Sondre Norheim was a poor farm labourer. Born in Morgedal in 1825 in a part of Norway where in the snow heavy winters, skiing had always been an integral part of daily life. Skis were traditionally used as the main form of transport, hunting, collecting wood in the forests, social visits and for generally getting around on the steep, snow heavy slopes.
Sondre, a skilled craftsman and athletic figure, changed the way people saw skiing: He designed and made skis which enabled skiers to tackle the slopes in ways never seen before. He also used a new heel binding design which held the ski firmly to the foot…
Skiing became playful and he demonstrated feats of skiing never seen before. Playful and charismatic and always out skiing – there developed around him a ski culture here in Morgedal in the 1860’s which grew into a thing of legend.
Sondre and his protégées skied the 200km tough journey into Christiania (Oslo), to compete and demonstrate their skiing skills. They completely blew the competition away and the crowds who gathered to watch were spellbound, they had never seen people anything like this before. This was a skiing revelation and the Telemark men had created a «ski fever» in the capital and so the news spread…
It is from Morgedal that Ambassadors would go out and start the worlds first ski school in Olso and then go on into America and Europe – taking their new skis and technique with them. From transport to sport, skis were now being used for the pure joy of the downhill, jumping and racing to the bottom of the snowy hills; it was the dawn of modern ski sport. Skiing, boarding – the simple joy of sliding on snow…
Did you know that…
- It was Sondre Norheim (1825 – 1897) from Morgedal who started a ski revolution that made heel bindings and skis with in-swing (carving skis) known all over the world.
- A world champion skier and ski maker, Olav Bjaaland from Morgedal, was a key member of Amundsen’s Norwegian team who were the first to reach the South Pole in 1911.
- The world’s first ski school was started in Christiania (Oslo) by two brothers – the champion skiers, Mikkel and Torjus Hemmestveit of Morgedal.
- The word Slalom which today is an international word has its origins in Morgedal and West Telemark. «Sla» means sloping, uneven terrain and «lom» means tracks or traces in the snow.
- The Christiania swing (parallel turn) and the Telemark turn have their origins in Telemark, Norway and were the two turns that Sondre Norheim demonstrated for the first time in a major ski competition in Iversløkken (near Christiania) in 1868.
- Svein Sollid from Morgedal won the king’s cup in the first Holmenkollen event ever held in 1892. He is also the first man on record to have jumped over 100 feet on skis – 31.5 meter on the Donstad slope in Morgedal.
- The very first winter Olympic flame was lit in Morgedal up at Øverbø the birth place of Sondre Norheim for the 1952 Oslo Games.
Here in Morgedal, in this unassuming little valley, you can rediscover this pure, original ski experience.
The history of Sondre begins in Morgedal, Telemark. He was born June 10, 1825, at Øverbø, a little cotter’s farm nestled in the hillside. About 500 people lived in this Southern Norway village at that time.
Olav Bjaaland was a Norwegian ski champion from Morgedal in Telemark. In 1911, he was one of the first five men to reach the South Pole as part of an expedition led by Roald Amundsen.
Both Torjus and Mikkjel Hemmestveit were from the village of Morgedal in Telemark. In USA they got the name «The crazy Norwegians from the North Pole».
Friday February 15. 1952 the Winter Olympic Flame was lit in Oslo. Two days before, the pinewood torch was lit in Sondre Norheims cottage, Øverbø, in Morgedal.