Once made of highly polished wood, most skis are now made of plastics, polyurethane foam, and other materials. They come in many different sizes and styles, depending on whether their intended use is cross-country, downhill, ski jumping, freeskiing, or another branch of the sport. Traditional skis have an upturned tip at one end only; twin-tip skis, with upturned tips at both ends, were originally used in freeskiing, but versions are available for other uses. The bindings that attach the ski to the boot vary as well. Most skiers also use a pair of poles, each of which has a wriststrap on the top, a sharp tip on the bottom, and a circular ring about 4 in. (10 cm) from the tip to prevent it from sinking into the snow. The bottoms of skis may be waxed for maximum glide in varying snow conditions.
Traditional competitive skiing comprises four events: (1) downhill, a steep descent in a race against time; (2) slalom, raced on a sharply twisting course marked off by flags; (3) the ski jump, in which contestants leap from specially prepared jump slopes, and are judged on both distance and form; and (4) cross-country, in which skiers race over a long course (ranging from 10 km/6 mi to 50 km/31 mi in the Olympic games) on which the terrain and obstacles test stamina and maneuverability. The first two are known as Alpine events, the latter two as Nordic events.
Alpine competition now also includes the combined, with both downhill and slalom races; the giant slalom and the supergiant slalom, which resemble the slalom but use longer, less twisted courses that permit faster speeds, ski cross or skiercross, in which several skiers race down a specially prepared course; and the freestyle events of moguls (a downhill race in which a score for form for jumps over large bumps, or moguls, is combined with the elapsed time) and aerials (acrobatic twists, flips, and the like performed in the air). Moguls, the first freestyle event in the Olympics, was added in 1992. Women compete in all but the ski jump. An Olympic event known as the Nordic combined comprises cross-country racing and ski jumping, and the biathlon events combine cross-country skiing with rifle shooting.
Snowboarding is a form of skiing that uses a single wide ski, or snowboard, and no poles, and has similarities to surfing and skateboarding. Originating in the 1960s, it grew rapidly in popularity from the late 1980s, and is now done at most ski resorts. Snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998; acrobatic competition on a halfpipe course and racing on giant slalom and snowboardcross courses comprise the current events. A splitboard is a snowboard that may be separated lengthwise to form a pair of skis.
Even newer is skiboarding, which originated in the late 1990s and employs shorter and wider skis that are usually used without poles. Skiboarding offers the skier some of the sensations of ice skating or in-line roller skating. It is generally easier to learn than skiing, in part because skiboards are easier to maneuver. In snowkiting a parachutelike airfoil (the "kite") and the wind are used to propel a skier or snowboarder across the snow and through the air.
Although its origin is obscure, skiing was a vital means of transportation and a valuable military skill in Scandinavia, where skis more than 4,000 years old have been discovered. Skiing was introduced into Central Europe at the close of the 16th cent. In the last half of the 19th cent., Norway held two-day carnivals that included races and jumping.
It is uncertain whether Americans learned skiing from natives or whether it was brought to America by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants in the mid-19th cent. The first U.S. ski club was formed in 1872, and the National Ski Association was founded in 1904. In 1924 the Fédération Internationale de Ski was founded, and skiing became part of the first Winter Olympics.
Skiing enjoyed a tremendous boom in the United States as a recreational sport from the 1930s, spurred by the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y. (1932 and 1988) and at Squaw Valley, Calif. (1960), and by the development of ski tows and lifts, which can place skiers at the summit of a run in minutes. Artificial snowmaking machines and the construction of runs of varying levels of difficulty have also contributed to the sport's expansion.
See B. Jonas and S. Masia, Ski Magazine's Total Skiing (1987); T. Gallwey and B. Kriegel, Inner Skiing (rev. ed. 1991).
Snow skiing is a group of sports utilizing skis as primary equipment. Skis are used in conjunction with boots that connect to the ski with use of a binding. Although snowboarding shares the general characteristics of skiing sports, it evolved from surfing and skateboarding and so is not considered a type of skiing. The posture assumed in snowboarding is a side on action whereas the skiing posture is primarily front facing.
