Skiing History

Skiing is a recreational activity and a sport with a very old and interesting history. In the beginning, skiing was primarily used by hunters or warriors for practical transportation purposes in snow-rich areas, during heavy winter seasons in Scandinavian states and Northern Russia.

The earliest evidence of skiing origins date since 4500 - 5000 years ago and were discovered in 1933, on the rocks in Rodoy area, Norway, where some carvings depicted a man on narrow wooden skies holding a pole in his hand. The oldest skies were discovered in the marshlands of Russia and they were 8000 years old.

The word “ski” comes from the Old Norse word "skíð" which means „wooden stick”. Later, every country adopted and adapted the word. Thus, English call it “ski”, Spanish “esquis” and Finish “suksi”.

Some unconfirmed sources state that “skiing” was not foreign to settlers in Iran area, where it was believed that ancient tribes had invented skies made out of animal skin to travel through snow.

People in the Telemark area, Norway, are widely considered the ones who transformed skiing into a sport, sometime in the early 1700. They invented techniques and procedures to control the speed while sliding downhill, techniques that are currently known as Telemark or Cristiana styles. They are also considered the inventors of ski jumping.

Equipment from that period of time was very different from the present ones, as the skies had a binding device fixed only on the tip of the foot, while the heel was free to move up and down. This type of skiing was called Nordic ski.

Skiing as a recreational activity is more recent, the first documents to attest it date only since the first part of the XVIII century.

One of the most reputed skiing competitions was cross-country and it took place in Troms, Norway, in 1843. The first big skiing competition was held in Kristiansand, Norway, in 1861, and the first international championship took place near Christiania (Oslo), in 1892. Ski jumping came into notice due to Sondre Norheim, in 1840, and the first ski jumping competition took place in 1860. Norheim contributed to the building of the first ski binding mechanism designed to attach the skies to the skiing boots.

Skiing spread all around the world mostly due to the Norwegian emigrants, who had settled in Germany, North America, Australia, and New Zealand around mid XVIII century. In 1890, Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nasen published a book describing the skiing expedition from Greenland, in 1888, that contributed to an even wider popularization of skiing.

Inspired by Nasen’s book, Christoph Iselin from Switzerland and Wilhelm Paulcke from Germany organized the first ski crossing expedition of the Swiss Alps in 1890.

Starting with 1860, several ski clubs are founded all around Europe.

Skiing reached the United States of America after 1800 in states like Wisconsin and Minnesota where large Scandinavian communities lived. The sport enjoyed a great popularity in California also where a ski factory was built in 1854.

Once the skiing started developing, the techniques, and equipment industry had to keep up the pace. The Telemark technique was perfect for Norwegian terrains, but could not be adapted to the Alps’ slopes or other European mountains due to the poor control of that technique. Therefore, the alpine skiing was born. Austrian Mathias Zdarsky brought Norheim’s idea even further and built the first alpine skiing bindings. He also set the grounds for the first methodical system for skiing learning technique.

Alpine skiing equipment was different from the Nordic skiing one, the boot having bindings for both toes and heels providing the skier better and more efficient control over skies at curbs and higher speed.

The sides of the skies, a very important element for skiing, were invented in 1920 by Austrian Rudolph Lettner, and revolutionized the skiing technique. In 1949, the American Howard Head built the first metal skies, while the first automatic bindings are marketed in 1950.

In 1911, English writer Sir Arnold Lunn organized a large alpine skiing competition in Switzerland, known as Roberts of Kandahar Challenge (after the English general Lord Roberts of Kandahar). Eleven years later, Lunn invents also the slalom race and sets the first rules. In collaboration with Austrian Hannes Schneider (founder of the first skiing school in the US), Lunn organizes in 1928, at Saint Anton, the first Alberg-Kandahar Race. This competition was the starting point of the international alpine skiing.

The first mechanical elevation installations develop after 1930 and the white sport become even more accessible. The first cable car was built in Switzerland, in Davos, in 1934.

Due to increased popularity of skiing, the International Skiing Federation (FIS) is established in 1924, and Lunn’s rules are taken into consideration. Starting with 1931, FIS organizes the first official competitions. Later, the first Winter Olympic Games are inaugurated in France, at Chamonix. Initially, the Games had only five sports, and two of them were skiing disciplines: Ski jumping and Nordic combined. This lasted until 1932, when a new discipline, the Cross-country skiing, was introduced at the Lake Placid Olympic Games, USA. In 1936, at the Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, another Alpine skiing discipline is introduced - the Alpine combined - that accumulated the athletes’ points gathered from both disciplines, and women are allowed to participate in the competitions. The Giant Slalom and Downhill become Olympic disciplines in 1952 during the Olympic Games held in Oslo, Norway, and the Super Giant Slalom in 1988.

In 1967, FIS organized the Alpine Ski World Cup.

In the last years, the large number of ski schools and instructors led to an extensive development of this sport both technically, and popularity wise.

Although considered one of the most expensive sports or recreational activities, skiing makes you appreciated life and nature more.

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