CARRABASSETT VALLEY — If you’re a skier, you know.

Nothing compares to the elation of a good run. You could say it’s sublime, that it feels like freedom. The air so exhilarating. The speed so thrilling. The challenge met.

This passion led to the creation of the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum, founded in 1995 by three members of the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Club who feared “skisport” history would be lost to time.

Exhibits housed on the Sugarloaf Access Road in Carrabassett Valley include vintage skis, poles and boots; photographs and stories, oral histories and a documentary about making skis at Paris Manufacturing in the 1930s.

“The focus of the museum is on educating everyone about our significant Maine ski and snowboard history,” said Glenn Parkinson of Freeport, museum historian and interim president of its board of directors. He is also the author of the Maine ski history book “First Tracks.”

Stories about real people make the past more tangible, he said, and Maine’s ski history is full of people and good stories. Starting back when skis were first carved by hand.


Parkinson refers to the documentary “From Tree to Ski,” which was shot in black and white on 16 millimeter film. In the 6½-minute documentary, craftsmen use machines and hand tools to shape skis from massive tree trunks cut to the length of skis.

The fresh-cut birch and maple had been sent by rail from northern Oxford County to Paris Manufacturing.

In the documentary, narrator Lou McNally notes that skiing was introduced in the region by Finnish immigrants who settled in the Oxford Hills in the 1890s.

Though the Finns used skis for local transportation and exercise, by the 1920s schussing down snowy hills had become seen as a recreational sport.

An interactive work bench designed to showcase ski repairs and waxing is among the offerings of the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum in Carrabassett Valley. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

By 1935, it had caught on big time.

The state’s first “snow train” bringing skiers from Portland was organized that year by the Winter Sports Committee in Fryeburg, according to historian Parkinson.


“The committee planned skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, ice skating and sleigh rides for their guests,” he said. “The problem was, what to do if people got cold and wanted a place to warm up?”

This problem was solved by distributing “Welcome” signs around the village.

“If you were a visitor, and wanted to warm up, you would simply look for a home with a sign and you knew that you were welcome to come in and warm up,” Parkinson said.

The snow train was a big hit.

“Hundreds of people enjoyed the shops, restaurants as well as the winter sports,” he said.

The following year 10 businessmen each put in $25 and hired Hussey Manufacturing to build Maine’s first rope tow at Jockey Cap in Fryeburg.


Avon Hilton was a member of the Deering High School ski club, which was invited to the grand opening of the rope tow “to make sure there were lots of people skiing,” according to museum records.

“We all liked being able to ride up the hill instead of climbing,” Hilton said. “There were about 200 of us skiing, but they say there were over 3,000 people watching us ski. They were parked on the side of the road for miles!”

One of the big welcome signs used in Fryeburg in 1935 is posted in the window of the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum, which does not charge an admission fee.

“We want guests to feel welcome to come into the museum to learn the story of ski sports in Maine,” Parkinson said. “We operate with the financial support of our members. This support allows us to expand our work of providing stories from Maine’s skiing and snowboarding past to even more people.”

A cabinet full of different ski waxes stands in the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum in Carrabassett Valley. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal


The mission of the museum is “to celebrate, preserve, and share the history and heritage of Maine skiing and snowboarding.”


The earliest Maine skiers on record were Swedish immigrants in New Sweden in 1870. They brought the 5,000-year-old sport — initially associated with nomadic hunting, Norse gods, folklore and myth — to their new country, according to “Skeeing in Maine: The Early Years, 1870s to 1920s.” (Go to for more.)

The first ski-making business was established in 1905 by the Theo. Johnsen Co. of Portland. Johnsen was one of the first commercial ski-makers in the country, Parkinson said.

Since so few people skied at the time, Johnsen also published “The Winter Sport of Skeeing,” the first book on skiing published in North America.

“Johnsen’s passion showed in his writing, with lines like, ‘The introduction of the modern lightweight skee has made it possible for all ages and both sexes to enjoy traveling over snow-clad land or ice, breathing in the clear, crisp air and feasting the eyes on the passing landscape and its myriad panoramic charm,’” Parkinson wrote in an email interview.

Johnsen also wrote that “skeeing is the most exhilarating, most fascinating, most healthful and most delightful of all winter sports.”

Unfortunately for Johnsen, he was ahead of his time. Skiing did not become popular until the 1920s and Johnsen closed his business in 1907.


The Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum has a pair of original Theo Johnsen skis, one of only two known to exist, Parkinson said.

“We also exhibit salesman’s samples, beautiful model skis made to scale,” he said.

Other companies showcased in the museum’s Made in Maine exhibit include Paris Manufacturing, G.H. Bass, The Claw and Winterstick Snowboards.

The Bass ski boot display at the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum in Carrabassett Valley features boots made by G.H Bass of Wilton. The boots had a significant impact on the ski boot industry at the time. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Bass, formerly in Wilton, began making ski boots in the early 1920s and became a national leader in ski boot design into the 1960s, Parkinson said.

