New book explores Czech passion for skiing

Photo: WWA Photo

A new book called Naše hory, lyže, sníh, (Our Mountains, Skis and Snow) explores the Czech passion for winter sports. It covers all sorts of topics, from skiing pioneers and famous ski races, to the tradition of post-war collective recreation and the beginning of snowboarding in the country. It also presents Czech winter sports legends, from ski-jumper Jiří Raška to Ester Ledecká.

Czechs have always been a nation of avid skiers. As soon as the first snow falls, thousands of people head to their cottages and ski resorts. The new coffee table book, which was released just a few weeks ago, explores the Czechs’ love for skiing in great detail, bringing dozens of photographs and other historical material, as well as interviews with some of the country’s winter sports legends.

The editor of the book, renowned Czech photographer Herbert Slavík, says it took years to complete and explains how the original idea came about:

Herbert Slavík,  photo: Elena Horálková / Czech Radio

“I love mountains and skiing and winter. And apart from taking pictures, I also publish photography books. About five years ago we did a book about the history of athletics in the Czech lands and we came across loads of material and photos concerning skiing. So that’s when I got the idea to create a book focusing on skiing and the love for skiing here in Czechia.”

On the space of nearly 250 pages, the book presents impressive, black and white photos by legendary Czech photographer and mountaineer Vilém Heckel, but also historical photos from the National Museum and the local museums in the Giant Mountains, and from the newspaper archives.

Photo: WWA Photo

Apart from the famous skiing legends, it also introduces some of the lesser known figures of Czech skiing, such as the Czech textile businessman, artist and designer Zikmund Ascher, who competed in three world championships in ’35, ’37 and ’38 and whose love for speed earned him the nickname Mad Silkman.

There are also profiles of several female pioneers of skiing, such as Růžena Beinhauerová:

“We came across her photos in the National Museum, which inherited her estate. She was a universal athlete, you could say she was the Ester Ledecká of the pre-war period. She excelled in cross country and down-hill skiing, but she was also a multiple winner of the Mayor’s Regatta rowing race.”

Photo: WWA Photo

The book also explores the tradition of school ski trips and post-war collective recreation as well as some of the famous ski races, such as Maiskirennen, one of the toughest races in Europe before World War II . Herbert Slavík again:

“The race was established in the 1920s in Pec pod Sněžkou. After the war it was re-established under the name Liberation Race and continued until 1968. Among those who participated before the war were future Olympic winners, such as Kristl Krantz, who sought it for its difficulty.Today I would compare it to Hahnenkam in Kitzbühel.”

The book Our Mountains, Skis and Snow, written by a collective of authors and edited by Herbert Slavík, was released by the publishing house WWA Photo and is available in bookstores all around the country.