Ski Sundae: cafés and cocktails in the Ski Club of Great Britain archive

Like all the best start-ups, it began in a café with a small group of people, a shared interest and a new idea. The Ski Club of Great Britain was born at the Café Royal, London on 6th May 1903. One hundred and sixteen years later, the tradition of celebrating important moments and sporting activities over a good meal is still going strong as the Ski Club hosts this year’s End of Season Party on 18th May.

That first meeting was a genteel and informal affair as fourteen well-heeled gentlemen enjoyed the fine food, fine wine and fine surroundings of one of the most fashionable establishments of the day. Over dinner,

“it was agreed to found a ski club…[as] It was pointed out by those who spoke, that the sport had now gained considerable ground in this country, and that an institution was needed which could assist its members in such matters as where to go, what sort of ski to purchase, from whom initial instruction could be had, and what the general condition of the snow was in such and such a place at such and such a time of year, &c.”

(From a letter to the press entitled ‘Ski Club of Great Britain’, signed by E. Syers, E.H. Wroughton and E.C. Richardson).

The original menu for this dinner, signed by the founding members, is a prized piece of the Ski Club archive.

The following year, another dinner was held at the Café Royal, this time following the Annual General Meeting, a tradition which was to be upheld for decades to come and which brought members of the Committee together with ordinary members, often with a noted guest speaker. As the detectives amongst you may have spotted in my last blog post, in 1912 it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The cuisine on offer in 1904 included ‘Bombe Nesselrode’, the most popular ice pudding of the nineteenth century according to and a clear inheritance from the bygone Victorian era.

Underlining the importance of dinners to the Ski Club and assuring its place in history, the dinner menu was once again used as an attendance record and firmly stuck into the minute book for safe keeping.

In 1924 the Club held a dinner to celebrate an important milestone in its history: its twenty-first birthday. The location this time was the Hotel Cecil, another renowned venue for dining and dancing, once the largest hotel in Europe. The cover of the menu has been specially designed to incorporate the trefoil logo of the Ski Club of Great Britain in its border and it features an image of a skier. Inside, we learn that toasts were raised to the King, to the Club’s founder members, some of whom were still involved in the running of the Club, and to the Club itself. Perhaps the Coupe Glacée on offer for dessert was the first ever ski sundae?









The Club logo has been incorporated into menu design many times since, as in this example (undated).


By the 1930s there was an Entertainments Committee to organise formal dinners and much more besides. In this report from 1934 the music suggested for the Spring Dinner seems to range from a dance band (Ted Sommerfield’s No. 1 Band of seven musicians – does anyone know anything more about them?) to Swiss waltzes and an accordion, an interesting mix of traditional and more current musical styles of the time. The Report also mentions an Exhibition of Ski-ing Films and a lectures by two great figures in ski-ing history, Gerald Seligman and Arnold Lunn.

An orchestra, a steel band and a discotheque provided the entertainment at the 1971 Ski Club Ball, continuing the Club’s penchant for mixing musical styles, but this time there was an opportunity to rest weary dancing legs and regain some energy before the journey home: hot soup was served to all attendees from 2 to 2.30am!

Auprès-ski rather than après-ski, the Ski Club dinner has a long and joyful history of bringing members together to celebrate their Club and their sport. If photographs could talk perhaps the attendees at this Ski Club Dinner eighty years ago would raise this toast to all those current members who will be at the End of Season Party on 18th May: cheers!



Snow far, snow good! Cataloguing the Ski Club of Great Britain archive

I’m afraid you can expect a few more poor winter-related puns over the next six months because I have just started work on the Ski Club of Great Britain (SCGB) collection, the first of four sports archive collections I will be cataloguing over the course of the next two years for the ‘Unboxing the Boxer’ project.

In 2018 DMU Special Collections was successful in its bid for a grant from The Wellcome Trust under the Trust’s Research Resources Awards In Humanities and Social Science funding scheme, which helps “collection and information professionals develop library and archive material for humanities and social science researchers”. DMU is a leading centre for the study of sport history and academics and students from the International Centre for Sports History and Leicester Castle Business School’s Business Management in Sport MSc have already been conducting research into the Ski Club collection since its arrival in March 2018. Cataloguing the collection in detail will develop the material for further research by making it easier in future to navigate, understand and search.

I began the process of cataloguing by physically looking at the collection to get an overview of the kinds of material I could expect, which is very varied! There are lots of objects in the collection, from trophies to skis, as well as the administrative records you would expect to find in the archive of an organisation which is over one hundred years old.

My next step was to analyse the existing box list (a sequential list of everything in the collection) to identify like material and patterns which would suggest the main functions and activities of the organisation. I used colours to distinguish different areas.

From this, I sketched out a rough hierarchical structure for the catalogue, to reflect as far as possible the way the organisation arranged its own records while they were in use. The benefit of such an arrangement is that the researcher can get a sense of how the organisation operated and how different documents are related to each other, preserving connections which might be lost if the items were catalogued as isolated entities.

With my rough structure in place, I began the cataloguing of individual items. I have started with the corporate administrative records because they tell me a lot about the formation of the Club, its purpose, its rules and its key figures, which is the essential background information I need in order to understand the meaning of all the other items I will go on to catalogue over the course of the next six months. Corporate records also give information about high-level decision-making and changes in policy, which I also need to be aware of because I am likely to find evidence of the impact of those decisions in the records of the day-to-day activities of the organisation.

There are about 150 administrative items to catalogue and I have made a start by physically arranging them into their different series. There is not always the space to do this with a large number of volumes, but I am lucky enough to have a spare couple of desks to spread out on!

I am now working on creating a description for each item from scratch and assigning each a unique reference number using our cataloguing management system. I am also adding in key names, places and subjects as access points so that future researchers can browse the catalogue by theme or person as well as by keyword searching. You never know when there might be a name you don’t expect to find!

This is the first in a series of blogs, so watch this space for more winter fun as the cataloguing progresses!