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Bill Osgood


Osgood                ,   William E.

Rank, Company, Regiment

PFC        C             87TH INF

Birth date/Death Date

3/24/1926 - deceased

Vermont Location



Inducted 6/6/1944. Discharged 4/14/1946.

Importance of Vermont

"I have lived in Vermont since 1955 and truly think of   myself as a Vermonter."

First skiing experience

"My earliest memories of skiing and snowshoeing are from   Nashua where we lived beside a large tract of pinewoods and small hills. My   skis were the basic hickory or white ash models with a simple toe strap."



Competitive Skiing

"I have entered a number of cross-country ski races. The   most notable of these was on March 1969 in Finland. This is the famous 90 km   'Pirkan Hiihto'." Story follows:
  By Bill Osgood
  During the greater part of 1968 – 1969 I was living with my family in   Orivesi, Finland while on sabbatical leave from my position as Librarian of   Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont.   Much of the attraction of living in Finland, for me, at least, was   their extended winters with plenty of opportunities for skiing. I am a lifelong enthusiast of cross country   skiing so I was in a Promised Land.   Orivesi is about the same size as Shelburne and quite closely   surrounded by extensive woodlands, interlaced with a huge network of trails   maintained by the municipality for hiking in the summer and skiing in   winter. We arrived in Orivesi in early   August, so I had plenty of opportunity to explore most of the trail system   and to decide which ones might be best for ski touring. By mid-December there was enough snow so I   could burn a coat of pine tar onto the skis and sample the trails where I   found that I had plenty of company.   Ski touring is a Finnish national pastime as universally popular there   as sauna.
  As the winter progressed I found that I was making many new Finnish friends,   both at work and at play, and the one friend that figures most prominently in   this story is Jukka Isola. He and his   wife, Eliisa, lived in a small cottage right at the edge of the forest and I   often met them out on the ski trails.   One day he asked me, “Why don’t we sign up for Pirkan Hiihto?” By that time I knew that Pirkan Hiihto was   the premier ski race in Finland and, at that time, the longest ski race in   the world at 90 km., or about the same distance as between Shelburne and   Barre.   By then, the longest distance   I had ever skied in one day was 30 km.   Most days I only skied five or six.   Moreover, I had never seriously considered myself as a racer. So I said to Jukka, “You must be   joking. This is way beyond anything I   have ever done before.”
  Jukka hadn’t dropped the subject, however.   One day after an especially exhilarating ski run, we were enjoying a   scorching hot sauna at his place. As   we cooled off on the porch we tossed back a couple of stiff drinks of   schnapps and Jukka said, “You know, the deadline for signing up for Pirkan   Hiihto is coming up soon. How about   it, will you join me?” And I replied,   “Absolutely – I’m with you all the way.”   Such is the power of sauna and schnapps taken in tandem! ! The next day we signed on the dotted line   and the die was cast. In the days   remaining before the race, we huffed and puffed our way around the Orivesi   trails in more serious training practice, but at no time did we ever get   anywhere near that magic number of 90 km.
  Pirkan Hiihto is almost a national holiday in Finland. Over ten thousand skiers from all over the   country converge on the little village of Ninisalo in mid-March to test their   mettle over the grueling 90 km. race course.   The logistics of this operation involve several thousand more people ranging all   the way from course checkers to cooks – all of them volunteers. Since the race starts well before sunrise,   it is imperative that all the contestants be at Ninisalo the night   before. Arranging accommodations for   all those people is a real challenge.   Some sleep in army tents, others in schoolrooms. Every possible option is used. Our busload from Orivesi was assigned to   space in a school gymnasium along with several hundred other skiers from all   over Finland. Since Finland has such a   small population, many of the skiers at Ninisalo already knew each other   either from previous events, or from races in other parts of the country. It was a giant family reunion. Jukka made sure that I got properly   introduced. As we compared notes, I   learned that this year, in 1969, I was the only American entered in this   event. Moreover, it was my 43rd   birthday. Just before we got on the   bus at Orivesi, Thelma gave me my birthday present; a handsome handmade double-knit   sweater in gray, black, and red yarn.
  Everyone was wired on the eve of the race.   Adrenaline was the major item on the evening menu in addition to   hearty helpings of sausage and potatoes.   While we were eating, the volunteers had kindled hundreds of small   fires throughout the encampment. The   main purpose of the fires was to provide heat to burn an extra coat of pine   tar onto the skis, but the blaze also provided the opportunity to sing a few   rousing ski songs before turning in. I   used my new sweater as a pillow on the hard gymnasium floor and,   truthfully, I didn’t sleep much that   night; neither did many of my companions.   So we were mostly wide-awake at the morning call for a bowl of   porridge.
  Perhaps the major logistical challenge of the race was getting ten thousand   skiiers into the starting lineup long before sunrise on the day of the   race. We all had numbered bibs. Mine was 1285.   Then, of course, there were several   classes, ranging from top-seeded skiers in the front ranks to those of little   experience like myself way in the rear.   By some form of exquisite magic we were all in place at the time the   starting gun boomed at seven. All the   skiers were arranged in columns on fifty parallel tracks over a wide, snowy   plain. All of us, with one voice,   shouted a loud “Hurrah” and we were off.   Slowly at first, but gradually picking up speed just as a locomotive   pulls out of the station. Since it was   still pitch dark, the tracks were illuminated by torches set in the snow   alongside. It was surely a ghostly   experience with only the hiss of those thousands of skis on the well-tracked   snow – not another sound. We were all   focussed on that finish line 90 km. away.
  The first part of the race was over gently rolling terrain which gave us a mistaken   feeling of confidence. I thought to   myself, “This is a piece of cake.” But   as we all know such moments of hubris are soon followed by reality. Mine came when we started some real hill   climbing. I worked up such a head of   steam that my glasses got completely fogged over so I had to step out of the   stream of skiers and put them in a trouser pocket. Alas, I had chosen a pocket with a hole in   it, so no sooner did I get underway again but the glasses slipped down around   my ankle. I had to get out of the   track again to partially undress to recover those glasses again and put them   in the pocket without a hole.   Meanwhile, hundreds of skiers had passed my by and my chances of   finishing the race in a decent time had completely disappeared. Moreover, my nearsighted condition made it   exceptionally difficult to see the track clearly. I had to slow way down to avoid any serious   tumbles and that put me even further behind.   By the time I reached the first rest stop, I seriously considered   dropping out of the race. However a   big mug of steaming lingonberry juice at the rest stop recharged my   enthusiasm. But by now, I didn’t have   much companionship on the trail. Jukka   was somewhere far ahead of me along with most of the other ten thousand   skiers. The other rest stops in the   race were only a blur, but I was determined to cross that finish line. I kept repeating to myself, “I will keep   skiing; I will keep skiing . . .   “ I suppose I had learned a   little of what Finns call, “Sisu” which roughly translates into the will to   persist in something, no matter what the odds. And it must have been “Sisu” which gave me   that burst of energy to dash the last few hundred yards over the finish line   some four hours after the number one man had crossed the line.
  There were several perks for finishing the race. One is a bronze medallion which I keep as a   treasured memento. Another was the   opportunity to have a brief but refreshing sauna before climbing aboard   busses for our homeward journey. It   was good to see Jukka and my other Orivesi companions and to greet my family   back in town. But the story isn’t   quite finished. Thelma found that the   birthday sweater that she had so lovingly knit for me was a ruin. The top half had become totally felted   because of the sweat and heat I generated during the race. In true Yankee custom she used the top half   to make a teapot cozy and re-knit the bottom half into a smaller size for her   sister. The Pirkan Hiihto sweater   lives on.

