, or traveling over snow on wooden runners, has a recorded history of almost five millennia.
The first hints to the existence of skis are on 4500 to 5000 year old rock drawings, e.g. at Rødøy in Norway (discovered 1933) or at Steinkjer (discovered 2001), which depict a man on skis holding a stick. There are also remains of skis in bogs, with the oldest ski found in Russia 8000 years old. The earliest people to ski in Fennoscandia were probably the distant ancestors of modern day Samis.
The word ski goes back to the Old Norse word skíð meaning "a stick of wood" , In modern Norwegian this word is . This word is now used in most languages in the world. Languages like English and French use the original spelling "ski", and modify the pronunciation. Languages like Italian pronounce it exactly as in Norwegian, and modify the spelling: "sci". German and Spanish adapt the word to their linguistic rules; "Schier" and "esquís". Interestingly, many languages make a verb form out of the noun, such as "to ski" in English, "sciare" in Italian, or "schilaufen" in German which is not possible in Norwegian. In Swedish, a close relation to Norwegian, the word is "skidor" (pl.). However Finnish language has its own ancient words for skis and skiing. In Finnish ski is suksi and skiing is hiihtää.
Other history sources have it that skiing in Iran dates back to 2000 BC, when ancient tribes are believed to have devised a ski board made from animal hide.
There are six possible roots from which skis might have developed:
- The pedal snowshoe, which was an oval wooden board later on covered with fur.
- The sledge runner, which seems to be a very obvious model for the ski.
- The fur shoe, which was a combination of moccasins and sandals and worn together with pedal snowshoes.
- The marsh shoe, later was taken to colder regions.
- The canoe or the coracle, both used in northern regions from very early on. Having been used as sledges, small ones might have served as proto-skis.
- Spontaneous invention.
Different types of skis have emerged at various regions at about the same time. One suggested original inventors of skis seem to be the people of the Sajan-Altaic Mountains
in Asia. This is not verified. Also skis may have been used in Europe during and after the ice age
. All in all there are three different types of skis in the North of Europe and Asia:
- The Southern type has a horizontal toe-piece binding. One can distinguish the Fennoscandian type and the Russo-Baltic type. Modern ski bindings are based on the Fennoscandian model of the 19th century. The bindings of Telemark ski were developed from this type.
- Eastern Siberian type is a thin board with a vertical four-hole binding. Sometimes it is covered with fur.
- There is still another type. It has a horizontal stem-hole binding. One can distinguish between the types used by Lapps (and some other Fenno-ugrics) and a type used in Central and Northern Siberia. Cross-country skis were developed from the type used by the Lapps.
go back to two roots:
- The walking stick was used to keep balance.
- The ski pole developed from a spear or a bow used for hunting. Double poles were used to reach a higher speed on skis, and better hunting.
Modern history of skiing
Pioneer Sondre Norheim
, from Morgedal
, has often been called the father of modern skiing for inventing the equipment and techniques that led to modern skiing as we see it today. Having grown up in the farmlands of Norwegian Telemark, Norheim invented a “birch” binding that enabled skiers to ski without the risk of losing their skis. Then, in 1870, Norheim introduced a short, curved, flexible ski he crafted in order to allow for easy turning in soft snow. Norheim, at the age of forty-three, went on to become the winner of the first Norwegian downhill skiing competition in Christiania (modern day Oslo
It is possible, however, that he actually did not invent anything, since there is little evidence to prove that he did. The story about Sondre as the father of modern skiing was largely constructed in Norway from the 1930s, especially in connection with the Olympic Winter Games in Oslo in 1952. Most of the inventions attributed to Norheim were known a long time before him. Even still, Sondre Norheim proved an inspiration for generations.
Events in the development of modern skiing include:
- In the 17th century the baron of Valvasor wrote reports on skiing activities in Slovenia.
- The usefulness of skis for military purpose speeded up their development and spread. The Norwegian military had skiing competitions from the 1670s.
- The first known civilian ski race took place in Tromsø, Norway in 1843.
- The "Kiandra Ski Club" was formed in Australia in 1861. (Kiandra snow shoe club)
- The Trysilgutten ski club was also founded in 1861 in Trysil, Hedmark, Norway. Held their first competition January 1862.
