Norton R. Billings - Athlete - 1999


Hall
Nort was born November 8, 1904 in the family home near Lyons, CO. His grandparents were early pioneers of the area and homesteaded near what is now Hygiene, CO in 1860. His paternal grandfather, Norton H. Billings arrived in the Lyons area by covered wagon in 1880. Nort grew up in the mountains around Lyons and graduated Estes Park High School, one of four classmates, in 1923.  During much of his youth, his father operated a timber operation where Nort learned to live in the mountains and in the relatively primitive conditions the lumber camp provided. When chores permitted, he learned to cross country ski. In his teens and early twenties, Nort and his friends regularly skied over the Continental Divide from Estes Park to Grand Lake. At age seventeen his first skiing job was carrying supplies from Estes Park to the winter headquarters of the Colorado Mountain Club at Fern Lake-a job requiring great "legs" and stamina.  As a young man he entered many regional ski competitions for cross-country and was seldom outdone. Most of his skiing was as a member of the Rocky Mountain National Park Ski Club, an organization founded and supported by the Town of Estes Park. He won possession of the club's "Elkhorn Trophy" by finishing first in annual competitions in 1924, 1925, and 1926. After Nort married in 1928 and became a father he did not have the time to compete regularly, yet he was still one of the top cross-country skiers in the US and was chosen for the team at the III Olympic Winter Games. Unfortunately, snow conditions were poor for the Olympics in Lake Placid, NY and Nort splintered the tip of his ski and had to retire from the 50km competition.  Colorado sent three of its native sons to the 1932 Olympics, Norton Billings, Jim Harsh of Hot Sulphur Springs, and John Steele from Steamboat Springs. Nort's coach, Julius P. Blegan reported, "For the first time in any Winter Olympic Games, United States has a full ski team competing…the games are the biggest boost the sport has ever had in the US, and should open the eyes of American boys and girls to the possibilities of this wonderful health bringing, clean outdoor pastime…"  Until his death in 1994, Nort remained healthy and active in the Longmont area. He still put on his skis for a run once in a while and always marveled at the beauty of his beloved mountains. (Deceased)