Jackrabbit touring the Adirondak Mountain country with son or daughter, and dog ‘Ken’ c. 1927
A pioneer and skiing legend was born this week a long time ago. Herman “Jackrabbit” Smith Johannsen was born in Norway on June 15 1875. He passed away of pneumonia while visiting his native Norway on January 5 1987 at the age of 111. He was an active skier for over one century.
Here is a quote from the Canada Ski Hall of Fame’s bio on Jackrabbit:
It might be said that Jackrabbit Johannsen’s lifetime was, in essence, two lifetimes, the first being the 55 year period from 1875 – 1930, and the second of 55 years from 1931 until his death at the age of 111 years in January, 1987. A long serving technical adviser to the Canadian Amateur Ski Association (CASA), his contribution of many decades to the development of skiing and its influence on the tourist industry in both in Canada, the Laurentian region of Quebec, and the eastern United States is incalculable.
Immigrated to the Cleveland, Ohio and worked as an engineer. Worked a few years in Cuba and was traveling all across North America. He lost everything in the Great Depression and re-centered is life around what he loved; skiing. Started cutting trails and guiding around Lake Placid and eventually settled in the Laurentians north of Montreal. Cutting trails including the famous Maple Leaf Trail which connected hotels all across the Laurentians. He became a major factor in the promotion of cross-country skiing when lifts we starting showing up.
From the US Ski Hall of Fame:
He became a life long ambassador for skiing and led the development of the famous Maple Leaf Trail north of Montreal. He amazed everyone for his ability to ski even when he was well beyond 100 years old.
This week video is a small documentary by the National Film Board of Canada on the man himself.
Please click LINK below to access this excellent video:
Jack Rabbit by William Brind (1975), (28 min 40s).
This short film retraces the life of Herman Smith Johannsen – the man who introduced the sport of cross-country skiing to Canadians. From past to present, his life story is portrayed through pictures from sports newsreels, Norwegian archives and his family album. The film catches up with him at both the Canadian Ski Marathon, where he is the honoured guest, and on a return trip to his native Norway.
Version française du vidéo:
Jack Rabbit – Le Skieur centenaire par William Brind (1976), (28 min 40s).
News videoclip from Les archives de Radio-Canada (en français): Jackrabbit : la passion du ski (9 mars 1975 – 2:53)
Biographies (book & online) and other links:
This is an excellent biography on his life written by his daughter Alice. I highly recommend it.
Alice E Johannsen, 1993, The Legendary Jackrabbit Johannsen, Montreal & Kingston: McGill & Queen’s University Press.
Temple de la renommée du ski canadien, version française
Laurentian Heritage Web Magazine: HERMAN “JACKRABBIT” SMITH-JOHANNSEN (1875-1987) by Matthew Farfan
Herman ‘Jackrabbit’ Smith Johannsen Collection at the Canadian Ski Museum.
Face to Face Exhibition from the Canadian Museum of Civilisation: Herman Smith (Jackrabbit) Johannsen
Exposition Tête-à-tête du Musée canadien des civilisations:
Herman Smith “Jackrabbit” Johannsen (version française)
Reprinted article from Nordic World Magazine
(November 1975) in Cross Country Canada. The Legendary Jackrabbit Johannsen.
All pictures above are used with permission from the Canadian Ski Museum
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