The History of Skiing

As long as there have been snow and the slopes, there’s been skiing — so needless to say, skiing is not really a new sport. The word “ski” is originated from the Old Norse word “skíð” which means “stick of wood” which is used for the sport.

The oldest archaeological evidence suggests that the ski originated thousands of years ago and comes from two different regions. Ten-thousand-year-old paintings suggest that aborigines had been skiing in the Altaic region in China. In Russia, meanwhile, archeologists have found ancient ski-like objects that date from 6300-5000 BCE, as well as the petroglyph sketches depicting men mounting on boards but holding a single pole. In Scandinavia, skiing also began several thousands of years ago. Archeologists found primitive carvings that gave evidence that skiing in the Scandinavian region existed even before the Christian era. In Sweden, ancient ski-like equipment was found in a peat bog in Sweden, while similar gear was found in Greenland dating back from the 2nd century AD. Especially during the ancient era, skiing was used mainly as a form of transportation rather than as a sport. Hunters across Asia and Europe during the Stone Age started to strap long pieces of wood to their feet that would enable them to travel faster down the slopes, especially when pursuing game.

Skiing in 19th century

Fast forward to the 19th century, this is when modern skiing truly began. Norwegian legend Sondre Norheim is considered the pioneer of modern skiing. He came up with skis with curved sides and bindings with stiff heel bands that were made of willows — and they became wildly popular. Norheim is also credited for developing the Telemark and Christiania ski techniques. With his reputation growing in Norway, he also made some of the native Norwegian skiing terms such as “slalom” and “ski” itself, become popular worldwide.

Since skiing changed from a mode of transportation into a popular sport, skiing competitions began to sprout. The first known non-military skiing competitions are believed to be held during the 1840s in northern and central Norway. The capital Oslo (then Christiania) held the first-ever national skiing event in 1868 — and who else than the father of modern skiing, Norheim himself, out-skied even his younger and more able counterparts to win the contest.

Since then, the enthusiasm towards skiing as a competitive sport extended outside of Norway. A few decades later, skiing spread to many parts of the temperate world — from the European Alps to North America. In the United States, miners held skiing events as a diversion during the long winter months. In Murren, Switzerland, skier and mountaineer Sir Arnold Lunn held the first slalom competition in 1922.

The growing popularity of alpine and Nordic skiing culminated in the Winter Olympic debut in 1924 in Chamonix, France. In the same year, the International Ski Federation or Fédération Internationale de Ski (FSI), the highest-governing body for international winter sports competitions, was also established.

Skiing has also produced world-famous athletes such as Jean-Claude Killy, Lindsey Vonn, and Bjørn Dæhlie, who holds the most Olympic medals with eight. Other well-known skiers are Alberto Tomba, Hermann Maier, Bill Johnson, Bode Miller, and Pickaboo Street.

From the invention of skiing during the ancient era to skiing in the 21st century, there has been a slew of developments and interactions that have taken place. It is amazing to see that this once utilitarian activity has morphed into a fun recreational activity and major Olympic sport.