Video demonstration of a variety of ski techniques used in the 1940s.
Skiing has a history of almost five millennia. Although modern skiing has evolved from beginnings in Scandinavia, it may have been practiced more than 100 centuries ago in what is now China, according to an interpretation of ancient paintings. However, this continues to be debated.
The word "ski" is one of a handful of words that Norway has exported to the international community. It comes from the Old Norse word "skíð" which means "split piece of wood or firewood".
Asymmetrical skis were used in northern Finland and Sweden until at least the late 19th century. On one foot, the skier wore a long straight non-arching ski for sliding, and a shorter ski was worn on the other foot for kicking. The underside of the short ski was either plain or covered with animal skin to aid this use, while the long ski supporting the weight of the skier was treated with animal fat in a similar manner to modern ski waxing.
Early skiers used one long pole or spear. The first depiction of a skier with two ski poles dates to 1741.
Troops on continental Europe were equipped with skis by 1747.
Skiing was primarily used for transport until the mid-19th century, but since then has also become a recreation and sport. Military ski races were held in Norway during the 18th century, and ski warfare was studied in the late 18th century. As equipment evolved and ski lifts were developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, two main genres of skiing emerged--Alpine (downhill) skiing and Nordic skiing. The main difference between the two is the type of ski binding (the way in which the ski boots are attached to the skis).
Also called "downhill skiing", Alpine skiing typically takes place on a piste at a ski resort. It is characterized by fixed-heel bindings that attach at both the toe and the heel of the skier's boot. Ski lifts, including chairlifts, bring skiers up the slope. Backcountry skiing can be accessed by helicopter, snowcat, hiking and snowmobile. Facilities at resorts can include night skiing, après-ski, and glade skiing under the supervision of the ski patrol and the ski school. Alpine skiing branched off from the older Nordic type of skiing around the 1920s when the advent of ski lifts meant that it was no longer necessary to climb back uphill. Alpine equipment has specialized to the point where it can now only be used with the help of lifts. More recently the Alpine Touring variant has emerged, commonly referred to as "uphilling". AT setups use specialized bindings which are switchable between locked and free-heel modes. Climbing skins are temporarily attached to the bottom of alpine skis to give them traction on snow. This permits Nordic style uphill and back-country travel on alpine skis. For downhill travel the heels are locked and the skins are removed.
The Nordic disciplines include cross-country skiing and ski jumping, which both use bindings that attach at the toes of the skier's boots but not at the heels. Cross-country skiing may be practiced on groomed trails or in undeveloped backcountry areas. Ski jumping is practiced in certain areas that are reserved exclusively for ski jumping.
Telemark skiing is a ski turning technique and FIS-sanctioned discipline, which is named after the Telemark region of Norway. It uses equipment similar to Nordic skiing, where the ski bindings are attached only at the toes of the ski boots, allowing the skier's heel to be raised throughout the turn. However, the skis themselves are often the same width as Alpine skis.
The following disciplines are sanctioned by the FIS. Many have their own world cups and are included in the Winter Olympic Games.
Freeriding skiing - This category of skiing includes any practice of the sport on non-groomed terrain.
Nordic combined - A combination of cross-country skiing and ski jumping, this discipline is contested at the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup, the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships (odd-numbered years only), and at the Winter Olympics.
Speed skiing - Dating from 1898, with official records beginning in 1932 with an 89-mile-per-hour (143 km/h) run by Leo Gasperi, this became an FIS discipline in the 1960s. It is contested at the FIS Speed Ski World Cup, and was demonstrated at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.
Skiboarding - Using a snowboard in conjunction with standard ski boots, this discipline is essentially a combination of skiing and snowboarding. Various skiboarding competitions have been trialed over recent years, including the Skiboard Triple Challenge, United Skiboard Series, European Skiboard Cup, Skiboard World Cup and the US Skiboard Open.
Telemark - Named after the Telemark region of Norway, this discipline combines elements of Alpine and Nordic skiing. A relatively new competitive sport, Telemark racing is contested at the FIS Telemark World Cup and the FIS Telemark World Championships.
Grass skiing - Originally developed as an alpine skiing training method, skiing on grass has become established as a skiing discipline in its own right. It is contested at the FIS Grass Skiing World Cup and the FIS Grass Ski World Championships.
Four groups of different ski types, from left to right: 1. Non-sidecut: cross-country, telemark and mountaineering 2. Parabolic 3. Twin-tip 4. Powder
Equipment used in skiing includes:
Skis, which may have skins applied or be textured for uphill traction or wax applied for minimizing sliding friction. Twin-tip skis are designed to move forwards or backwards.