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Sixty years ago, in February 1952, when (as LIFE magazine put it) “a gay and gaudy invasion” of athletes descended on Norway’s capital, Oslo, to take part in the sixth Olympic Winter Games, “a select band of winter warriors paused there only long enough to catch their breath and another train.”
LIFE was right, in the end, in its estimation of the team’s chances in Norway — or rather, LIFE was right about the men’s chances. No one on the American men’s ski team medaled in 1952. But a young native Vermonter on the women’s squad, 19-year-old Andrea Mead Lawrence (a future National Ski Hall of Fame inductee), made up for the dearth of laurels on the male side, winning gold in both the Slalom and Giant Slalom.
Here, LIFE.com presents photos of the men’s squad as they trained for the ’52 Oslo games — pictures that capture the rigor and the beauty of, as LIFE put it, “the most hazardous of all Olympic events.”
Cover image: French Olympic skier Henri Oreiller, photographed by Mark Kauffman/Time & Life Pictures