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Development of winter sport in Giant Mountains


The development of winter sports in Karkonosze Mountains from the first half of the twentieth century

The Giant Mountains were the first place in Europe where people went on for winter sports. Former horned sleighs which were used in 18th and 19th century for economic purposes soon became popular as a way of entertainment. The first downhill drive was recorded in the first half of 19th century.
In the second half of 19th century downhill drives became very popular. The first three pairs of Norwegian skies were brought to the Giant Mountains in 1885. Five years later in winter 1890-1891 a retired captain O.Norweg from Cieplice did a first ski expedition in the Giant Mountains. On 7th March 1893, e climbed the Sniezka Peak walking on skies. The first Norwegian skies came to Karpacz in 1894. Taking them as a model, a local carpenter prepared two copies made of beech wood. Skies made of ash were made on a mass scale starting from 1903. In the same year in Upper Karpacz, a local ski club was established. The first competition for local teens was organized in 1905.
Somewhat later, Karpacz as well as regional and national championships started to be organized. German championships took place in Karpacz too. In the Olympic year 1928, European championships in Toboganning were organized in Szklarska Poręba. In 1930, in Karpacz, German championships in winter sports took place. A lot of great competitors took part in this event. One of the most famous was a toboganner Manfred Tietze from Upper Karpacz, who won five gold medals in the European championships in the time between world wars.

History of winter sports in the Jelenia Góra valley

Just one year after the Second World War, clubs and sports organizations started their activity in the region. In 1946, the first ski club in Karpacz - called the Silesian Ski Society - was established. On the initiative of Silesian activists, the Regional Ski Society in Wroclaw was founded. In January 1946, in Karpacz, 18 competitors (members of the Youth Organization of Universities for Workers) took part in the first ski tournament. In the next competition even more young people from the entire Lower Silesia were present at that event.
Establishment of the Spas’ Management in Karpacz was an important event for the development of sports in the region. Jerzy Ustupski - brown Olympic medallist in rowing from 11th Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 and well-known activist became a director of that organization. Soon, ski jump renovation works, managed by another famous Olympian – Stanisław Marusarz (a participant of the Olympic Games in 1932,1936,1948, 1952 and a runner-up od world championships of ski-jumps in 1938) were executed. The first jump of that great champion on 1st January 1947 opened a ski-jump in Karpacz. In the same year bobsleigh track was cleaned with active participation of Tadeusz Dajewski and Artur Wodzicki.
In 1947, 14 sports events were organized with over thousand participants. A lot of them were a nationwide, among others: the Ski Championships of Working Sports Societies (1947, 1948), ”Silesiady” organized by the Academic Sports Association between 1946-49, and also the National Championships.
The traditional events in our regions are: “The Karkonosze Cup” which was organized for the first time in 1947 in Szklarska Poręba and “The Samotnia Cup” that gathers skies from entire Poland. In 1947, an application the Silesian Sports Society was accepted by associations. The Karpacz Sports Club was named “Związkowiec” and Ryszard Sierbień became a president. In 1949 Karpacz organized ski and skating championships of Poland. Also the first bobsleigh and toboganning championships of Poland after the Second World War were organized in Karpacz .
After dissolution of the association “Związkowiec”, in 1950 r. a new sports club of the building federation ”Budowlani” with a new president Karol Pietryka was established. The club had the following sections: toboganning-bobsleigh, skeleton and ski.
In 1956, the club changed the name into sports club ”Sniezka”. This date is the agreed time of finishing a pioneer activity. In recognition of achievements, the Polish sports club received the medal ”100 years of the Polish sports” and “10 years of the Polish Toboganning Association” . A lot of famous and respected athletes and Olimpians came from ”Sniezka” club . The “Sniezka” sports club is very active also in present days.
At the exhibition “ From the history of winter sports”, you may follow the development of sports equipment from the oldest sledge, bobsleigh, skeletons, skibobs, skies, winter rockets (called “karple”) and skates. There are also a lot of interesting documents, trophies and souvenirs from sports events where the representatives of our region took part in.

Olympians from Karkonosze Mountains and Lower Silesia

In 1924, Winter Olympic Games took place for the first time. Some of the events were played before during summer Olympic games.
Polish athletes have been taken part in the competition since the very beginning. Competitors from the Giant Mountains went to the Winter Olympic Games in 1956 (Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy) and represented Poland in bobsleigh. From the team of four, there were three men from the Jelenia Gora region: Aleksy and Zygmunt Konieczny as well as Włodzimierz Źróbik. Aleksy Konieczny started also in double bobsleigh.
Toboganning is the youngest event of winter Olympic games which was registered in 1964. The competition combines of three events: men-single, women-single and men-double.
In 1964, on ninth Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, a toboganner from Karpacz, Barbara Gorgoń – Flontowa came fifth in the competition. Ryszard Witke from Karpacz and Andrzej Sztolf from Szklarska Poręba – both ski jumpers – also took part in that Olympic Games. Janusz Darasz was a reserve in the Toboganning team.
Eight years later in 1972, in Sapporo, Japan Mirosław Więckowski took part in the competition (together with W. Kubik) came in fifth-sixth place and Halina Kanasz – Woźny came in sixth-seventh place. Although toboganners did know win the Olympic medal, they were one of the best in the world. Four years later, in 1976, again in Innsbruck, Austria twelfth Winter Olympic Games took place. This time the biggest group of representatives took part in the competition: altogether seven toboggans: Teresa Bugajczyk, Halina Kanasz, Jan Kasielski, Andrzej Kozik, Andrzej Piekoszewski, Mirosław Więckowski and Andrzej Żyła. After a long break, in 1992 during 16th Winter Olympic Games in Albertville and in 1996 on the next 17th Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer a toboganner Adrian Przechewka took part in the competition
During the 18th Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan in 1998 the following bobsleigh team represented Poland: Tomasz Gatka, Norbert Foltin, Dawid Kupczyk, Krzysztof Sieńko and Tomasz Żyła and in Toboganning : Piotr Orsłowski and Robert Mieszała. In the following Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 a bobsleigh team: Adrian Przechewka, Tomasz Gatka, Dawid Kupczyk, Krzysztof Sieńko, Grzegorz Gryczka and Tomasz Żyła took part in the competition.
In two showcases on the first floor, there are pictures of participants of winter Olympic Games, their Olympic medals, badges, start numbers and Olympic passports. Precious exhibits are: Olympic medals from Albertville (1992) , Nagano (1998) which were given as a present by Antoni Okniański – a coach of the Polish toboggans national team. There are also:, the Olympic medal from Salt Lake City 2002 given as a present by a coach of the Polish bobsleigh national Andrzej Żyła, the commemorative book of the Urban Department in Karpacz with the registration of solemn farewell of Olympians – toboggans on 27th January 1976.