Skiing can be grouped into two general categories. Nordic skiing is the oldest category and includes sport that evolved from skiing as done in Scandinavia. Nordic style bindings attach at the toes of the skier's boots, but not at the heels. Alpine skiing includes sports that evolved from skiing as done in the Alps. Alpine bindings attach at both the toe and the heel of the skier's boots. As with many disciplines, such as Telemark skiing, there is some crossover. However, binding style and history tend to dictate whether a style is considered Nordic or Alpine. Thus, in view of its lack of a locking heel, and its roots in Telemark, Norway, Telemark is generally considered a Nordic discipline.
Pre-historic Nordic People invented skiing to assist hunting, military technique, and as a practical transportation for the Nordic people and the Samis. The oldest and most accurately documented evidence of skiing origins is found in modern day Norway and Sweden. The earliest primitive carvings circa 5000 B.C. depicts a skier with one pole, located in Rødøy, an island located in the Nordland region of Norway. The first primitive ski was found in a peat bog in Hoting, Sweden which dates back to 2500 or 4500 B.C. . Joel Berglund reported in 2004 the discovery of a primitive ski, or "85cm long piece of wood", carbon tested by researchers in 1997 while excavating a Norse settlement located near Nanortalik, Greenland. The primitive ski dated back to 1010, and is thought to be Greenland's oldest ski brought by Norsemen circa 980 A.D.
Other accounts of early Nordic skiing are found with two modern cross-country endurance races in Norway and Sweden. These ski races were inspired by famous historical accounts of early medieval skiing in their respective countries. The oldest account involves the famous story from 1206 A.D. of the Birkebeiners during a civil war in medieval Norway. Considered the underdog, the Birkebeiners were at war against a rival faction known as the baglers. Following the death of the Birkenbeiner chief, the baglers feared a rival in his young son Haakon Haakonsson. In order to protect him, two of the most skillful Birkenbeiner skiers, with toddler in tow, skied through treacherous conditions over the mountains to safety in Lillehammer. Since 1932, Norway's annual Birkebeinerrennet, runs a 54 km cross-country ski race which pays tribute to this historical account. Since 1922, Sweden has run their own ski marathon known as the Vasaloppet. With its longest race at 90 km, and finishing in Mora,Sweden, it is known as the world's longest cross-country ski race. This endurance race commemorates the memory of "freedom fighter" Gustav Vasa and subsequently Swedish independence. Pursued by the Danes in 1520 A.D. (under order from King Christian of Denmark who controlled Sweden at the time), Gustav Vasa attempted to raise an army against the Danes, but was forced to flee by skis north west towards Norway. Tracked down by Mora's two best skiers, Gustav returned with them to Mora and lead an uprising which eventually overthrew Danish rule.
Skiing is also recorded in early literature. Icelandic saga author (circa 1200) Snorre Sturlason wrote of Ull "God of Skiing" and Skade "Goddess of Skiing and Hunting" in Norse mythology. One of the world's oldest references to skiing is by Egil Skallagrimsson’s "950 AD saga describing King Haakon Adalsteinsfostre the Good’s practice of sending his tax collectors out on skis". Another one of the oldest written accounts of skiing, is by Swedish writer Olaus Magnus in his writings A Description of the Northern Peoples in the year 1555. His accounts record early primitive skiers (presumably the Sami People) and their "climbing skins" in Scricfinnia, a country or region at the top of modern day Norway. Sometime around 1800 A.D. Danish traveler Father Knut Leed made reference in Geographie to Norwegian kids "skiing just for the fun of it, being able to pick up a hat dropped on the slope while going at full speed. The word "ski" itself is one of a handful of words Norway has exported to the international community. It comes from the Old Norse word "skio" which means split piece of wood or firewood. Previously, English speakers considered skiing to be a type of snowshoeing. In regions where loose snow dominates, the indigenous population developed snowshoes that did not slide across the snow, rather than skis which do. Today's forms of skiing are the modern extensions of ancient Nordic skiing. Whether it be the Nordic forms of Cross-country skiing (a form of Telemark skiing) and Telemark skiing, Ski mountaineering or Alpine skiing, modern forms of skiing share common threads of origin from the Telemark region in Norway led by Norwegian ski innovator Sondre Norheim.
