If you enjoy skiing, you’ll want to see a Passion for Snow, an hour-long documentary produced by Lisa Densmore Ballard, a Saranac Lake native who frequently writes about hiking and paddling for the Adirondack Explorer.
The movie tells the story of Dartmouth College’s influence on skiing in North America, but it includes several Adirondack connections.
The 2013 film is based on the book a Passion for Skiing by Stephen Waterhouse, who is the film’s executive director. Waterhouse wrote the script with Densmore Ballard. Both are graduates of Dartmouth.
The New Hampshire college has played a key role in the history of skiing from the early 1900s. The number of skiing firsts at Dartmouth are impressive. The college founded the first ski team in 1909. It competed in the first intercollegiate skiing competition in 1914 at McGill University in Montreal. It boasts the nation’s oldest collegiate winter carnival, which began in 1915. In 1925, Dartmouth hosted the first North American slalom race. On March 8, 1927, the Dartmouth Outing Club hosted the first modern downhill race at Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire.
“Cross-country skiing requires time, effort and sweat,” says New England Ski Museum historian John B. Allen in the film. “Once you’re at the top of the hill, downhill requires courage, speed, and technique. In the early part of the twentieth century, this is the time when motor racing begins. This is the time when the airplane is invented, and you begin to have speed trials. This is the time when the barnstormers are doing their crazy things. Speed was the cry of the moment, so an alpine ski absolutely hit the speed nerve.”
Densmore Ballard skied on the Dartmouth College women’s alpine team and the U.S. Ski Team and has won more than 75 Alpine Master titles. She is one of several people with Adirondack connections in the film. Others include Otto Schniebs, a legendary Dartmouth coach from 1931-35, who later set up a ski school in Lake Placid and designed some of the original ski trails on Wright Peak, Marble Mountain, and Whiteface Mountain. Andrew Weibrecht, a Lake Placid native who has won Olympic medals in Super G slalom races, attended Dartmouth. Hannah Kearney, who won the Olympic gold medal in freestyle mogul skiing and trains in Lake Placid, grew up near Dartmouth College as a child, skied there, and now attends school there.
“The Dartmouth Skiway was the reason I began freestyle skiing,” she says in the film.
Overall, the college has sent more than a hundred athletes to the Winter Olympics.
The college’s emphasis on winter sports and culture becomes obvious through this documentary. The stories of these events is told through interviews with alumni and old black-and-white footage, showing everything from ski jumping to downhill races through the woods.
Photos courtesy of Lisa Densmore Ballard: Top, DVD cover for a Passion for Snow. Below, Densmore Ballard competes in a ski race.