Little history of skiing
From ancient times to Norwegian army, the history of king is much different than you thought.
Let’s see how skiing was born.
Ancient beginnings of skiing
Today we think of skiing as a fun winter holiday activity or a professional sport, with athletes plummeting down the hills at heart-stopping speed. However, the history of skiing goes back to a time when it was simply a convenient way to get around. In fact, skiing was invented to satisfy a simple need: moving from point A to point B in the deep snow. Can you imagine traveling through a snow-covered landscape with no roads to be found? And yet, people managed to travel long distances thanks to one smart invention – skis.
Already more than 8000 years ago, inhabitants of Altay in today’s China found a way to traverse waist-deep snow quickly and efficiently. They found, that a long plank of wood helps the body wood to stay afloat the thick snow cover. Better even, if one uses a long stick to keep balance and uses some wax or fat to oil the soles of the planks, one can easily slide down the snow-covered hills.
The first skis were rather long and the skiers used poles to push themselves or keep the balance or even hunt.
The birthplace of European skiing
One of the eldest pair of skis in Europe were found in Scandinavia. Living in a land covered with snow for the majority of the year, one had to be creative with their means of transport.
First simple Scandinavian skis were found in a peat bog in Hoting, in Jämtland County in Sweden. They were dated somewhere between year 4500 and 2500 BC. In the year 1938, a pair of skis were found in Salla, Finland, which were dated at around 3245 BC. Archeologists count more than 20 examples of ancient, well-preserved skis that were found in drained bogs in Norway. This indicates that skis have been widely used in Norway, particularly Northern Norway, since prehistoric times.
The birth of modern skis
The birth of modern skiing is usually attributed to the Norwegian army, which used skis since the mid 18th century. As of beginning of 19th century, skis started becoming increasingly popular among the public and soon became a recognized sport activity. The first public ski competition took place in 1843 in Tromsø, in Norwegian Lapland.
Soon, the sport became incredibly popular among the Brits who started flocking to Switzerland not only during summer as it previously but also winter.
“A bad day skiing beats a good day at work”
Skiing in the language
Given this historic connection, it is, perhaps, not surprising that the word ‘ski’ is derived from an Ancient Norse term word skíð which means “cleft wood” or „stick of wood”. In Old Norse common phrases describing skiing were:
- fara á skíðum (to travel, move fast on skis);
- renna (to move swiftly);
- skríða á skíðum (to stride on skis).
Sami, the indigenous people of Scandinavia are believed to skied first.
Modern history of skiing goes beyond the Scandinavian peninsula. Skis were used by gold miners in Sierra Nevada during the American gold rush. Locked in their mountain huts and cut off the world with thick snow cover, the miners used skis to travel between their huts and bring supplies from the towns miles away.
Skiing in Switzerland
At the end of 19th century skiing was still considered an activity for wealthy tourists visiting Swiss Alps all years round. At the beginning of the 20th century, skiing took hold as a popular winter activity in in the most renowned winter resorts such as St. Moritz and Davos. Still, it was mostly British tourists who took advantage of the incredible slopes of the Swiss Alps. Soon though, the Swiss Ski Association was founded and skiing started gaining popularity among the natives of Switzerland.
Over the last century, Switzerland has grown into one of the most important skiing centers in the world. Switzerland boasts an incredible number of ski resorts of every size and skiing is nothing short of a national sport for many.
Still, tourists flock the Alps during the winter season to enjoy the warm hospitality of chalets and lively après ski bars. They all come to feel the rush of adrenaline and the sense of freedom, which humans have enjoyed for thousands of years when sliding down on skis.
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