- Skis were used in the Sierra Nevada gold fields in 1850 and later to ferry mail from Carson City, Nevada to Placerville, California in 1856, crossing in 4 days. Downhill ski races (at up to 90 mph) were organized between competing mining camps by 1857, and hit their peak in 1869, under the rules of the Thompson Alpine Club.
- In 1875, the first ski club, and two years later the first ski school were founded in Kristiania (now Oslo).
- In the 19th century the Telemark ski revolutionized alpine skiing, being the first ski with a remarkable waist making it much easier for skiers to turn.
- The Englishman William Cecil Slingsby, the "father of Norwegian mountaineering", helped inspire ski mountaineering after his crossing of the 1,550 m high (5,800 ft) Keiser Pass, Norway, on skis in 1880.
- The gold mine owner Ignaz Rojacher from Rauris (Salzburg) and the German Wilhelm Ritter von Arlt brought the first pair of skis from Falun (Sweden) to Rauris in winter 1885/1886.
- In 1888 the Austrian Max Kleinoschegg had his first attempts on skis on the Ruckerlberg near Graz.
- Also in 1888, the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen made the first crossing of Greenland, travelling from East to West on skis. The report on his expedition, Paa ski over Grønland, was published in 1890 in both Norwegian and English, and later in German. It aroused great interest in skiing in Europe and the United States, as well as creating a Norwegian national hero. From then on skiing was regularly in the news, and was soon adopted as a pastime and a sport by the wealthier classes of Europe, as well as being adopted by the military in several countries.
- The first ski club in central Europe was founded at Munich, Germany, during the winter of 1890 to 1891.
- In 1891 the Austrian hotelier Toni Schruf (in collaboration with Max Kleinoschnegg) ascended the Stuhleck (1782m) near Mürzzuschlag in the Semmering region, the first significant mountain in Austria which was ascended on skis.
- The German Wilhelm Ritter von Arlt made the first ski ascent of over 3,000 m, when he climbed the Rauris Sonnblick (3,105 m / 10,187 feet high) in 1894. In doing so, he became the father of ski mountaineering. He was also the starter of summer skiing, for he took the first significant summer ski tour on August 30, 1897
- The first ski tour in the Alps took place in 1894 when the local Branger brothers teamed up with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle--creator of Sherlock Holmes--for a traverse from Davos (Frauenkirch) to Arosa. Conan-Doyle was living in the area as his wife took the cure for TB. He ordered the skis from Norway & applied himself to learning to ski as a cure for his enforced idlement in the sleepy Alpine town.
- In 1896 the German ski pioneer Wilhelm Paulcke ascended the Oberalpstock on his Norwegian skis. In 1897 he crossed the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland and skied to 4,200 m on Monte Rosa in 1898.
- Dr. Hermann Seiler - President of the Monte Rosa section of the Swiss Alpine Club and coproprietor of the Seiler Hotels Zermatt - organizes the first ski training course that ever took place in Switzerland in January of 1902. Capable students, the 12 guides ascend Cima di Jazzi on their fourth day (cf. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 8th of February 1952, Nr. 282).
- The first packaged ski holidays took place in 1903, to Adelboden, Switzerland, organised on a commercial basis by Sir Henry Lunn under the guise of the Public Schools Alpine Sports Club, which booked entire hotels. Winter holidays in Switzerland had become very popular with the British aristocracy since the first winter tourists to St Moritz in 1864.
- A National Ski Tournament was held in Ishpeming, Michigan in 1905, including a -high ski jump.
- The predecessor to the downhill ski race, the Roberts of Kandahar Cup took place in Crans-Montana (Crans-sur-Sierre) in 1911, organised by Arnold Lunn with the cup donated by Lord Roberts of Kandahar (Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts), a distinguished Field Marshal in the British Army.
- The first fully documented International Alpine Ski Carnival was held in Kiandra, Australia in 1907. The downhill event was won by Charles Menger (Denver, USA), second was R. Paterson (Australia) third was Earl Prince (England). (Kiandra snow shoe club)
- Competitive skiing in America was organized with the founding of the National Ski Association in Ishpeming, Mich. in February, 1905 (today known as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
- 1924 saw the foundation of the International Ski Federation in Chamonix, France.
