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Elementary, My Dear Hans
Albert Orbaan
December 21, 1970
The creator of Sherlock Holmes, fleeing the detective he created, practically taught the Swiss how to ski
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December 21, 1970

Elementary, My Dear Hans

The creator of Sherlock Holmes, fleeing the detective he created, practically taught the Swiss how to ski

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People below had spotted the skiers above and were watching them curiously, wondering what would happen next.

"It looked impassable but the Brangers had picked up a lot in some way of their own," Doyle wrote. "They took off their skis, fastened them together with a thong and on this toboggan they sat, pushing themselves over the edge and going down amid a tremendous spray of flying snow."

Tobias went first on his pair of skis and his brother followed in the same fashion.

"When they had reached safety [amid the cheers and laughter of onlookers] they beckoned me to follow. I had done as they did and I was sitting on my skis preparatory to launching myself when a fearsome thing happened, for my skis shot from under me, flew down the slope and vanished in huge bounds among the snow mounds beyond.

"It was a nasty moment and the poor Brangers stood looking up at me from some hundreds of feet below in a dismal state of mind. However, there was no possible choice as to what to do, so I did it. I let myself go over the edge and came squattering down, with legs and arms extended to check the momentum. A minute later I was rolling covered with snow at the feet of my guides and my skis were found some hundreds of yards away, so no harm was done after all."

There was only a single sad note in this spectacular tale. The Harris tweed covering Doyle's posterior was in shreds, his underwear showing. "My tailor," he said, "tells me that Harris tweed cannot wear out. This is a mere theory and will not stand a thorough scientific test. For the remainder of the day I was happiest when I was nearest the wall."

Shortly thereafter Doyle returned to England, but before leaving Davos he uttered some prophetic words regarding Switzerland's skiing future.

"You don't appreciate it as yet," he said, "but the time will come when hundreds of Englishmen will come to this country for the ski-ing season."

And although he considered skis the most "treacherous and capricious lengths of wood on earth," he had some perceptive praise for the sport's psychological aspects. "On any man suffering from too much dignity a course of skis would have a fine moral effect," he said.

Whether Doyle himself ever tried skiing again is not certain. In any case, the skis he used at Davos became a permanent fixture in a corner of the study at his home in England.

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