19th-century tourism in Karkonosze had its characteristic features, including carrying tourists in sedan chairs or sliding on horned sleigh, which were a great attraction. There are several items exhibited here: an old wooden rucksack, a 19th-century sedan chair, Karkonosze horned sleigh with a special droshky part. Moreover, there are some depictions: a mountain guide, a tourist in a sedan chair and a run down the hill on a horned sleigh.
First information about mountain guides comes from the 2nd half of the 18th century. They appeared occasionally at this time though. It was only at the end of the next century when a sudden development of tourism came about. Karkonosze were one of the first places where government office took the control over mountain guiding. Karkonosze guides are depicted on the 17th- and 18th-century drawings with characteristic wooden rucksacks called ‘nosiłki’.
Among all guides there were also Poles who lived in Karkonosze.
Jerzy Fryderyk Suchodolski, Jan Gruszczewski and Walenty Grzała were those who - among others - guided tourists in Karkonosze.
The interest in Karkonosze began to spread to the western parts of the mountains and the subject of sightseeing started to appear in graphic works more frequently.
In the 19th century tourist base was still growing and so were production of tourist equipment and souvenirs, expert guiding was organised and guidebooks for tourists were published.
The history of carrying tourists in sedan chairs beneath Śnieżka is about 300 years old. In 1697 (on 31st August to be precise) Count Krzysztof Leopold Schaffgotsch with twenty people, including foresters, a butler, a cook, two soldiers and even a Franciscan priest Eustachiusz - whose role was to fight the Mountain Ghost - as well as subjects carrying His Excellency himself and useful items all climbed to the top of Śnieżka.
Korpus Przewodników i Tragarzy Lektyk Bagażu (Guides and Sedan-Chair Luggage Carriers Association) started its activity in 1817 and most probably it was the first such organisation in Europe.
To confirm that there is a document dating from 15th August 1838 from the Internal Affairs Department for Royal Court Clerks in Legnica to Kameralny Office in Sobieszów.
‘In 1817 under royal supervision a guides and sedan-chair carriers organisation was founded in Jelenia Góra district. Its aim was to allow only appropriate people with an official permit to serve visitors among all guides and carriers working for tourists.
… Present guides and sedan-chair carriers organisation in Jelenia Gora district is correct both from the law and statutory points of view, because it is based on the §21 of 2nd November 1810 concerning common industrial tax introduction and on the §131 law of 7th September 1811 concerning police craft conditions’.
In 1844 tourists climbing the top of Śnieżka could make use of five guides, eight sedan-chair carriers and seven sedan-chair carriers helpers’ services. They were people of different professions: twelve of them were daily workers and two were carpenters. There were also a country judge, a tailor, a weaver, a stallholder, a shoemaker and even a herbalist.
Sedan-chair carriers activity in Karkonosze ended at the beginning of the 20th century.

At first, sleigh had mostly functional role – they served as a means of transport. Karkonosze highlanders used the so-called ‘horned’ sleigh for transport of hay and timber. The custom of bringing tourists down the mountains on horned sleigh became widespread only in 1815.
Immediately after the liberation sport clubs and organisations started operating in the Lower Silesia. The oldest ones are sport club ‘Śnieżka’ in Karpacz and sport club ‘Julia’ in Szklarska Poręba.
A number of mass events and championship competitions were organised. The credit for it goes primarily to many most cooperative activists and organisers.

After the end of the second Word War the sledging in Poland was quickest organised as a sport at this time in Karkonosze.
Many national and international sport events took place on the sledge-bob-sleigh run in Karpacz.
Snowshoes (to walk on snow) and skis (to slide on snow) were invented in the process of developing snow transport devices. Skiing became popular in Central Europe in the 2nd half of the 19th century. In 1894 people climbed the top of Śnieżka on skis for the first time ever. Right after the war many national ski competitions were held in Karkonosze: Ski Championship (1947 – 1948); ‘Silezjady’ of Academic Sport Association (1946 – 1949); Polish Championship (1948).
‘Puchar Karkonoszy’ (‘The Karkonosze Cup’) is a traditional event that has been organised every year since 1947.
A skier – Stanisław Marusarz an Olympian; a Sport Devices Officer of the Health resorts Administration; he was in charge of construction of two ski jumps and ski runs in Karpacz.