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History of skiing

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Ancient history of skiing

The first hints to the existence of skis are on 4500 to 5000 year old rock drawings[?], e.g. at Ro/do/y[?] in Norway. There are also remains of skis in bogs, e.g. the oldest ski found in Hoting[?], Sweden, which is about 4500 years old.

The word ski goes back to two Old Norse roots, both older than 4500 years: saa and suk.

Different types of skis have emerged at various regions at about the same time, but the original inventors of skis seem to be the people of the Sajan-Altaic mountains in Asia. All in all there are three different types of skis in the North of Europe and Asia:

  • The East-Siberian type is a thin board with a vertical four-hole binding. Sometimes it is covered with fur.
  • The West-Siberian type has a horizontal stem-hole binding. One can distinguish between the Ugro-Lapp type and the Central-Northern type.
  • 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 and cross-country[?] skis were developed from the Ugro-Lapp type.

Skis have different shapes that have their own functions. E.g. the length of a ski depends on its use and the terrain where it is used. The breadth of a ski depends on its length. 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 stress of a ski makes the board more flexible to the terrain.

There are six possible roots from which skis originally 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, though it is hardly taken into account.
  • The fur shoe[?], which was a combination of moccasins and sandals and worn together with pedal snowshoes.
  • The marsh shoe[?], which later on was taken to colder regions with snow.
  • The canoe or the coracle, both being utilized in northern regions from very early on. Having been used as sledges, small ones might equally have served as proto-skis.
  • The ski being a spontaneous invention is very unlikely.
The fur that covered the skis made it possible to walk on them nearly noiselessly, prevented them from gliding, avoided snow to stick to them and also strengthened the often thin skis.

The ski poles[?] go back to two roots:

  • The hiking stick[?] was used to keep balance.
  • The ski pole[?] developed from a spear or a bow to which a basket was added at one end. Double poles were used to reach a higher speed on skis.

Modern history of skiing

In the 17th century the baron of Valvasor wrote reports on skiing activities in Slovenia.

Pioneer Sondre Norheim, from Morgedal in Telemark, was the true father of skiing, inventing the equipment and techniques that led to modern skiing as we see it today. In 1875, the first ski club, and two years later the first ski school were founded in Kristiania (now Oslo). In 1883 the German ski pioneer Paulcke[?] crossed the Bernese Oberland on his Norwegian skis. In the year 1888 the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen crossed Greenland from East to West on skis. The report on his expedition, Paa ski over Gro/nland, aroused the interest in skiing of many people at that time. In the same year the Austrian Max Kleinoschegg had his first attempts on skis on the Ruckerlberg near Graz. The usefulness of skis for military purpose also speeded up their development and spreading. The center of ski development was Telemark, Norway, were the first ski race took place in the middle of the 19th century. In Austria centers of skiing activities were Mu:rzzuschlag and Semmering[?].

Ski jumping

The first skiing events where ski jumping was included were held in Tromso/[?], Norway in 1843. The first pure ski jumping event was held in Trysil on January 22, 1862. Later, the yearly Husebybakken events in Oslo from 1879 were moved to Holmenkollen from 1892, and Holmenkollen was to become the Mecca of ski jumping.

Austrian Ski pioneers

  • Matthias 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.
At this time especially Englishmen seemed to be interested in skiing. Sir Anthony Lunn[?] and Schneider rang in the era of alpine ski races with the Arlberg Kandahar race[?] in 1928.


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