Skiing began to catch on like fire (and ice?) in the 1930s as the country came out of the Great Depression. Beginning in 1936, the Portland Press Herald published the full-page weekly feature “Along the Ski Trail.”

These pages offered advice on where to ski, what was new and, in general, helped educate people about the “skisport,” Parkinson said.


And of course, there were accompanying ads.

The Maine Central Railroad advertised a Snow Train from Portland to Rumford for $1.75. L.L. Bean advertised a “Ladies Ski Boot, $4.85.”

King & Dexter advertised a new “Ski Harness” because, “Any old sort of ski rigging will not do. It is being realized by skiers that proficiency in running and turning can be tremendously increased by fitting their skis with a proper harness.”

Owen Moore ski suits were priced from $8.95 to $13.95. At Porteous, Mitchell and Braun, “ski suits — as gay as a rainbow (blue, black and orange stripes)” — sold for $16.95.

In a blog on the museum’s website, Parkinson shared some of the articles, including one about the opening of the first ski trail on Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton.

The trail, the Press Herald reported, “received its first thorough tryout last week as Win Durgin of Lewiston and former Dartmouth ski star, went over the down mountain course in a critical frame of mind.


“Win, well known for his work on the Mount Washington trails, was more than pleased with the Bridgton speed course,” the paper stated.

The course was built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The top of the trail “was so steep they didn’t think the skiers could manage the turns in the trail,” Parkinson wrote.

The corps used logs, cut from the mountain, to build banked turns to help the skiers negotiate the terrain, according to the Press Herald article.

“We liked them,” said skier Walter Soule. “We could carry speed around those corners. Of course, we did lose a skier every now and then over the edge.”

A vintage ski fashion display includes a sign from Harvey Boynton Ski Shops at Sugarloaf Mountain, which was an expansion of Boynton’s shop in Kingfield. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal


Exhibits at the museum include a Children’s Corner with examples of early ski figurines, skis, sleds and toys “to bring back early memories of skiing.”


Other exhibits include a replica of a King & Dexter ski shop: tools that were used in the shop, skis, boots, and metal edges, and a display of 10th Mountain Division memorabilia from World War II. The U.S. Army division was activated in 1943, modeled on Finnish soldiers on skis who frustrated the efforts of the Soviet Union invasion of Finland in November 1939, according to wikipedia. The U.S. wanted a similar force capable of navigating wintry terrain, including the Apennine Mountains in Italy.

Other exhibits are available online as “traveling exhibits.”

They include “Maine Olympians from the Pine Tree State to the World Stage,” unveiled in 2018. This exhibit highlights the many Maine athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers. At least one athlete or coach has been in every Winter Olympics since 1948.

To commemorate these individuals and others, the Maine Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 2003 as a semi-independent program of the museum.

More than 150 men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the sport and business of skiing and snowboarding in Maine have been inducted. The Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony is held in October.

In partnership with the museum, the Bethel Historical Society hosts an exhibit titled “Oxford County Skiing History — From Jockey Cap to Jordan Bowl.”


Other traveling exhibits include “The Mountains of Maine” and “World Cup 1971.”

One of Parkinson’s favorite exhibits is “The Game Warden.”

One area of the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum in Carrabassett Valley features old skis and a mannequin decked out in gear used by the 10th Mountain division, a World War II U.S. Army division that trained on skis in snow conditions. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In 1902, Frederick Jorgensen became a game warden in Wilsons Mills in northern Oxford County, Parkinson said.

“His job was to catch poachers who were killing unreasonable numbers of deer and other wildlife. At that time poachers used snowshoes to get around in the deep snow of a Maine winter.”

Jorgensen, who patrolled on skis, issued a challenge:

“I’ll race your best snowshoer to the post office and back, the first one back gets one of Mrs. Flint’s fresh mince pies. Well, we started our half-mile race and by the time the poor fellow reached the post office I was nearly back at the hotel.”


The museum also displays a photo of two women skiing in Houlton in 1924.

“Like Jorgensen before them, they used one pole,” Parkinson said. “For a long time, this was the accepted way to ski. In our exhibits we show both these photos, along with a few single poles.

“As we tell the story about these pioneering skiers, we have our guests hold one of the poles. By making this story tangible, by having them hold a century-old ski pole, they connect with the story and the people in the story. Kids will often hold onto the pole, walking around the museum with it, until they are about to walk out the door.”

The museum also offers oral histories, including an interview with lifelong skier Megan Roberts of Farmington.

She describes skiing as meditative, requiring strict focus and bringing peace of mind.

One of her most memorable times on the slopes was on a double black diamond trail called Misery Whip at Sugarloaf, she says in the interview. The trail, which is never groomed, was named among the top 10 most challenging by Vermont Sports.

“I was having a grand run and when I got down it was, ‘That was fun. That was fun,’” she says.

Such shared experiences help make the past tangible, Parkinson said. “By using real people to illustrate the stories, we hope to make a connection with our guests.”

“Who doesn’t want to hold onto that single pole and watch as Frederick Jorgensen beats the fastest snowshoer in Wilsons Mills?”

A collection of vintage snowboards is on display at the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum in Carrabassett Valley. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

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