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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "History of skiing".

Skiing or traveling over snow on wooden runners, has a recorded history of almost five millennia.

Ancient history

The first hints to the existence of skis are on 26th century BC|4500 to 5000 year old rock drawings, e.g. at Rødøy in Norway, which depict a man on skis holding a stick. There are also remains of skis in bogs, with the oldest ski found in Hoting, Sweden, which is about 4500 years old. The earliest people to ski in Fennoscandia were propably the distant ancestors of modern day Samis. In old historic recordings there are mentionings of people called Skrithifinns or "skiing Finns". However it is not sure who the Skrithifinns were.

The word ski goes back to the Old Norse word skíð meaning "a stick of wood". This word is now used in most languages in the world. Languages like English and French use the original spelling "ski", and modify the pronunciation. Languages like Italian pronounce it exactly as in Norwegian ("shee"), and modify the spelling: "sci". German and Spanish adapt the word to their linguistic rules; "Schier" and "esquís". Interestingly, many languages make a verb out of it, such as "to ski" in English or "sciare" in Italian, which is not possible in Norwegian. In Swedish, a close relation to Norwegian, the word is "skidor" (pl.). However Finnish language has its own ancient words for skis and skiing. In Finnish ski is suksi and skiing is hiihtää.

Other history sources have it that skiing in Iran dates back to 2000 BC, when ancient tribes are believed to have devised a ski board made from animal hide.


There are six possible roots from which skis 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.
  • The fur shoe, which was a combination of moccasins and sandals and worn together with pedal snowshoes.
  • The marsh shoe, later was taken to colder regions.
  • The canoe or the coracle, both used in northern regions from very early on. Having been used as sledges, small ones might have served as proto-skis.
  • Spontaneous invention.

Early Skis

Different types of skis have emerged at various regions at about the same time. One suggested original inventors of skis seem to be the people of the Sajan-Altaic Mountains in Asia. This is not verified. Also skis may have been used in Europe during and after the ice age. All in all there are three different types of skis in the North of Europe and Asia:

  • 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 skiing|Telemark ski were developed from this type.
  • Eastern Siberian type is a thin board with a vertical four-hole binding. Sometimes it is covered with fur.
  • There is still another type. It has a horizontal stem-hole binding. One can distinguish between the types used by Lapps (and some other Fenno-ugrics) and a type used in Central and Northern Siberia. Cross-country skis were developed from the type used by the Lapps.

Ski Poles

Ski poles go back to two roots:

  • The walking 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

Pioneer Sondre Norheim, from Morgedal in Telemark, has often been called the father of modern skiing for inventing the equipment and techniques that led to modern skiing as we see it today. Having grown up in the farmlands of Norwegian Telemark, Norheim invented a “birch” binding that enabled skiers to ski without the risk of losing their skis. Then, in 1870, Norheim introduced a short, curved, flexible ski he crafted in order to allow for easy turning in soft snow. Norheim, at the age of forty-three, went on to become the winner of the first Norwegian downhill skiing competition in Christiania, Oslo.

It is possible, however, that he actually did not invent anything, since there is little evidence to prove that he did. The story about Sondre as the father of modern skiing was largely constructed in Norway from the 1930s, especially in connection with the Olympic Winter Games in Oslo in 1952. Most of the inventions attributed to Norheim were known a long time before him. Even still, Sondre Norheim proved an inspiration for generations.

Other people are also given credit in other locations. For example, carved into the cliff at Battle Creek Park in St. Paul, Minnesota is "Pete Dennison - Father of Skiing 1908-1988."

Events in the development of modern skiing include:

