“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Soda Springs in Nevada County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Snowshoe Thompson

Snowshoe Thompson Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle, October 13, 2012
1. Snowshoe Thompson Marker
Inscription.  A hero of the Sierra Nevada Mountains!
Probably the first skier of the West. This Viking son of Norway, exemplified the spirit of a true pioneer. Strong, daring, faithful and courageous he was the answer to California’s motto
“Bring Me Men to Match My Mountains.”
For 20 years he was the winter lifeline between the new State of California and the East with a regular mail schedule between Placerville, California and Genoa, Nevada and other isolated hamlets of the Mother Lode Country. Mail, news of the world, medicine, supplies, and equipment arrived on the sturdy shoulders of this giant snow Viking. Over great snowdrifts through raging winter storms with packs of up to 100 pounds, he made his appointed rounds. His daring rescues, errands of mercy and many kindnesses made him a legend in his own time. He was born John Tostensen at Tinn in Telemark, Norway April 30, 1827. He died May 15, 1876, at the age of 49. He rests at the base of the mountains he loved, by the side of his wife and son in the cemetery at Genoa, Nevada. A simple headstone, engraved with a pair of skis, marks his grave.
Erected by Snowshoe Thompson Lodge No. 78, Sons of Norway, Yuba City, Ca.
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Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesCommunicationsScience & MedicineSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical date for this entry is April 30, 1827.
Location. 39° 20.243′ N, 120° 21.026′ W. Marker is in Soda Springs, California, in Nevada County. Marker can be reached from Bunny Hill Drive near Interstate 80. Marker is located in the parking area of Boreal Ridge Ski area in front of the Western American Skisport Museum. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Soda Springs CA 95728, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Western America Skisport Museum (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Central Sierra Snow Lab (approx. 1.4 miles away); Hutchinson Lodge (approx. 1.4 miles away); Norden Station (approx. 1.4 miles away); Clair Tappaan Lodge (approx. 1.4 miles away); Summit Valley (approx. 1.4 miles away); Cal Lodge (approx. 1.4 miles away); Tri Lodges (approx. 1.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Soda Springs.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. Gravesite at the Genoa Cemetery
Also see . . .  Wikipedia entry for Snowshoe Thompson. Excerpt: Between 1856 and 1876, he delivered mail between Placerville, California and Genoa, Nevada and later Virginia City, Nevada. Despite
Snowshoe Thompson Monument image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle, October 13, 2012
2. Snowshoe Thompson Monument
his nickname, he did not make use of the snowshoes that are native to North America, but rather would travel with what the local people applied that term to: ten-foot (over 3-meter) skis, and a single sturdy pole generally held in both hands at once. He knew this version of cross-country skiing from his native Norway, and employed it during the winter as one of the earlier pioneers of the skill in the United States. Thompson delivered the first silver ore to be mined from the Comstock Lode. Later he taught others how to make skis, as well as the basics of their use. Despite his twenty years of service, he was never paid for delivering the mail.

Thompson typically made the eastward trip in three days, and the return trip in two days. Thompson carried no blanket and no gun; he claimed he was never lost even in blizzards. A rescue attributed to him was that of a man trapped in his cabin by unusually deep snow. Thompson reached him, realized the damage to the man’s legs from frostbite was sufficient to kill him, skied out to get chloroform, skied back in with it, and delivered the chloroform in time to save him.

Thompson usually traveled the route known as ‘Johnson’s Cutoff,’ a pathway first marked by John Calhoun Johnson, an early explorer and first man to deliver mail over the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Today this approximates the route of U.S. Route 50 as it winds its way from Placerville, California to South Lake Tahoe. (Submitted on April 28, 2018.)
Snowshoe Thompson Monument image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle, October 13, 2012
3. Snowshoe Thompson Monument
Snowshow Thompson Gravesite in Genoa, Nevada image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Syd Whittle
4. Snowshow Thompson Gravesite in Genoa, Nevada
See Related Markers for additional information.
Snowshoe Thompson Commemorative Tablet image. Click for full size.
October 13, 2012
5. Snowshoe Thompson Commemorative Tablet
On the exterior of the nearby Skisport Museum is a plaque put up by the Norges Skiforbund (Norwegian Skiing Association) in 1976 honoring Snowshoe Thompson.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 9, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 24, 2012, by Syd Whittle of Mesa, Arizona. This page has been viewed 1,231 times since then and 148 times this year. It was the Marker of the Week April 29, 2018. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 24, 2012, by Syd Whittle of Mesa, Arizona.   4. submitted on July 11, 2009, by Syd Whittle of Mesa, Arizona.   5. submitted on January 9, 2020.

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Sep. 25, 2023