- The Rottefella (rat trap) lightweight toe binding was invented by Bror With of Norway. The binding was a great success at the St. Moritz Olympics the following year, and has been, in various forms, the preferred cross country ski binding ever since.
- In March 1928, downhill and the modern slalom events were combined for the first time to form the Arlberg-Kandahar open international alpine skiing competition, organised by Arnold Lunn and Hannes Schneider in St. Anton, Austria. This event was to become the real starting point of international Alpine ski racing.
- At the invitation of the FIS, the Ski Club of Great Britain organises downhill and slalom races in parallel with the 1928 Second Winter Olympics at St Moritz.
- In 1929, Orland Bartholomew skied alone over of California's High Sierras from Cottonwood Creek to Yosemite National Park roughly following the line of the summer route that is now known as the John Muir Trail. This included the first winter ascent of the highest peak in the lower 48, Mt. Whitney. Bartholomew was self-supported using food caches placed over the summer.
- The first resort-based ski school in the U.S. was opened in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire in 1929 (at that time part of Lisbon, by Katharine "Kate" Peckett, with her husband, Austrian immigrant ski instructor Sig Buchmayer. The same year, organized ski trains from Boston began running to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where summer tourist trains had been going for decades.
- Ski jumping and cross-country competition were events in the 1932 winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York.
- In 1931, Sir Arnold Lunn organised at Mürren the first World Championships in Downhill and Slalom Racing. He did the same in 1935, these being the only occasions in history when one country (Britain) has organised the World Championships of any sport on the territory of another country.
- First rope-tow in America was developed in 1932, by Alex Foster and operated at Shawbridge, Quebec, using an old automobile with the rope looped around a wheel rim. Similar device copied and used in the U.S. in 1934, in Woodstock, Vermont.
- First aluminum skis, 1934, France.
- T-bar implemened at Davos in 1935, outgrowth of J-bar invented same year by Dartmouth Outing Club of Hanover, New Hampshire (first overhead-cable ski lift).
- First heel-grip cable binding implemented in 1935 by Kandahar.
- Used as a summer get-away for early Mormons in Salt Lake City, Utah, Brighton Ski Area began in 1936 when members of the Alpine Ski Club built a rope tow from wire and an old elevator motor.
- World's first overhead chairlift built at Sun Valley, Idaho in 1936.
- Third Winter Games of Olympics, at Garmisch 1936, include world's first alpine events: downhill and combined slalom.
- First U.S. aerial tramway, installed at Cannon Mountain in 1938.
- In late 1939, the USSR invades its small north-eastern neighbor Finland. In the ensuing 3 and 1/2 months of intense combat of the Winter War, Finnish ski troops all but annihilate a Soviet flanking manoeuver into northern Finland's forests. On long narrow wooden skis, precursors to modern cross-country skis, the Finns surround unwieldy columns of ill-trained Soviet conscripts bogged down in the snow, overrun and butcher them piecemeal. The invasion is thwarted; the Finns kill an estimated quarter-million Red Army troops and wound at least that many more. Finnish casualties total fewer than 10 percent of the Soviets'. The episode marks the largest-scale and most effective use of ski troops in history. It reinforces the arguments of US military skiing advocates just before America enters the war.
- President Roosevelt authorizes the formation of the 10th Mountain Division. At the termination of WWII, 10th Mountain members return to the States & become a major force in the development of U.S. downhill skiing. One of these men, Montgomery Atwater, begins the country's first avalanche study & mitigation program at Alta, Utah.
- Artificially made snow, 1952 at Grossinger's in New York. Other evidence suggests that Art Hunt, Wayne Pierce and Dave Richey of Connecticut built a snowmaking device, using compressed air and water, which they implemented in 1950;
- Fiberglass skis successfully marketed in 1960 by Kneissl, Plymold, Sailer.
- All-plastic boots introduced by Lange in 1964.
See http://www.wildsnow.com/chronology/timeline_table.html for a more extensive time line.
