KINGFIELD — The Ski Museum of Maine is presenting  two Fireside Chats focusing on the state’s rich skiing heritage on Friday, Jan. 21, and Sunday, Jan. 23.

The first is titled “Maine’s Nordic Skiing Heritage: 1870-2011” and will  premiere at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center (cross-country ski lodge) in Carrabassett Valley at 6 p.m. Jan. 21.

The second is titled “Made in Maine: 100-Plus Years of Craftsmanship in Skiing” and will be held at the Herbert Hotel in Kingfield at 6 p.m. Jan. 23.

Both programs, presented by the museum’s curator and research director, Scott Andrews, are free and open to the public.

Each presentation includes a digital slide show featuring approximately 130 photos and other graphic images — some more than a century old.

Andrews, the creator and narrator, has been a snow sports journalist for 24 years and writes for several magazines, including Skiing Heritage.

In his presentations, Andrews notes that skiing arrived in Maine in 1870 with the first group of Swedish immigrants in Aroostook County.

“In those days, skiing was strictly utilitarian transportation, as people in the Swedish Settlement went to and fro in the heavy snow on hand-carved skis — up to 11 feet long,” a release from the museum said. “In the early part of the 20th century, Nordic skiing emerged as a sport, with cross-country marathons and jumping competitions featured in Maine’s many winter carnivals.”

As alpine skiing grew in popularity in the 1930s, Nordic went into a three-decade eclipse, re-emerging in the 1970s. The development of the Sugarloaf cross country trail network in Carrabassett Valley was a milestone in Nordic’s revival in Maine, the release said.

“Much of the energy for re-establishing cross-country skiing as a sport in Maine comes from this region, so I’m delighted to give the first showing of this new Fireside Chat in Carrabassett Valley,” Andrews said in a statement announcing the upcoming presentations.

Maine was also once a major manufacturer of skis and ski gear for local and national distribution, the release said.

Maine companies featured in the presentation include the Paris Manufacturing Co. in Paris, which made skis, and the G.H. Bass and Co. of Wilton, which began making ski boots in 1912. Maine’s Hussey Manufacturing Co. of North Berwick, the predecessor of today’s Hussey Seating Co., built the first chairlift in the eastern U.S. as well as the “world’s tallest” ski jump tower, the release said.

Robbins Engineering of Westbrook also erected dozens of T-bars and chairlifts in the 1950s and 1960s, including the first T-bar at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley.

“The business of manufacturing skis and ski gear was a major part of Maine’s economy in the middle years of the 20th century,” Andrews said. “Although there’s no longer any ski manufacturing in Maine, our mountains, resorts and cross-country centers remain a vitally important cog in our state’s economy. The purpose of this Fireside Chat is to illustrate the significance of our sport to our state’s lifestyle and economy over the centuries.”

Fireside Chats are traveling outreach programs of the Ski Museum of Maine, a nonprofit organization located in Kingfield. There is no charge for the programs, but donations are gratefully accepted. Fireside Chats are sponsored by the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Club and several other organizations, according to the release.


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