What was your experience in the 10th like?

"Although I joined the 10th with the hopes of training in   Colorado, it was not to be, as I came in rather late in the war and joined   the 10th while it was in Texas. I was a combat rifleman in Italy during the   whole campaign which was a terrible experience of death and destruction.   Later, though, I had the good fortune to be appointed a rock climbing   instructor while the Division was stationed in Yugoslavia on a peace-keeping   mission. This was immensely rewarding and is my only positive experience of   military service."

Why did you join the 10th?

"I joined the 10th because of the example set by Finnish   ski troops, who, in 1939-1940, briefly fought off a massive Russian invasion.   Although the Finns were forced to an armistice, they kept their independence.   And this was largely due to the exploits of those Winter Warriors."

Ski Patrol

"I was a Nordic Patrol Advisor to the Northen Vermont   section of the National Ski Patrol system during the 1980s."

Ski School


Ski Industry

"Living in the Vermont countryside in Northfield made it   possible to hone my ski touring skills. During the 1960s I collaborated on a   book entitled Ski Touring with Leslie J. Hurley. The book was published in   1969 by the Tuttle Co. of Rutland, VT, and Tokyo, Japan. I also wrote a   number of articles about cold weather camping for various magazines. Ski   touring, or cross country, as it's often called, is my preferred type of   skiing. I strenuously object to the highly mechanized sport of downhill   skiing and think it has damaged much of the mountain terrain."

Vermont Ski Area Connection


Role of Skiing in your Life


Other information

"During the winter of 1972-73, I was hired to develop ski   touring trails and programs for Green Trails Resprt in Brookfield."

Photograph information


Information submitted by

Bill Osgood