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Skiing is probably one of the most popular snow-sports in the world.
Where there is snow, there is bound to be a skiing track running through it.
Skiing gives the kind of adrenaline rush that makes you burn with excitement coming down swooping from steep hills, landing somewhere far below in snowy valleys.
The sport is a magnificent recreational activity in essence and in all its spirit, attracting thousands of tourists to ski resorts the moment it begins to snow each year!
It’s a weirdly good sport that brings many physical factors into play. You must have great balance with just a pair of ski boots attached to 2 skiers and a couple of ski poles for anchorage.
But what do we actually know of the history of skiing? When was it invented and what equipment did they use back then?
Curious? Let’s find out!
The history of skiing
So for starters, skiing is probably a lot older than you had imagined, it orginats at least eight millennia ago. Yes, you read that right! Where it first started is a widely debated topic that falls between two places, namely China and Scandinavia.
While modern skiing might have its roots in Scandinavia, the primitive expressions of the first skis are recorded in the ancient wall paintings in Xinjiang, China that takes us back to 5000 years.
One of the most fascinating discoveries regarding the origins of skiing has been the ski-like plank structures that were found to be preserved in peat-bogs in Russia, dating back to around 6000 BCE.
However, extensive calculations for each of the discoveries and estimations of the origins of skiing could be traced back to 8000 years before modern civilisations happened!
Skiing for transport and hunting
The first community that is known to have skied were the ancestors to the Sami, the only indigenous, native people to live in Scandinavia. They developed upon the idea of skiing and used it for hunting purposes.
Rock-carvings near the Arctic-circle dating back some 4000 years reveal the presence of numerous prehistoric ski fragments located in bogs in Sweden, Norway and Finland.
Skis were used as a method of transportation by the Vikings in rural Scandinavia, between the 9th and 11th century.
The first ever skis were barely anything more than the modern snowshoe. Short and broad in shape they were supposed to balance body-weight smoothly on the snow track.
Skiing in war and conflict
Skiing was also pursued for military purposes. Norwegian men were known to employ the method in the Battle of Oslo in the year 1200, while ski troops were used in Sweden in the year 1452.
They were used extensively between 15th-17th century for warfare in Norway, Russia, Poland, Finland, and Sweden.
Development and newer innovations in skiing
By the 19th century and with new interest by members of the general public, skiing saw huge advancements in its design and technology. Traditional thick and bulky planks of wood were replaced with skis that offered more flex and were more responsive.
In 1840, cambered designs for skis were developed in Telemark that made the “arch upward towards the center” and were more user-friendly. These were also more reliable than the existing designs.
This marked the beginning of a skiing manufacturing revolution. Industries focused much more on the design, its ease of use for the customer and factors such as how reliable and durable the skis were. Through this more cost-effective alternatives began to emerge.
The manufacturers and designers developed sidecuts that allowed easier turning and maneuvering. A formidable and fool-proof carbon-steel structure combined with hickory unlike ash (that weren’t pretty durable), made these new skis exceedingly tough and long-lasting.
Louisiana opened up its reserves of hickory for large-scale manufacture of skis everywhere. By this time, many Nordic ski-makers had moved their ski production to the States allowing them to develop newer and better products for the mass.
Some new advancements such as the lamination of ski panels and steel-edged segments, had issues with waterproofing and the overall quality of the construction didn’t last long. But through the constant research and design process that was now evident throughout the industry, newer, stronger, cheaper and faster techniques began to emerge.
By the 1930s this, along with advancing technology, gave birth to aluminum and triple-laminated skis which help eliminate those earlier issues.
The succeeding designs and ideas were fashioned into numerous styles that were tested over the decades, including many different materials and techniques of lamination.
All the hard work, the patient practise and skilled technicians finally paid off and finally, by the end of the ’50s, the world got its first-ever polyethylene skis and fiberglass skis. These became the ultimate choice for ski races and other recreational ski games, grandly replacing wood.
How did skiing become so popular?
Well, as mentioned previously, skiing wasn’t really something that had ever gone out of trend or was not popular. The Norwegian army has been known to hold skiing competitions as early as the 1670s, while the first civilian skiing race took place was in Tromso, Norway, in 1843.
In the States, skis were used in the Sierra Nevada Gold Fields and by 1857, downhill ski races were a frequent sport for mining camps.
Ski techniques are born
Hannes Schneider invented the new stopping and turning techniques that he used for creating the first ski instruction model in the 1900s. And this created the foundation for all modern skiing techniques that we are so familiar with today.
Skiing in the modern world
By the year 1924, skiing had become one of the most popular winter games and was honorably included in the inaugural Winter Olympics held in Chamonix, France.
As the years progressed and skiing grew in popularity, newer categories of the sport such as alpine and cross-country were included.
The sport is divided into three major styles:
- Alpine or downhill are the most popular, and those typically enjoyed by people visiting ski resorts for their annual vacation. It is the most popular form by far that involves “fixed-heel bindings” and usually enjoyed at luxury resorts.
- Nordic skiing covers longer cross-country distances and can be more physically demanding than downhill where you’ve got gravity doing some of the work.
- Telemark skiing specializes in a unique way of turning that could only be achieved by an increased movability of the skis.
The recent era is seeing an even bolder form of the sport that has moved off the cliffs and mountain sides to come onto grassy, indoor dry-slopes, dispensing all need for snowy ranges. And we can only expect to see it evolve into even more fearless expressions of itself.
As the sport continues to grow and new designs and equipment emerges, we can expect more innovation and thrills to await us!