Newspaper records survive of downhill ski racing in California's mining camps as early as 1854 (Nevada Journal
, 10 March 1854, cited in E. John B. Allen, From Skisport to Skiing,
1993 University of Massachusetts Press). "The first [ski race] clubs were formed in January 1861 at Onion Valley and La Porte." (ibid. p. 21)
In Europe, the change of focus from ski mountaineering to fast ski descent was the initiative of the British, who had learned to ski in Norway, or from friends who had, or from European skiers in the Alps, or from how-to books (the first ski book in English was Ski Running, in 1904).
No sooner had they mastered the Telemark, the Christiania and the stem than the British invented the Continent’s first alpine races, then as now called "downhill" and "slalom." This began the transition from ski mountaineering into alpine skiing.
These amusing competitions invented by the British were a good deal more popular with the British than the Nordic form which involved slogging cross country or jumping, a form which the British have never got the hang of even to this day.
The first alpine race invented was the downhill. The bud of this robust event was a British club race, The Roberts of Kandahar Challenge Cup, run in 1911 at Montana, Switzerland. Contestants skied an unmarked course against the clock down the Plaine Morte Glacier over rough snow and enough natural hazards to prevent contestants from simply running straight like the longboarders. "The Kandahar" was thereafter (and still is) held annually at Mürren, Switzerland. Emphasis on the importance of the descent prevailed in British racing and in everyday skiing as well.
The second bud of alpine racing was invented by British ski mountaineer Arnold Lunn in January, 1922, on the grounds of the Palace Hotel in Mürren where he persuaded some friends to race through a series of paired short wands stuck in the snow. The race was against the stopwatch and without regard to form, in contrast to contemporary Swiss controlled course contests where form counted.
Lunn’s slalom cleverly played speed off against control. The delightful tension between these opposites made the race so intriguing it spread quickly. With slalom gaining popularity, it became possible to run alpine combined races, scoring slalom and downhill together, as jumping and cross country had been scored jointly for Nordic combined titles. In 1924, Lunn helped found Mürren’s Kandahar Ski Club to promote alpine combined racing.
In the 1920s, the popularity of alpine skiing began to rise, thanks to the spread of ski guides teaching the stem technique. One by one, alpine resort hotels and inns arranged to stay open in winter to accommodate a growing group of alpine skiers in places like Kitzbühel, St. Anton and St. Moritz.
Ski Competition in America
Newspaper records survive of downhill ski racing in California's mining camps as early as 1854 (Nevada Journal, 10 March 1854, cited in E. John B. Allen, From Skisport to Skiing, 1993 University of Massachusetts Press). "The first [ski race] clubs were formed in January 1861 at Onion Valley and La Porte." (ibid. p. 21)
Ski competition in America evolved in the late 19th century and was organized nationally with the founding of the National Ski Association in Ishpeming, MI in February, 1905, which today is the site of the National Ski Hall of Fame. The primary sport at the time was ski jumping, along with cross country skiing. Alpine skiing evolved later, as did modern day sports of freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
Today, the National Ski Association has evolved to become the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, which manages all Olympic skiing and snowboarding competition programs in America.
The first skiing events where ski jumping was included were held in Tromsø, Norway in 1843. The first pure ski jumping event was held in Trysil on January 22 1862. Later, the yearly Husebyrennene events in Oslo from 1879 were moved to Holmenkollen from 1892, and Holmenkollen was to become the Mecca of ski jumping.
Through the 1950s and '60s skiing became a sport for a newly affluent middle class. Building on a European tradition of ski film-making dating back to Arnold Fanck in the 1920s, American film-makers like John Jay, Dick Durrance, Warren Miller and Dick Barrymore toured North America each fall promoting the sport in local theatres. In Europe, following a post-war boom in construction of hydroelectric dams, mountain communities promoted the construction of lifts and new hotels. Real-estate prices in ski resorts rose swiftly, driven by an average 15% annual growth until 1973. In that year, the OPEC oil embargo started a long series of economic recessions and inflation -- the dreaded stagflation -- that stalled the growth of the sport, especially in North America. By 1982, with interest rates running over 20%, most US factories were unable to finance summertime production; they either closed up shop or moved production to Europe. Resort companies began to consolidate, leading to the growth of large corporations like SKI, Instrawest, Aspen Ski Co., Vail Resorts, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and Powdr Corp.