  • In the 17th century the baron of Valvasor wrote reports on skiing activities in Slovenia.
  • The usefulness of skis for military purpose speeded up their development and spread. The Norwegian military had skiing competitions from the 1670s.
  • The first known civilian ski race took place in Tromsø, Norway in 1843.
  • 1861, the first identifiable and ceaseless ski club was formed at Kiandra, Australia. (Confirmed by name and membership list). (Kiandra snow shoe club)
  • 1861, unidentified ski clubs were reported to be formed at Onion Valley and La Porte, California.
  • 1861, the "Trysil Skytte- og Skiløberforening" (Shot and Ski Practitioner Association) was founded in Trysil, Hedmark, Norway. ([[1]])
  • Skis were used in the Sierra Nevada (US)|Sierra Nevada gold fields in 1850 and later to ferry mail from Carson City, Nevada to Placerville, California in 1856, crossing 94 miles in 4 days. Downhill ski races (at up to 90 mph) were organized between competing mining camps by 1857, and hit their peak in 1869, under the rules of the Thompson Alpine Club.
  • In 1875, the first ski club, and two years later the first ski school were founded in Kristiania (now Oslo).
  • 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 Englishman William Cecil Slingsby, the "father of Norwegian mountaineering", helped inspire ski mountaineering after his crossing of the 1,550m high (5,800 feet) Keiser Pass, Norway, on skis in 1880.
  • In 1888 the Austrian Max Kleinoschegg had his first attempts on skis on the Ruckerlberg near Graz.
  • Also in 1888, the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen made the first crossing of Greenland, travelling from East to West on skis. The report on his expedition, Paa ski over Grønland, was published in 1890 in both Norwegian and English, and later in German. It aroused great interest in skiing in Europe and the United States, as well as creating a Norwegian national hero. From then on skiing was regularly in the news, and was soon adopted as a pastime and a sport by the wealthier class system|classes of Europe, as well as being adopted by the military in several countries.
  • The first ski club in central Europe was founded at Munich, Germany, during the winter of 1890 to 1891.
  • In 1891 the Austrian hotelier Toni Schruf (in collaboration with Max Kleinoschnegg) ascended the Stuhleck (1782m) near Mürzzuschlag in the Semmering region, the first significant mountain in Austria which was ascended on skis.
  • The German Wilhelm von Arlt made the first ski ascent of over 3,000m, when he climbed the Rauris Sonnblick (3,103m / 10,180 feet high) in 1894. In doing so, he became the father of ski mountaineering. He was also the starter of summer skiing, for he took the first significant summer ski tour on August 30, 1897
  • The first ski tour in the Alps took place in 1894 when the local Branger brothers teamed up with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle--creator of Sherlock Holmes--for a traverse from Davos (Frauenkirch) to Arosa. Conan-Doyle was living in the area as his wife took the cure for TB. He ordered the skis from Norway & applied himself to learning to ski as a cure for his enforced idlement in the sleepy Alpine town.
  • In 1896 the German ski pioneer Wilhelm Paulcke ascended the Oberalpstock on his Norwegian skis. In 1897 he crossed the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland and skied to 4,200-m on Monte Rosa in 1898.
  • Dr. Hermann Seiler - President of the Monte Rosa section of the Swiss Alpine Club and coproprietor of the Seiler Hotels Zermatt - organizes the first ski training course that ever took place in Switzerland in January of 1902. Capable students, the 12 guides ascend Cima di Jazzi on their fourth day (cf. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 8th of February 1952, Nr. 282).
  • The first packaged ski holidays took place in 1903, to Adelboden, Switzerland, organised on a commercial basis by Sir Henry Simpson Lunn|Henry Lunn under the guise of the Public Schools Alpine Sports Club, which booked entire hotels. Winter holidays in Switzerland had become very popular with the British aristocracy since the first winter tourists to St Moritz in 1864.
  • A National Ski Tournament was held in Ishpeming, Michigan in 1905, including a 393 ft-high ski jump.
  • 1908 - The earliest fully documented "International Ski Carnival" was held at Kiandra, Australia. Downhill placings - Winner, Charles Menger, Denver, America, 2nd Australia, 3rd England. ([[2]])
  • A major downhill ski race, the Roberts of Kandahar Cup took place in Crans-Montana (Crans-sur-Sierre) in 1911, the cup donated by Frederick Skeigh Roberts|Lord Roberts of Kandahar.
  • The first(?) downhill race took place in 1921, organised by Sir Arnold Lunn for the British National Ski Championships, followed by the first modern slalom skiing|slalom in 1922, also by Lunn.
  • 1924 saw the foundation of the International Ski Federation in Chamonix, France.
  • The Rottefella (rat trap) lightweight toe binding was invented by Bror With of Norway. The binding was a great success at the St. Moritz olympics the following year, and has been, in various forms, the preferred cross country ski binding ever since.
  • In March 1928, downhill and the modern slalom skiing|slalom events were combined for the first time to form the Arlberg-Kandahar competition|Arlberg-Kandahar open international alpine skiing competition, organised by Arnold Lunn and Hannes Schneider in St. Anton, Austria.
  • At the invitation of the FIS, the Ski Club of Great Britain organises downhill and slalom races in parallel with the 1928 Second Winter Olympics at St Moritz.
  • In 1929, Orland Bartholomew skied alone over 300 miles of California's High Sierras from Cottonwood Creek to Yosemite National Park roughly following the line of the summer route that is now known as the John Muir Trail. This included the first winter ascent of the highest peak in the lower 48, Mt. Whitney. Bartholomew was self-supported using food caches placed over the summer.
  • The first resort-based ski school in the U.S. was opened in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire in 1929 (at that time part of Lisbon, New Hampshire|Lisbon, by Katharine "Kate" Peckett, with her husband, Austrian immigrant ski instructor Sig Buchmayer. The same year, organized ski trains from Boston began running to the White Mountains (New Hampshire)|White Mountains of New Hampshire, where summer tourist trains had been going for decades.
  • Ski jumping and cross-country competition were events in the 1932 winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York.
  • First rope-tow in America was developed in 1932, by Alex Foster and operated at Shawbridge, Quebec, using an old automobile with the rope looped around a wheel rim. Similar device copied and used in the U.S. in 1934, in Woodstock, Vermont.
  • First aluminum skis, 1934, France.
  • T-bar implemened at Davos in 1935, outgrowth of J-bar invented same year by Dartmouth Outing Club of Hanover, New Hampshire (first overhead-cable ski lift).
  • First heel-grip cable binding implemented in 1935 by Kandahar.
  • Used as a summer get-away for early Mormons in Salt Lake City, Utah, Brighton Ski Area began in 1936 when members of the Alpine Ski Club built a rope tow from wire and an old elevator motor.
  • World's first overhead chairlift built at Sun Valley, Idaho in 1936.
  • Third Winter Games of Olympics, at Garmisch 1936, include world's first alpine events: downhill and combined slalom.
  • First U.S. aerial tramway, installed at Cannon Mountain (New Hampshire)|Cannon Mountain in 1938.
  • President Roosevelt authorizes the formation of the 10th Mountain Division. At the termination of WWII, 10th Mountain members return to the States & become a major force in the development of U.S. downhill skiing. One of these men, Montgomery Atwater, begins the country's first avalanche study & mitigation program at Alta, Utah.
  • Artificially made snow, 1952 at Grossinger's in New York. Other evidence suggests that Art Hunt, Wayne Pierce and Dave Richey of Connecticut built a snowmaking device, using compressed air and water, which they implemented in 1950;
  • Fiberglass skis successfully marketed in 1960 by Kneissl, Plymold, Sailer.
  • All-plastic boots introduced by Lange (ski boots)|Lange in 1964.

