Ski warfare

Ski warfare, the use of ski-equipped troops in war, is first recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. The speed and distance that ski troops are able to cover is comparable to that of light cavalry.


Napoleonic Wars

Denmark-Norway (though mostly Norwegian) ski troops were used against Sweden during the 1807-1814 Napoleonic Wars.

World War I

During WWI the Italian Army raised 88 Alpini Battalions. Their purpose was to fight summer and winter in the highest regions of the Alpine Arch. Most of the battalions were dissolved after WWI. Only 9 Alpini regiments remain in service today, and only three train every soldier in ski warfare: the 4° Alpini Paracadutisti, 5° Alpini and 6° Alpini regiments.

The Winter War (1939-40), The Continuation War (1941-44) and the Lapland War (1944-45)

Ski troops played a key role in maintaining Finnish independence from The Soviet Union during the Winter War (1939). Forested, rural terrain with no roads and with Finnish ski troops was virtually a death-trap for the advancing mechanized Soviet troops. In Battle of Suomussalmi, two Soviet mechanized divisions (45000 men) were annihilated by three Finnish regiments (11000 men).

World War II

Perhaps learning from the Finns, the Soviet Union deployed several ski battalions during World War II, notably in their 1941 counter attack in the Battle of Moscow. The most common transportation for Norwegian soldiers during the Norwegian Campaign in 1940 was using skis and sled, and in Operation Gunnerside, Norwegian commandos dropped by parachute skied long distances in order to reach and destroy a heavy water plant Vemork at Rjukan in Telemark, Norway, which was being used by the Germans as part of their nuclear research programme. Also during WWII, the United States Army 10th Mountain Division was activated and trained for ski combat. They were deployed in Italy.

Today's situation

Finnish defence forces use skis normally in cross country skiing but also by pulling squads of soldiers with tracked transport vehicles. Two ropes hang from the end of a vehicle and troops hold the rope with their hands. This is especially difficult if one is carrying the normal heavy-backpack.

Other information

The Norwegian military have held skiing competitions since the 1670s. The sport of Biathlon was developed from military skiing patrols.

The United States ski patrol plays a vital role in the plot to the book A Separate Peace.

Many nations train troops in skiing and winter warfare, including:

Also the United Kingdom/Netherlands Landing Force consisting of:

- annual exercises taking place in the interior of Northern Norway

See also

External links

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