The birth of competitive mogul skiing in the late '60s led to freestyle: on-snow ballet, aerials & moguls grew to be considered legitimate forms of competitive skiing. Some of these new ways of skiing emphasized style rather than the traditional speed.
Telemark skiing was revived in the US in the 1970s as a way of getting into quiet, steeper mountain environments with no ski lift development. Much of the early telemark equipment was do-it-yourself, cobbled together using unlikely combinations like flimsy rat-trap cross-country bindings, hockey skate boots, Hexcel alpine skis. European randonee equipment like the Silvretta cable binding and the Rossignol Haute Route ski were always available in the US, but eventually, manufacturers like Chouinard Equipment, Ltd.--now Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.--began importing more sophisticated gear specifically for telemark. By the 90's they were designing their own, including innovative plastic telemark boots, cable bindings, dedicated stable yet lightweight backcountry skis & climbing skins. Randonee or Alpine Touring (AT) equipment continued to come primarily from Europe, when it came at all. With the new, supportive equipment telemark racing & extreme competitions started.
The growth of snowboarding in the 1980s appealed to a new generation of skiers with its counter-culture fashion & far easier learning curve. This injection of new, enthusiastic participants increased ski resort business & reinvigorated ski equipment design, leading to fatter, more stable skis. As with all youth movements, new vocabulary was required for the same old activities & sliding over snow became known as "riding", even for skiers. Various forms of competition developed, including traditional gate racing, but also half-pipe tricks, boarder-cross & extreme backcountry competitions.
The Snowboard gives birth to a revolution in ski design
Beginning in the late 1980s, development of fast World Cup giant slalom skis with subtly deeper sidecuts led inevitably to the 1993 adoption for recreational skis of the deep sidecuts already popular for snowboarding. The term "Parabolic" was introduced in 1982 as a trademark by one of the ski factories pioneering this development. Deep-sidecut skis were shorter and fatter than traditional skis. The shape of the ski gave it better carving and turning capabilities. They held the snow better in extreme conditions such as steep runs and deep powder. Wider and therefore heavier tip and tail improve stability despite the skis' shorter length. The exaggerated shape means the new design has a tendency to "swim" left and right when gliding on a flat sole; as a result the shaped ski feels most stable when held at a slight edge angle. The end result is that shaped skis are used for carving more often than a straight ski. This difference is usually lost on the average skier who uses a skidded technique to control speed. More advanced skiers are more apt to use a modified shaped ski of a longer length so that they can take advantage of the relative ease of carving with a shape ski while retaining the stability of a longer ski.
Some early shaped skis (fat skis) were built very wide in order to float in powder. The introduction of fat skis revolutionized powder skiing and led to a boom in heli skiing and other forms of backcountry or natural-snow travel.
After initial resistance, traditional ski schools adopted modified deep-sidecut skis for use in teaching. They gained quick popularity with the public, and eventually pro skiers and even some young snowboarders switched over.
Skiers soon began adapting the advances pioneered by snowboarders and even transferred some snowboarding forms and tricks to skiing.
For a detailed and annotated history of ski design see http://skiinghistory.org/sidecut.html and http://skiinghistory.org/skishistory.html
Austrian Ski pioneers
- Mathias Zdarsky, the so-called "Father of Alpine Skiing", started skiing in 1890. He altered his Norwegian skis by shortening them and later on he invented the first alpine binding for his skis, which he called Lilienfelder binding.
- In 1896 he published his first book on skiing technique. Zdarsky stemmed the downhill ski out, leaned inside to the pole, unweighted the inner ski and brought it parallel, he used rotation technique. He taught skiing and invented ski acrobatics.
- The first slalom race was directed by Zdarsky and took place at Muckenkogel, Lilienfeld, in 1905.
- Norway, The Northern Playground by Cecil Slingsby, ISBN 1-904466-07-9.
- How the English Made the Alps by Jim Ring, ISBN 0-7195-5689-9
- High Odyssey by Eugene Rose. The story of Orland Bartholomew's 1928 ski traverse of California's High Sierra (available from the Sequoia Natural History Association).
- Crossing An Alpine Pass On Ski by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in "The Strand" magazine, 1894
- Short History of Alpine Skiing by Morten Lund.
- Timeline of Ski History Dates from the International Skiing History Association.