Where We Live: Modern-day ski bindings began here

Skiing wouldn't be the same without Hjalmar Hvam

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Finally, after another broken leg, Hjalmar Hvam decided enough was enough.

The Norwegian-born skier, who moved to Portland in 1927, had earned plenty of notoriety on the slopes by the time. He was the first to ski down the summit of Mt. Hood and he also joined the Cascade Ski Club on Mt. Hood, a group made up of fellow Norwegians.

"Immediately he's winning all the races, and all the jumps, and he's the one to beat," said Lloyd Musser with the Mt. Hood Cultural Center.

But Hvam's legacy, one that has influenced the ski world to this day, would come in 1937, when a bad break sparked an idea.

"So he envisioned this thing where you put your boot in here,put forward pressure on it with this spring-loaded thing, and as long as you're going straight -- nobody put any pressure on that, it would stay there," Musser remembered. "But, if you twisted your foot, twisted the ski, it would pop off, and your foot was free."

Hvam, who coached the US Ski team in the 1950s, patented the safe-ski binding that would become the blueprint for bindings used today.

He's got an international and generational footprint, but he also had an impact in the Pacific Northwest, in this place where we live. He owned ski shops in Northwest Portland and in Government Camp. He died at his home in Beaverton in 1996, at the age of 94.

There's a Nordic Museum in Southwest Portland featuring Hvam. It'll move to the Mt. Hood Cultural Center at the beginning of the new year. There, you can see tangible evidence of Hvam's impact on a sport that wouldn't be the same without him.

"We probably wouldn't be able to go as fast as we go today, and do as many tricks and stuff, if we didn't have that safety release," Musser said.

 


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