This vintage Italian ski design stars a savvy polar bear.
If you’ve been pondering an artful Valentine’s present, first thing’s first: get your order in by midnight tonight, 2/4! It’s the only way we can guarantee delivery before the 14th. And secondly, may we suggest a vintage-sourced upgrade on the average stuffed teddy. See: Trentino Ski Bear, a forties-era ski poster design we plucked from the archives and remastered into a museum-quality print.
This ain’t your average bear. This slightly surreal, pipe-smoking polar bear is a supremely stylish ski bum. He strides in the fat flakes of falling snow, skis slung casually over his shoulder, color-coordinated pipe dangling debonairly from his mouth. Trentino Ski Bear is the coolest carnivore in town, his bright gold figure popping against the blue background. A seductive, script-y font asks “Quo vadis scaitore?”, or “Where are you going skiing?”. This looks like Latin but we’d venture to say it’s likely Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romance language mainly spoken in the Dolomite Mountain region of the Alps in Northern Italy, where the province of Trentino is nestled. “Nel Trentino,” the artwork answers in sharp, thick, sans-serif letters. “In Trentino”—still one of the best places in the world to satisfy an itch for the Great Outdoors.
Trentino used to be one of the poorest provinces in Italy, but tourism turned the tide. It’s now one of the wealthiest regions, renowned for its alpine landscape and home to a rich, multicultural history. Trentino Ski Bear was created shortly after World War II, when the area was reallocated from the German Reich to Italian rule. Before WWII, skiing (especially in the Alps) was an activity reserved for the affluent, with a rather expensive barrier to entry. (In turn, ski imagery was used to advertise all sorts of fancy pants luxury goods, from Mercedes-Benz and Nivea cream.) It wasn’t until after WWII that skiing really started to take off as a sport accessible to the masses, owing much of its newfound affordability to the increased availability of metals and plastics that could produce cheaper equipment. The postwar world also meant more leisure time, more disposable income for the middle class, and a surplus of soldiers trained in skiing for military purposes who now had a lot less to do.
It’d be fair to point out that polar bears aren’t Italian locals, but the early 20th century had seen a number of popular Arctic expeditions. The polar bear no doubt made for a perfect, subtly fantastical symbol for peak winter recreation—and after a world war, who couldn’t use a vacation? Well, not Trentino Ski Bear. He seems pretty relaxed.
With art for everyone,