The Father of Modern Skiing Buried on the North Dakota Prairie

Sondre Norheim Lutheran ChurchNorway Lutheran Church and Cemetery south of Denbigh,North Dakota 

Sondre Norheim, (1825 – 1897) was a Norwegian skier and the father of modern skiing. Thanks to his pioneer work, we right now can enjoy the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2013 in Schladming, Austria. A record number of athletes and countries perform, and alpine skiing has become popular worldwide. Sondre Norheim died as a poor man on the North Dakota Prairie. His burial location remained unknown for 68 years. 

Sondre Norheim was born at Øverbø, a little cotter’s farm and raised in Morgedal in the municipality of Kviteseid in Telemark. Skiing was a popular activity in Morgedal. Sondre took to downhill skiing as a recreational activity, rising to local fame for his skills. He made important innovations in skiing technology by designing new equipment, such as different bindings and shorter skis with curved sides to facilitate turns. He also designed the Telemark ski, which is the prototype of all those now produced.

Sondre Norheim Skiing PioneerSondre Norheim was regarded by his contemporaries as a master of the art of skiing. He combined ordinary skiing with jumping and slalom. In 1868 he won the first national skiing competition in Christiania (now Oslo), beating his younger competitors by a large margin. His reputation grew, and eventually made Norwegian words like ski and slalom (from the Norwegian word “slalåm”) known worldwide.


On May 30, 1884 Sondre and Rannei left Norway together with three of their children– Anne (21), Åmund (14) and Talleiv (12). Their son Olav and daughter Hæge had left home previously, and their eldest daughter Ingerid, decided to stay back home.

Norheim followed in the footsteps of many of his neighbors in Morgedal and emigrated from Norway to the United States. After having first settled in Minnesota, they moved to North Dakota, near Villard in McHenry County. He continued to ski when he could, though the climate and flat topography of the Dakota prairie offered few opportunities for downhill skiing. It was said he always had a pair of skis placed outside his door.

Norheim grew more religious with age and helped build a Lutheran church in Villard. He died in 1897 and was buried in Denbigh, McHenry County, North Dakota.

Sondre Norheim Gravestone

A simple, natural gravestone marks Sondre Norheim’s grave

His burial place was unknown for 68 years, but thanks to the efforts of his great grandchild Dorothy Lyon of Atlanta, Georgia, the grave was located in 1965. It was found at the Norway Lutheran Church and Cemetery south of Denbigh, North Dakota. A memorial stone now marks its spot.

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Source: Wikipedia

Text modified by: Thor Bugge Lanesskog, ThorNews

Categories: Sports & Health

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