Historically speaking

Carl Tellefsen helped start ski, snowboard HOF

The United States Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum in Ishpeming is pictured. (Journal file photo)

ISHPEMING — Carl Tellefsen was born in Trondheim, Norway on Sept. 9, 1854. He was an active outdoorsman and his passion was skiing, which he learned when very young.

“He aided in the organization of the first and now famous ski club at Trondheim, Norway, and was a member of the organization for several years before coming to America. Most of the big tournaments in Norway are conducted under the direction of this club.” (Mining Journal, October 27, 1908)

In 1886, Tellefsen and his family emigrated to the United States, settling first in Toledo, Ohio. After only one year in that area, the family relocated to Ishpeming, perhaps because Toledo had no ski jumping hills.

Arriving in Ishpeming in March 1888, he was too late to participate in the first ski jumping tournament, but made an exhibition jump at the hill by Lake Angeline. His jump was an impressive 42 feet, six inches.

“He also took a prominent part in the organization of the Ishpeming Ski Club in this city some 20 years ago. “ (Iron Ore, October 31, 1908)

“He was also a member of Ishpeming’s first Ski club, organized about twenty-one years ago. It was largely through his efforts that the present ski club was organized, and he was its first president, remaining at its head until the national association was organized in this city three years ago last February. He was elected president of the association and at each subsequent meeting since then he was re-elected. He took a great deal of interest in both the Ishpeming club and the national organization and both prospered under his direction. He was a prominent factor in the management of every ski tournament held in the city.” (Mining Journal, October 27, 1908)

Tellefsen oversaw the insurance department of the Ishpeming National Bank, but when that bank reorganized into the Miners National Bank, he went with C.H. Moss & Company, who opened a private bank in the Robbins block. When Moss relocated to the Copper Country, Tellefsen remained in the same location with an insurance and brokerage office.

“Mr. Tellefsen was a prominent member of the local lodge of Elks. He held the office of secretary for several years and was exalted ruler for two years. He was an enthusiastic member and was a moving spirit in all social entertainments given under the auspices of the lodge.” (Iron Ore, October 31, 1908)

In 1904, Tellefsen started to form the National Skiing Association. A meeting of the Ishpeming Ski Club board of directors was held in January of 1905 and at the meeting a National organization was discussed, with the board supporting its formation. The meeting was held in Ishpeming on Feb. 21 and a national association was formed. Tellefsen served as the first president until his death in 1908.

“When the National Ski association was formed, he was elected president, holding the position at the time of his death. The furtherance and success of the sport in this country has been greatly aided by his personal effort.” (Iron Ore, October 31, 1908)

Tellefsen died Oct. 25, 1908 from stomach cancer. The funeral was held at the Swedish Lutheran church due to the size of the crowd. Rev. J.A. Lillehei, pastor of the Norwegian Lutheran church delivered an address in Norwegian and the Rev. M.M. Allen from the Presbyterian church spoke in English. Members of the Elks’ lodge attended in a body.

In 1956 Tellefsen was the very first member inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame. He was also given the title of “Father of Organized skiing in America.

It is, perhaps, fitting that when standing at Tellefsen’s gravesite, the roof of the current Ski Hall of Fame is visible.


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