Editor's Note: The following is a verbatim transcription of a chapter from Spalding's Winter Sports by James A. Cruikshank, published in 1917 and part of the Ray Ruge Collection at the Hudson River Maritime Museum. Many thanks to volunteer Adam Kaplan for transcribing this booklet.
Where winter is at all reliable, and snow and ice can be confidently counted upon in advance, no outdoor festival of the whole year will furnish such invariable delight as the winter carnival. There seems to be some unique quality about winter which stimulates to merriment and enthusiasm. It is something more than the scientific fact that one-seventh more oxygen is found in the cold air of winter than in the warm air of summer. The same group of young people will reveal in winter depths of fun and prankish tendencies unsuspected by any actions of the summer time. Staid matrons have been known to try the turkey trot on snowshoes who never tried it anywhere else; and contributing thereby entertainment which neither they nor their friends ever before suspected them capable of. Nobody stands about in wallflower pose when the winter carnival is on.
Canada started the world on the winter carnival. And then, because some of the thoughtless folks whom she desired as settlers and immigrants got the mistaken idea that Canada was a land of snow and ice, she suddenly dropped the thing. Now, with a better knowledge of her magnificent climate spread abroad all over the world, she has sensibly gone back to the enjoyment of those delightful and exhilarating winter pastimes which no other people on earth know so well how to arrange and participate in, and she again welcomes the seeker after winter joys. There is inspiration and information for every lover of winter joys in even the briefest visit to the Dominion during the couple of cold months of the year. Perhaps the presence there of so much of the French gayety and vivacity reveals the secret of her wonderful success in the carnivals of winter.
But Canada is no longer the exclusive authority upon the enjoyment of winter. Switzerland, Norway, and some parts of the United States are but little behind in fostering the winter carnival. it is an unquestioned truth that nowhere in the world is there larger interest in winter pastimes than in the United States.
Country clubs, outdoor organizations of all kinds, even groups of serious folks interested primarily in the betterment of the locality or the town in which they live, and in some few cases town governments themselves, are now aware of the delightful vacations which may be enjoyed by merely taking advantage of the local presence of cold weather and snow. On Long Island, New York State, in recent years there has been an illustration of this spirit to the extent of closing the schools when the big bob-sled races with the neighboring town take place, just as in sunny California the schools are often closed when snow falls in order to let the youngsters revel in its unusual beauty.
All a big winter carnival needs, given the right sort of winter, is a moving spirit. Let somebody start the thing and the expression of interest will be immediate, and support will be generous. The very novelty of the affair will attract attention and draw people. And once it has been successfully carried out there will be large demands for its repetition. The famous ice palaces of Montreal, with their accompanying picturesque carnivals, did not die for lack of interest or patronage; they were killed intentionally, because they carried a wrong impression to the balance of the world. In time they will be revived.
An ice palace sounds elaborate and difficult, but it need be neither. Blocks of ice or a foundation of a wooden structure upon which streams of water are played may be employed to create a structure big enough for the sport of attack and defense by armies on snowshoes and skiis, carrying torches and burning red fire. Exceedingly interesting effects can be obtained at very slight expense, providing of course that the local weather man can be relied upon to furnish his part in the program.
There may be moonlight snowshoe tramps over the hills, snowshoe races where start and finish are in front of a grand-stand, or in the center of a rink, where folks can keep moving, ski races and ski coasting, skating exhibitions, costume skating with prizes for the best costume representative of winter; skating races, couple skating in fancy movements or speed contests, fancy dancing on skates, individual and couple; parade of decorated sleighs, floats, sleds, or toboggans; parades of snowshoers, ski runners, and skaters in costume.
Any number of most interesting events can be run off on an ice field, such as hoop races, wheelbarrow races, potato races, snow shovel races, where the men drag the girls one-half the distance and the girls drag the men the other half; night-shirt races, where the girls aid the men to get into a night-shirt, the men skate a short distance and then the girls aid them to get out of the night-shirt; necktie and cigarette races in similar fashion; ski races, where the men or women are drawn by horses; snowshoe obstacle races, getting through a barrel, over a fence, climbing a rope ladder; toboggan races, in which two persons sit on the toboggan and propel it by hands or feet over the ice; and lanterns of all kinds everywhere, electric illumination. If it can be arranged, colored fire, torches, toboggans rigged with tiny batteries and carrying individual insignia and emblems, costumes similarly lighted, topped off by the moonlight.
James A. Cruikshank was an expert on outdoors sports during the first half of the 20th century. Born in Scotland but spending most of his life in New York, he was the editor of The American Angler magazine, Field and Stream, and wrote numerous articles for a wide variety of other magazines and newspapers throughout his career, including the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He also published at least three books: Spalding’s Winter Sports (1913, 1917), Canoeing and Camping (1915), and Figure Skating for Women (1921, 1922). He also contributed a chapter on artificial lures to The Basses: Freshwater and Marine (1905). In addition to his writing, Cruikshank was involved in public speaking, doing talks on outdoor sports sometimes illustrated by motion pictures. An avid photographer, Cruikshank’s photos often featured in his illustrated lectures, his articles, and his books, as he encouraged readers to take their own cameras out-of-doors. He had a home in the Catskills as well as a home and offices in New York City, and in the 1930s he helped found the Hudson River Yachting Association. At one point, he managed the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink, and another in Rye, NY. His wife Alice was also an avid camper and hiker, and they often traveled together. In 1909, Alice went “viral” in newspapers around the country by being the first person to blaze a trail between Mount Field and Mount Wiley in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (James brought up the rear). James and Alice eventually moved to Drexel, PA and were vacationing in Lake Placid in July of 1957 when James died unexpectedly at the age of 88.
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