- Leisure Cultures and the Making of Modern Ski Resorts ed. by Philipp Strobl and Aneta Podkalicka
Skiing and the sport of skiing are well represented within sport history, although much of the scholarship remains fairly descriptive. It often deals with local or national aspects, addresses methodological or organizational topics related to skiing as a subject of discussion, highlights pioneers and “heroes” of the sport, or features special events such as the Olympic Games or world championships. Other scholarship discusses economical or gender aspects, but, in general, modern cultural historical analyzes are considerably rare.
Philipp Strobl and Aneta Podkalicka’s edited book, Leisure Cultures and the Making of Modern Ski Resorts, offers a broad view on the phenomenon of skiing. It is regarded under aspects of culture, sports, tourism, leisure industry, modernization of society, economy, class relations, and as a media phenomenon. The authors and editors commit themselves to a transnational, theoretically based, inter- and transdisciplinary access. This is reflected already in the backgrounds of the editors, with Podkalicka an Australian-based cultural and media studies specialist and Strobl a member of the Department of Contemporary History at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
In their introductory chapter, the editors describe their comprehension of skiing cultures and its way into a multibillion dollar sport-and-leisure industry under global perspectives. This chapter offers several original ways of thinking about the history of skiing and uses appropriate theoretical approaches (for example, a theory of cultural translation). Center stage thereby is the assumption that ski resorts are “highly commercialized, culturally hybrid transnational spaces” (6). The culture of skiing and the emergence of skiing resorts, therefore, can be understood as a process of “cultural diffusion.” On the one hand, this process is shaped by global economy and, on the other, is adopted within local contexts.
Mass media representation played an important role in enhancing “the visibility of the sport and anchored it convincingly in popular culture” (8). It was a key interface in the production, construction, and circulation of the social meaning of skiing. So it is no coincidence that the peaks of the emergence of ski resorts after the Second World War occurred together with the rise of mass media, especially with television in Western societies.
The second chapter by Andrew Denning serves as a kind of a leading piece for the whole book. It describes key aspects of what Denning calls “the industrialization of skiing from the 1930s to the 1970s” (25). Focusing especially on examples from Europe and the United States, he sketches the sociocultural and economic rise of skiing from an elite leisure activity in the 1930s into a modern sport and tourism industry. The main requirements for the increase of skiing after the Second World War, Denning argues, was “the globalisation and democratisation of consumer culture, the mutual dependence and coevolution of media and sport, and the development of postwar leisure societies” (31). Closely connected to that was the formation of an affluent middle class. The 1960s were the booming years of a commercialized skiing culture, yet skiing remained exclusive, part of a privileged lifestyle of the rich and beautiful. Within the decade, skiing, accelerated consuming, and a sexually charged luxury life in the après-ski settings within upscale resorts became motifs of longings for a broader middle class. This way of living and consuming [End Page 105] was paradigmatically represented in spy films but also became a topic in magazines such as Playboy and Cosmopolitan. The art and fashion historians Marilyn Cohen and Nancy Deihl describe this phenomenon in their chapter, “Slippery Slopes: Skiing, Fashion, and Intrigue in 1960s Film,” showing how the globalized iconic character James Bond brought this image to a larger audience.
The book then emphasizes developments in the post–World War II era. For this, it brings together six case studies from different world regions: three examples from Europe (Austria, Poland, Sweden), one from Turkey (Mount Uludag), one from the United States (Sun Valley), and one from Australia (Thredbo...