Ski jumping

The first skiing events where ski jumping was included were held in Tromsø, 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 ski jump|Holmenkollen from 1892, and Holmenkollen was to become the Mecca of ski jumping.

Tough Times

In the second half of the twentieth century skiing became a sport for the rich. Real-estate prices in ski resorts skyrocketed, and the prices of skiing increased far faster then the cost of living elsewhere. Skiing became as much a fashion statement as it was a sport. In the 70s, new and unheard-of forms of skiing became popular. Competitions such as on-snow ballet grew to be considered legitimate forms of skiing. These new ways of skiing were simply for style, and held little relevance to the sport itself. Then, in the 80s and 90s when snowboarding became popular in the main stream, skiing saw its first downfall. With the invention of snowboards, skiing was not the only way one could get down a mountain.

Bucking this trend was the club skiing scene of New Zealand, where through all the changes, queues remained unheard-of and prices low, fashion irrelevant and skiing more popular than boarding.

Parabolic Revolution

Following in snowboarding's footsteps, an extreme skiing movement began to emerge in the late 1980’s and early 90s. Extreme skiing was made possible through the introduction of parabolic technology, derived from the deep sidecut edges found on snowboards. Parabolic skis were shorter and fatter than skis of the past. The shape of the ski gave it better carving and turning capabilities. They held the snow better in extreme conditions such as steep runs and deep powder.

Even though parabolic skis were specifically designed for powder skiing and they were far superior then longer straight skis, most ski enthusiasts frowned upon them. They were said to be a form of cheating, and it was thought that they took all the skill out of big mountain skiing. Despite the criticism, fat skis continued to be produced and used in ski schools. They rapidly gained popularity with the public, and eventually became the accepted standard. Converts quickly realised that while fat skis made big mountain skiing easier, they also allowed them to do steeper more technical lines.

Advances in parabolic ski technology have enabled skiers started to adapt snowboarding form and tricks to skiing, and it's now not uncommon to regularly see skiers alongside snowboarders in halfpipes and terrain parks.

Individual Country Histories


Skiing in Australia began on the Kiandra goldfields in the 19th century. Australian High Country History


Mathias Zdarsky, the so-called "Father of Alpine Skiing", started skiing in 1890. Austrian Skiing History

External links





  • Holmenkollen Ski Museum in Oslo
  • Kongsberg Skiing Museum in Kongsberg
  • Norsk skieventyr in Morgedal, Norway


  • Norway, The Northern Playground by William Cecil Slingsby, ISBN 1-904466-07-9.
  • How the English Made the Alps by Jim Ring, ISBN 0-7195-5689-9
  • High Odyssey by Eugene Rose. The story of Orland Bartholomew's 1928 ski traverse of California's High Sierra (available from the Sequoia Natural History Association).
  • Crossing An Alpine Pass On Ski by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in "The Strand" magazine, 1894


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