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Ski Resort Life

How Paul Bunyan Invented Skiing

Most people believe Paul Bunyan is a mythical character like Big Foot or Lady Gaga, but anyone with a deep skiing heritage will tell you that’s not true.

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SKI Magazine. December 15, 1949.

By W. A. Breyfogle

It isn’t in the books, because Paul Bunyan said it was nothing much, and Johnny Inkslinger never wrote it down. But it was the kind of story that people remember, and it’s still told all through the western country. If you want to know who invented skiing, it was Paul Bunyan. And it happened like this:

One season, between the Round River Drive and the Winter of the Blue Snow, they were logging up near Two Tree Mountain. This Mountain was so high and steep that nobody ever went up it, and so the two pines at the top had a chance to get their full growth – six hundred feet from the ground to the first branches, and you can figure out for yourself how thick they would be through the butt. All clear, hard pine, and maybe a couple thousand years old. A matched pair like that would look well at the head of the drive, so Paul told a crew to go up and get them.

Well, they tried everything, but that mountain beat them! They’d get up a mile or more and then they’d slide down, and the camp ran out of patches for the seats of their pants. Besides, they got so hungry they had to eat twelve meals a day, and Hot Biscuit Slim threatened to quit as cook. So Paul Bunyan saw that he’d have to go up for those trees himself.

Trees Felled

He had a little trouble on the way up, because eagles kept getting tangled in his heard. But he’d got an early start, and by mid-day he had those trees felled and trimmed. Then he stood there, with this right foot on one trunk and his left on the other, considering how to get them down the mountain. And just then a blizzard got up and gave him a push and he started to move.

Now, in the camp, they used to grease the griddle for pancakes by fastening sides of bacon to the bull cook’s feet and letting him skate around. Paul remembered that, and thought he might skate his logs down the mountain. The spikes in his boots gave him a good grip, and he pulled up a couple of hundred-year-old saplings to help him balance. The way it’s always been told out in the western country, that was how skiing began.

You see, it was fifty or a hundred miles down to camp, and the logs soon got worn as smooth as glass. The tips kind of curled up, with the speed Paul was making, and the resin that boiled out was the first wax. Even after the blizzard fell behind, he was making good time. Once, a big rock loomed up right in the way, but he got around that by inventing the jump-turn. He might have invented the snowplow, too, but it would have slowed him down. And there were a lot of other details he didn’t have to time attend to just then. For instance, you couldn’t expect him to think of a chair-lift, because there was no reason for him to go back up the mountain. Anyway, he had invented skiing and that was a good day’s work, even for Paul Bunyan.

Not Publicized

For several reasons, it didn’t become popular as a sport at once. In the first place, when they heard that deafening roar coming nearer and nearer, most of the men thought it was an avalanche, and Dutch Kale and Dirty Dan went so far as to take the pledge. It did not look like fun, to be high-tailing it down a big mountain, with a blizzard trying to catch up. It still doesn’t, unless you are a skier. And Paul had a job to do and a living to make, so he didn’t admit that he had enjoyed himself. The men would have been sliding down hills and hollering to each other, then they should have been felling trees.

Just the same, Paul Bunyan was the man who invented skiing. Ask anybody in the western country.