxes, jumping and slalom origins and other matters related to hundreds of years of ski history.

Much of Vaage’s research related to North America. He visited the United States three times. On the first occasion, in late 1953, he was funded by the Norwegian government in conjunction with the Foreningen til Ski-Idrettens Fremme (Association for the Promotion of Skiing) to study the origins of skiing in North America. He visited California and Nevada and was invited to speak at the Centennial of Sierra Skiing in 1954.

Vaage also attended the 1954 dedication of the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame and Museum on which occasion he presented twenty pairs of historic skis to the museum: five pair from mid-19th-century Norway and the others gathered during his travels in the American mid-west.

Vaage returned to the U.S. as a ski jumping judge at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley and took time out to lead members of the Norwegian ski team on a pilgrimage to Snowshoe Thompson’s grave in Genoa, California. Among those responsible for locating and memorializing the unmarked grave of Sondre Norheim in Bismarck, North Dakota, Vaage spoke at the rededication ceremony in 1966.

Jakob Vaage was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1976.

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