THIS is what idyllic skiing looked like at Štrbské Pleso in the 1930s. Compared with today not much has changed, and even some buildings seen behind the posing skier still exist.
The most interesting is the structure with turrets in the centre of the photograph. It was built in 1897 as a summer residence for the emperor’s court and known as Vila Augusta. Later, during the first Czechoslovak Republic, it was named Jiskra, in honour of the famous leader of the post-Hussite Bratríci rebel movement, and most recently Solisko, after a nearby Tatra peak. In time, the building was turned into a children’s sanatorium and used for that purpose until 1994 when it was torn down. Three years later, a replica was built on its site that serves as a medical institution.
When the photographer captured this image of the lone skier, skiing had become a widespread sport in the Tatras. The first skis were brought to the Tatra Mountains from Norway in 1865 by Karl Cornidesz, an apothecary in Starý Smokovec. Very likely, he did not ski on them though they were probably a rather curious attraction.
The army of the Austrian monarchy contributed to spreading the popularity of skiing in the Tatras.
In 1899, one of its colonels organised winter training on skis in the vicinity of Štrbské Pleso. These exercises were regularly repeated until the end of WWI and by 1916 as many as 4,500 soldiers had taken part in them.
25. Jan 2010 at 0:00 | By Branislav Chovan