Norwegian Sondre Norheim is known as the "father of modern skiing" (meaning the originator of skiing as recreation and sport). From the Telemark district of Morgedal, Norway, which is also known as the "cradle of skiing", Norheim created the design templates from which all forms of modern skiing are derived. In 1850, woodcarvers from the Telemark region introduced lighter, thinner, cambered skis. These developments were accompanied by Norheim's creation of stiff bindings by fully securing the heel with a strong yet flexible strap made from birch roots. This new binding system enabled the skier to swing, jump and maneuver turns while skiing down hills. These were known as "Osier" bindings. Morten Lund writes, in his piece outlining the development of Alpine skiing, that "Telemark skiing marked the transition to dynamic control, changing the angle of the ski bottom on the snow and changing the direction of the ski to the line of descent—the basis of technique even today", thus the necessity for Norheim's heel binding invention. And as a result, came the "flowering of the world’s first "freestyle" contests—climbing, running, making turns for the heck of it and flying off natural bumps on unprepared snow.
In 1868, along with a couple of fellow skiers, Norheim attended the "second annual Centralforeningen (Central Ski Association) open ski competition whose object was to demonstrate skill at descending a particular slope in the city. At the competition, Norheim demonstrated groundbreaking techniques which set the ideal benchmarks for skiing in Norway and the European Continent: the arc like sweep of "telemark turn" along with the skidded "stem" stop turn (or commonly known as the "parallel" stop turn), which was initially known as the "Christiania" turn (original name for modern day Oslo). The "Christiania" came to be known simply as the "Christi" turn with the formalization of ski rules in 1901. Both turns, which originated in Telemark, mark the distinction between Telemark and Alpine skiing.
Then in 1870, Norheim introduced his adaptive design of the Telemark or "narrow-waisted" ski - "the forerunner of the sidecuts used on skis today." Skis were narrowed, shortened and sides curved inwards. These refinements greatly facilitated easier ski turns and set "the standard for ski design over the next century. By the 1880s, as demand for Norwegian skis increased, changes led to the development of the first laminated skis which began to appear in 1881. These new fangled "hand-crafted" skis were constructed "with an ash sole and pine top" and first exported to Sweden in 1882. Also in 1882, the first hickory skis appeared in Norway providing for a thinner more flexible ski. Ski development was continued by Norwegian H.M. Christiansen who constructed the first two-layer laminated ski in 1893, followed by fellow Norwegian Bjørn Ullevoldsaeter's patented three-layer laminated ski. (Incidentally, this style was also independently developed by George Aaland in Seattle.)
Collectively, these innovative designs and techniques laid the foundation for all forms of modern skiing and further developments, including one established form of skiing called Slalom by Norheim and his contemporaries in the Telemark region. Slalom, or "slalåm" in Norwegian dialect, is a Norwegian word originating from Morgedal, Norway. "Sla" refers to slope, hill, or smooth surface while "låm" means "track down the slope".
The skiing techniques of 19th century Morgedal known as Telemark skiing or "telemarking" underwent a revival in the 1970s. This revival of Telemark skiing has been attributed by author Halvor Kleppen to five American skiers from Colorado: Doug Buzzell, Craig Hall, Greg Dalbey, Jack Marcial and Rick Borkovec, who were collectively inspired by Norwegian ski phenomenon and Olympic champion Stein Ericksen and his book Come Ski With Me.
Whereas Sondre Norheim had initially invented secure heeled bindings using water-soaked, flexible birch roots, the next significant development of binding came in 1894 from Fritz Huitfeldt who invented a binding with a secure toe iron which allowed the heel to move freely. This became the standard industry binding through the 1930s.
[Section to possibly be developed here on the more significant binding developments: e.g. 1933 Adolph Attenhofer - "complete fixed heel all-metal binding" and 1939 Hjalmar Hvam Saf-Ski binding]
[Section to be developed here on the precursors to Alpine Racing: "long board competition" and/or what was known as "snowshoe" racing (not First Nation snowshoes) and British Continental sking approach.]
Retired Austrian school teacher Mathias Zdarsky, like many others at the time (including famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who became the first man to "ski" to the South Pole in 1911), was intrigued by world-renowned Norwegian explorer and Telemark skier Fridtjof Nansen, and his "high-risk expedition" accounts, in the 1890 German translation of Nansen's book On Skis Across Greenland. Inspired by Nansen's skiing exploits, Zdarsky took up the sport during his retirement by importing Norwegian skis and teaching himself to ski. Incorporating ski techniques from Norway, he developed a ski technique system, known as the "Lilienfeld Method", which he outlined in his 1896 book Lillienfeld Skilaufer Technik (originally published as Lilienfelder Ski lauf-Technik). His key development, which led to enthusiastic embrace of skiing in the Alps, was the "stem" technique, or what is commonly known is skiing as the "snowplow" technique. This new technique enabled beginners to experience the slopes in a "slow, and controlled manner", beyond the more sophisticated and complicated Norwegian Telemark and Christiania techniques, which limited the slopes to more advanced and skillful skiers. By 1896, he was teaching his new methods to large groups of "stem skiers" in Austria.
