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Women skiers in WSC's early days

From Our Story

by Norma Tadlock Johnson

Our best woman skier was Mary Alice (Pete) Peel Berg Olsen. She was actively recruited by Doc Bohler because of her ability. You’ll see in the clippings that she was very good, and was chosen for the U.S. team to attend the 1950 FIS World Championships held in Aspen, Colorado. There were a number of others, including myself, who represented WSC at several meets.

I specifically remember attending two special ones, at Sun Valley, Idaho and at the U. of W. ski area at Martin. This was during the heyday of competitive skiing at the college, with men’s teams doing extremely well in the Coast Conference competitions. The men included many from the Tenth Mountain Division of World War II, and a steady pipeline, as they called it, from Norway.

Although I never told my parents, the fact that there was actually skiing on the campus was something that added to my desire to go to Pullman. Granted, the skiing consisted of a rope tow on a tiny hill next to the music building, which was put up whenever we had snow. With effort, one could make three turns There also was a ski jump on the campus, on the right side looking toward the football stadium. We all loved our time spent at the ski bowl at Emida.

Pete and I were reminiscing one time, and thought that perhaps we were the very first women skiers at the college. However, I’m sure I saw a clipping from my husband’s first year in Pullman, 1940-1941, and there was a woman who went with the men to meets. I’m very sorry that I could not find that clipping.

In those days, many of us were married while attending school. My husband, Bob Johnson, (Elvin Robert), was captain of the ski team and had been a platoon leader in the Mountain Troops. Bob won every coast conference cross country race except one when he had an equipment failure, and was also on the U.S. team, attending the World Championships in Maine in 1950. Pete married Bruce Berg, who was our champion slalom skier. I suspect this fact helped in Doc’s decision to include us on some of the longer trips. But maybe not. Doc was an ardent skier, taking it up in his 50’s, and breaking his leg at 55. My husband remembered talking skiing in the office with Doc, when the football coach came in. Doc said, “Not now, Phil, I’m busy,” and waved him away.

For more stories on women in athletics, explore "Their Place in History," an Our Story article on women athletes.

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