Gentlewomen skiers in Edwardian Chamonix

Sixteen years before the first Winter Olympics was held at Chamonix on Mont Blanc the ladies in this press photo of 1908 were learning to ski on the slopes near the town. A note on the back of the photo tells us that the women were undertaking a ‘course de ski pour dames‘, which may indicate that back then etiquette demanded that ladies be taught in single-sex  groups. The numbers they wore may also suggest that they were formally scored by their instructor for their prowess on the snow. The three older women, including the grand dame with her flat hat and head-scarf, appear to relish their situation, while the little girl bearing number 9 seems utterly terrified.

The heavy-duty winter clothes of the men operating the horse-drawn sleigh in the background contrast remarkably with the dress chosen by the women skiers, which seems more fitted to a ‘promenade‘ around the town.