[Section to be developed here Circa 1910-20ish on the "transition from ski mountaineering into alpine skiing" or racing initiated by the British and Arnold Lunn who took Norway's concept of Slalom skiing and created modern day downhill or Slalom racing.]
In 1908, expanding on the developments of this fellow countryman Zdarsky, a young Austrian ski guide by the name of Johannes Schneider entered the scene. With respect to skiing, Johannes (also known as Hannes) is to Austrians as Sondre Norheim and Fridtjof Nansen is to Norwegians. By the 1920s, he had worked to refine Sondre Norheim's "Christiania" stem christi turn, along with fellow countryman Mathias Zdarsky's "stem" or "snowplow" technique. He used these Norwegian and Austrian techniques to develop a logical system of ski instruction, a system which began with the easiest snowplow technique, then progressing through to more difficult ski skills. This system formed the basis for Schneider's formalized Arlberg technique, which is named for his home region, and subsequently set a foundation for professional ski instruction. This system also incorporated a set of ethical standards to the profession of teaching. With this, the Arlberg technique spread and helped make skiing a popular recreational activity.
The biomechanical principles of alpine skiing were described in 1985 by Georg Kassat, professor at Münster University
Many different types of skiing are popular, especially in colder climates, and many types of competitive skiing events are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Ski Federation (FIS), and other sporting organizations, such as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association in America. Skiing is most visible to the public during the Winter Olympic Games where it is a major sport.
In skiing's traditional core regions in the snowy parts of Scandinavia, as well as in places such as Alaska, both recreational and competitive skiing is as likely to refer to the cross-country variants as to the internationally downhill variants.
Skiing techniques are difficult to master, and accordingly there are ski schools that teach everything from the basics of turning and stopping safely to more advanced carving, racing, mogul or "bump" skiing and newer freestyle techniques. There are two primary types of downhill skiing -- "telemark" and "alpine."
For beginning skiers learning under a trained instructor, skiing speeds are low, the terrain is not steep and is often well-manicured, and the risks are relatively low. For extreme skiers, testing their expert abilities against ever more challenging terrain, the risks may be much higher.
Alpine skiing: The term "skiing" commonly refers to alpine skiing where one visits a ski resort, purchases a lift ticket, dons cold-weather clothing, skis, ski boots and often ski poles, and embarks on a chairlift, gondola lift, or other means of mechanical uphill transport. Upon reaching the summit, the skier disembarks from the ski lift and travels downhill, propelled by gravity, usually along a marked route known as a piste, "run," "trail," or "slope". Most ski resorts use mechanical equipment to "groom," or pack down and smooth, the snow surface on certain ski trails.
Alpine skiing developed in the Alps beginning in 1889. In Winterthur, Switzerland, Odd Kjelsberg may have been the first person in the Alps to try skiing. Previous to this time, the predominate Alpine winter sport had been tobogganing.
Alpine Freestyle: This kind of skiing could be called acrobatics on skis. Alpine freestyle was pioneered by Stein Eriksen in 1962. It developed in the 1970s into a style called Hotdogging. More recently Alpine freestyle has evolved into the current style called Jib skiing or freestyle skiing, a new style of skiing that started in the late 1990s. In this type of skiing, skiers use jumps also called kickers,or rails to do urban style aerial tricks.
Back Country Skiing: Also called Nordic touring. In the Alps where skiers can easily ski from area to area, Randonée and backcountry skiing are indistinguishable. In North America however, where chairlifts either aren't allowed or are impractical for touring, skiers typically use Nordic style equipment which is more suitable for skiing up-hill. The heels of the bindings always remain free, unlike Randoneé bindings which can be locked down.
Cross-Country Racing: Cross-country skiing takes its name from a type of ski race that is one third up, one third down, and one third flat. The name distinguishes it from other types of ski races and competition such as downhill racing, slalom racing, and Nordic jumping. Cross-country races can be either freestyle or classic. In freestyle racing, any technique is allowed as long as it is human powered and on skis. In a classic race, skating techniques are prohibited.
