The History of Skiing

Skiing appears to be the most modern of sports. It is surrounded by the newest gadgets and modern technology, yet people have been skiing for literally thousands of years. There is evidence that people in China were able to ski as far back as 10,000 years ago. The methods of skiing have changed remarkably since the early times, but the reality is that snow has been a part of the planet from the beginning of time and man has always proved adept at living a wide variety of surroundings.

The word ski is of Norse origin and comes from the term “skio”, which means plank of wood. The Nordic countries in particular have for centuries been able to use skis to get around snow covered areas. This was similar to cross country skiing, as it enabled people to simply get from point A to point B.

The first t-bar lift at Davos

There have been skis that have been found that have dated from 1300 years ago that have included leather bindings on the artic ski. It has been a way of life for many years in the colder regions of the world, for people to use skis to get around their community and beyond. Modern day skiing first emerged in the 19th century with the idea of packing the snow on slopes for people to be able to ski down. The development of the train network into the European mountain areas was particularly influential as people could now visit these remote areas. It was during this period that the industrial revolution was creating enough wealth so that a number of people were able to afford to take a holiday. The majority of people were heading towards the coasts but certain mountain communities could see the economic benefit of attracting people into their communities.

Early recreational skiing involved skiers simply climbing a steep slope and then skiing down it. Lifts were not introduced until the 1930s with Davos in Switzerland opening the first ‘T’ bar lift and then in 1936 chairlifts were built in Sun Valley in Idaho. Creating the pistes for the skiers to get down was first done by teams of horses drawing snow rollers down the mountain and road sides. This happened in a variety of villages from the end of the Second World War, although on Mt Cranmore in the States, they had started to use a caterpillar tractor to do the work of the horses from 1939. As technology made advancements after the Second World War in a variety of different areas, so the face of skiing started to change. Firstly the development of commercial air travel meant that people could now travel further to enjoy their skiing.

The modern-day ski and boot

At the first Winter Olympics after the war in 1948 the slalom and the downhill were introduced. This creation of skiing as a sport made it attractive for people to watch and dream of even trying to emulate. In 1964 color coded runs were introduced into resorts. With blue signifying then easiest and red and black representing the more difficult runs. As more people were attracted into the mountains the ski gear became more technologically developed. The first skiers used to have the skis strapped to their boots. Any sudden falls would often result in broken ankles and legs as the boots offered no flexibility.

The book has made vast advancements since these early times. Today the boot is clipped onto the ski and any sudden changes in directions will often result from the boot being separated from the ski. This has dramatically reduced the numbers of injuries although of course there is no way that ski injuries will completely stop.

The advancement in getting people up the mountain and has gone to such far extremes that even helicopters are used to transport the most adventurous skiers to the remotest locations. Gondolas, chair lifts and aerial trams are all used to get the people to the highest points of the resort. If there is no snow then snow canons are put into operation to cover the piste with snow. Skiing is big business and there has been reflected by the high levels of investment.