Olympic skier Hovland dead at 94 – FasterSkier.com
George Hovland was convinced that skiing had saved his life. What we know for sure is that Hovland has dedicated his life to skiing.
Recognized as a pioneer who championed the cause of downhill and cross-country skiing in the Northland region of Minnesota, Hovland, a former Olympic cross-country racer from the United States, died on May 9 of complications arising as a result of hip surgery that was the result of a fall Hovland had taken two weeks earlier. He was 94 years old.
Ski racing is an important part of the Winter Olympiad. Betting on winter Olympic sports such as downhill skiing and cross-country skiing is prevalent in all major Canadian betting sites during the Winter Games.
A natural skier
Hovland took to the snow at a young age and was a natural with skis strapped to his boots. And he was ready to try any form of skiing available that he could participate in.
At the age of 11, he was starting Big Chester ski jumping in Duluth. Hovland was as adept at making his way through a difficult descent as he was crossing a long Nordic trail. “He felt so good moving around on a trail,” his wife Jane Hovland told the Duluth News Tribune. “He just loved being outside.”
He continued to ski all his life, both alpine and cross-country. As late as March, Novland was still charging along the trails he designed at the Snowflake Nordic Center, in the ski resort he owned. He also always attacked the slopes of Spirit Mountain, a ski resort he helped establish, and at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
“George has been instrumental in the advancement of downhill and cross-country skiing in the region,” Jim Wood, Trail Manager at Snowflake Nordic Ski Center, told KBJR6.com.
“His fingerprints are on pretty much anything cross-country skiing in town,” said longtime friend and fellow skier Gary Larson.
In 1952, Hovland secured a spot on the US Olympic cross-country ski team that would compete that year at the Winter Games in Oslo, Norway. He would finish 12th in the 4x10km relay race and 71st in the 18km race.
After the Olympics, Hovland never really stopped competing. He raced in all but one American Birkebeiner from his inception in 1973 to 2012, when he was 85. Hovland has won his age group in this race more than 10 times.
He was also the first non-European to participate in the Vasaloppet Race in Sweden, an event that covers more than 90 km. He has won the Central US Four-Event Championship four times.
Hovland helped design the cross-country ski trails at Giants Ridge, which in 1985 hosted the first and so far the only International Ski Federation Cross-Country Skiing World Cup event.
“He brought back that love for the sport that he saw when traveling in Europe and competing,” said Larson.
Giving back to the ski community
Serving in the United States Navy during World War II, Hovland worked as a quartermaster on a geodetic survey boat. They were tasked with checking the islands and atolls to determine the most suitable location for a sea landing.
After inspecting Bikini Atoll, where nuclear weapons testing would later take place, Hovland turned down a promotion and returned to Minnesota to ski. He later claimed that skiing had saved his life, preventing him from being exposed to all this radiation.
Hovland opened Duluth’s first ski shop and the first commercial downhill trail. However, it was the arrival of newcomers to skiing that gave Hovland his greatest joy. He and his wife helped launch the KidSki program in the region to introduce young people to sport.
Snowflake became the epicenter for high school cross country ski teams to train after school was over and Hovland was always there to lend a helping hand. “He was there when he was 4 because he loved being with the kids and he was really good with them,” said Bonnie Fuller-Kask, head coach of the Duluth East High School Nordic Ski Team. “He was nice to them. He was interested in them. He would give them advice.
“I think seeing someone like him around the area gave the kids the idea that skiing doesn’t stop when you graduate from high school. I think that’s an important thing he taught.