Adaptive Skiing is skiing done by individuals with physical disabilities. Adaptations to standard ski equipment or accompaniment by a non-disabled guide has enabled individuals with amputations, spinal injuries, TBI, deafness and visual impairments to ski, and in some cases, even race.
Skiing on artificial ski slopes Dry slope skiing is a year-round sport in countries like the UK where the snow cover is insufficient for traditional skiing. There is a thriving race programme on British slopes.
Military Skiing: In addition to its role in recreation and sport, skiing is also used as a means of transport by the military, and many armies train troops for ski warfare. Ski troops played a key role in retaining Finnish independence from Russia during the Winter War, and from Germany during the Lapland War, although the use of ski troops was recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. The sport of Biathlon was developed from military skiing patrols.
Nordic Jumping: Also called ski-flying and ski jumping. A competition in which skiers slide down a ramp called a jump and attempt to go the furthest before landing on the ground. This is done with Nordic style skis, meaning that the heels of boot and binding are detached from the ski. The skis are much longer and wider than other types of skis and jumping is typically done without ski-poles.
Nordic Skiing: Also called Cross-country skiing. World wide, Nordic skiing may be the most popular form of skiing since it does not require a specially ski area. Typically after donning appropriate clothing, the skier goes outside and skis in a local park or even on a snowy street. Nordic skiing is the oldest form of skiing and was developed in Scandinavia as a way of traveling in the winter.
Randonnée skiing (also called Off-Piste Skiing) Randonnée skiing includes skiing in unmarked or unpatrolled areas either within the ski resort's boundaries or in the backcountry, frequently amongst trees ("glade skiing"), usually in pursuit of fresh fallen snow, known as powder. Randonnée skiers typically use Alpine style skis and boots but with bindings that can be released at the heel for easier movement on flat and uphill terrain. For traveling up-hill randonnée skiers often use skins, strips of fabric temporarily glued to the bottoms of the skis. Skiing or snowboarding outside a ski resort's boundaries, is known as off-piste skiing. In most countries where skiing is popular - France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada- this is permitted. While in the United States, off-piste skiing is not permitted at some resorts, in Iran, off-piste skiing is not permitted at any resorts. Regulations vary by ski area; many ski resorts prohibit it outright and some simply post warning signs that skiers are leaving the patrolled ski area boundaries.
In all regions, randonnée skiing is perfectly legal, provided the skier has not skied from a designated ski area after buying a ticket. Some areas do allow departure from the ski area while on skis, others do not. Normally, skiing out of bounds results in loss of the lift ticket and banishment from the ski area. On the other hand, skiing in a closed area is illegal and likely to land a skier in jail. In Europe and Canada randonnée skiing and skiing out of bounds as well as off-piste skiing and departing from/returning to ski areas is generally allowed. However, lost or overdue backcountry travellers are usually held responsible for the cost of search-and-rescue service if uninsured. Backcountry skiers traveling in steep terrain prone to avalanches are encouraged to take avalanche training, travel with other experienced people, and carry special equipment for self-rescue. It is recommended that skiers make the local ski patrol aware of where they are going if they stray off-piste in case of avalanches or bad weather that could put skiers in danger.
Telemark Skiing: Telemark skiers use flexible ski boots, either leather or plastic, and do not have their heels locked to the skis. Alpine skiers use stiffer plastic, non-flexible boots and have their heels locked to the skis with releaseable bindings.
The venue, speed and technical difficulty associated with the sport can lead to collisions, accidents, hypothermia and other injury or illness, occasionally including death. Regional Ski Patrol organizations, such as the National Ski Patrol in the U.S., exist as a voluntary organization to provide guidance, help, medical assistance and emergency rescue to those in need of it.
Skiing for people with disabilities became popular after World War II with the return of injured veterans. It is both a recreational pastime and a competitive sport open to those with any manner of cognitive and/or physical disabilities. Adaptations include the use of outriggers, ski tip retention devices, sit-skis like monoskis and bi-skis, brightly colored guide bibs, ski guides, and inter-skier communication systems or audible clues for blind skiers.
Recreational skiing programs for people with disabilities exist at mountains across the globe.
Currently the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Ski Federation (FIS) sanction a number of regional, national, and international disabled skiing events, most notably a World Cup circuit, a Disabled Alpine Skiing World Championships, and the Paralympic Winter Games. One of the strongest disabled programs is the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, organized by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and the U.S. Ski Team.