Reading progress update: I've read 157 out of 472 pages.

Teller Of Tales: The Life Of Arthur Conan Doyle - Daniel Stashower

On the myth that ACD introduced skiing to Switzerland - apparently, it is not quite true, but kudos to ACD for his contributions:


"One sport that Conan Doyle took up with unusual energy was skiing—or ski-running, as it was known at the time. He had tried the sport in Norway, and was intrigued by the Norwegian explorer Fridjot Nansen’s account of crossing Greenland on skis. At the time, other snow sports such as sleigh-riding, tobogganing, and skating were already well established in Switzerland, but skiing, especially downhill skiing, was still largely unknown. As luck would have it, a local man named Tobias Branger, who ran a shop specializing in sporting equipment and “travelling utensils,” was the nearest thing to a ski instructor in the whole of Switzerland. Together with his brother Johannes, Tobias Branger had been experimenting with ski techniques for a year or so. After months of diligent practice, the brothers had conquered the Furka Pass from Davos to nearby Arosa, a route previously impassable in the winter.

  The Branger brothers were only too happy to instruct their famous British visitor on the rudiments of skiing. “There is nothing peculiarly malignant in the appearance of a pair of skis,” Conan Doyle told the readers of The Strand later that year. “They are two slips of elm-wood, 8 ft. long, 4 in. broad, with a square heel, turned-up toes, and straps in the centre to secure your feet. No one to look at them would guess at the possibilities which lurk in them. But you put them on, and you turn with a smile to see whether your friends are looking at you, and then the next moment you are boring your head madly into a snow-bank, and kicking frantically with both feet, and half rising only to butt viciously into that snow-bank again, and your friends are getting more entertainment than they had ever thought you capable of giving.”

   He may have gotten off to a rocky start, but the Brangers recognized a born skier and invited Conan Doyle to join them in an assault on the Jacobshorn, a 7,700-foot mountain some two and a half miles distant. Though Conan Doyle managed to keep up with his more practiced companions, he spent much of the climb with his face in the snow and his skis in the air. “Whenever you think yourself absolutely secure it is all over with you,” he commented. “Then, if your mouth is not full of snow, you find yourself muttering the names of a few Swiss villages to relieve your feelings. ‘Ragatz!’ is a very handy word, and may save a scandal.”

   No doubt the names of many Swiss villages were invoked before the Jacobshorn was conquered, but Conan Doyle persevered. Reaching the summit, he and the Brangers turned to see the flags of Davos dipped in tribute to their achievement. It is thought to be the first time an alpine mountain had been scaled on skis."




"Conan Doyle did not introduce the sport of skiing to Switzerland, as has often been reported, nor was he the first Briton to strap on a pair of skis in that country. He did, however, do more than any man of his time to popularize the sport. His account of his ski adventure, accompanied by eight photographs, would be reprinted many times in Britain and America. In it, he assured his readers that the thrill of skiing came “as near to flying as any earth-bound man can.”