Though originally a Nordic skier, Hvam soon became a competitive alpine skier as well, winning both runs of his very first slalom race at the 1933 Oregon state championships on borrowed skis. He continued to race competitively throughout the Pacific Northwest in the early 1930s, winning event at Mount Rainier and all four disciplines (ski jumping, cross-country, slalom, and downhill) on Mount Baker in 1936. He qualified for the 1936 U.S. Olympic team, but as a Norwegian citizen, could not compete, and did not want to compete in Hitler's Germany. In 1936, Hvam was the first winner of the nation's oldest ski race, the Golden Rose Ski Classic at Timberline Lodge ski area, and repeated his victory in 1937.
While celebrating his 1937 repeat victory in the Golden Rose, Hvam, like many skiers of his era, broke his leg. Hvam, who had been trained as a mechanical draftsman, had been working for years on a design that would reliably release a ski boot in a fall, but remain in place for normal skiing maneuvers. While laid up in the hospital, he had an inspiration for a new design, which became the Saf-Ski, the world's first ski safety bindings. The bindings made it to Europe for use by the 10th Mountain Division in World War II.
After the war, the design caught on and became popular around the world into the 1960s. Hvam sold and rented thousands of pairs until the early 1970s, when insurance premiums for sale of the bindings became too expensive and the Saf-Ski disappeared from the market.