History of Skiing
Skiing is one of the most popular winter sports on around the globe.
Come the winter season you will find the mountainous regions around the
globe dotted with loads of color! Youngsters and adults dressed in
colorful ski wear, full of excitement, lining up to ride to the top of a
mountain. Skiing has certainly taken the world by storm.
The sport of skiing was introduced to North America about a century ago
by the Canadian Pacific Railway in an attempt to draw winter business to
its remote hotels. Guides and mountaineers from Europe were brought to
North America to guide rail passengers on excursions into the mountains.
Since then skiing has become the favorite winter pastime of thousands.
Norway is the birthplace of skiing with the earliest origins of skiing
being traced back as far as 4000-5000 years. In Sweden and Finland the
most primitive ski relics have been excavated from ancient peat bogs.
According to some historians the sport of skiing was enjoyed even in the
Stone Age although none of these participants considered it a sport
using it mainly as a form of travel. Skiing has now become popular
throughout the world making up for a large volume of winter recreation.
The early history of skiing can be linked to the Stone Age era. Various
carvings etched in rock from those times reveal primitive huntsmen
clothed in crude ski cloths chasing game during a hunting expedition.
In these times skiing developed more as a need for hunting
rather than for recreational purpose.
Approximately 1046-1066 the Viking ruler King Harald Hadrade of
Iceland as mentioned in the Eddas (collection of Icelandic poems)
indulged in skiing for gambling and winning prizes. Skiing was
considered a leisure activity for betting and racing. Many aristocrats
indulged in skiing on a regular basis.
In northern Europe people used skis to travel from one place to
another during the harsh and snowy winter months. It served as a means
of transport and communication. In the mid 18th century skiing was
practiced by military troops and competitions were held.
A Norwegian potato farmer from Morgedal named Sondre Norheim devised the
first substantial skiing equipment that was technically sound. This
added a new dimension to the sport. He is often referred to as the
‘Father of modern skiing’ and he was an expert skier himself.
Sondre was fearless and daring, he came up with innovative ideas of
using skis more efficiently. Initially skis were comprised of stiff,
straight-sided planks of wood equipped with unstable toe-strap or heel
strap bindings. This resembled more of a ‘stick riding’ kind of thing
that was neither quick nor graceful. In 1850 Norheim invented a heel
strap made of tough, woven, elastic birch-root tendrils that helped to
hold the foot firmly to the ski so that the skier could efficiently
maneuver without losing the ski.
This Norwegian skiing pioneer brought skiing and slalom competitions
fame and recognition worldwide. No doubt skiing is the national sport of
Norway! The first civilian skiing competition was held in 1843 in Tromso,
Northern Norway. Norwegian people were considered ski experts and they
developed new varieties of skiing equipment, skiing techniques and
styles that were crucial in bringing skiing to the world stage
The major turning point in skiing history came in the year 1868 when
Sondre and his fellow skiers performed at the first national skiing
competition held at Iverslokken, Christiana (now Oslo), the capital of
Norway. Here the great Sondre demonstrated his extraordinary skiing
skills introducing the Telemark turn and the Christiana turn, using
innovative skis and bindings that were relatively new at that time.
Sondre revolutionized skiing from a mere utility into a fun and
Telemark and Alpine skiing are the oldest skiing disciplines, evolving
over time with advanced techniques and equipment being developed. The
telemark style of skiing and slalom style were introduced in Central
Europe in the 1900s. Alpine skiing using the telemark style of turning
gained popularity gradually in Europe, USA and other parts of the world.
The ski used by Telemark skiers basically comprised of a boot mounted to
the ski only at the toe, with the heel free to move up and down. The
skis have curved sides. This ski was suitable for the flatter terrain of
Norway but proved to be quite unstable and inconvenient for the steeper
rugged terrain of the Alps and other European mountains.
The Alpine ski was developed latter which was better suited for alpine
skiing and comprised of a boot that was mounted to the ski at both the
toe and the heel. This gave more control to the skier, allowing them to
manage steeper slopes and ski at greater speeds.
In 1924 the first Winter Olympic Games held in Chamonix, France included
only 5 sports, one was skiing. Later in the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake
Placid, cross-country skiing was introduced. With the advent of Alpine
skiing equipments an Alpine skiing event was introduced in the 1936
Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria. In the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympic
games both disciplines of Telemark and Alpine skiing were combined and
held in the form of the Giant Slalom contest. The world awaits the next
Winter Olympics which is to be held in Vancouver 2010.
Sondre Norheim’s name remains etched in the golden pages of skiing
history forever as the man who made skiing the most popular winter
sport. His birthplace of Overbo at Morgedal is visited by skiing
devotees from across the world and is a holy shrine where the Olympic
torch was lit three times.