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Skiing Origins China vs. Norway

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The ancient history of skiing

The first sign of skis are on 4,500 to 5,000 year old rock drawings, for example at Rødøy in Norway. These drawings depict a man on skis holding a stick. The remains of skis have also been found in bogs, with the oldest skis found in Hoting, Sweden which are known as the Kalvträskskidan, comprised a pair of wooden skis and a carving of shovel-shaped ski people. The skis have been dated to 3,200 BC, 600+ years before the cave painting were created in Norway. The Kalvträskskidan are made of pine cut from trees that grew on a hillside and possess four holes for a binding-cord. This arrangement is similar to the skis used in ancient Siberia.

The earliest people to ski in Fennoscandia were most propably distant ancestors of modern day Samis. Old historic recordings mention people called Skrithifinns or “skiing wanderer”. Other history sources say that skiing in Iran dates back to 2,000 BC, when ancient tribes are said to have produced a ski board made from animal hide.

Dundebulake River pictographs.Dundebulake River pictographs.
Petroglyph Skier.Petroglyph Skier.

Newly discovered Altaic regional cave paintings in the remote Altay mountains of Xinjiang province of China display four hunters on boards with poles in their hands, chasing cattle and horses – the Xinhua story proposed that “Chinese were adept skiers in the Old Stone Age,” and that skiing originated there 100 to 200 centuries ago.

Skiing in recent times

During the 17th century the baron of Valvasor wrote reports on skiing activities in Slovenia. At the time Skis were used by the military which consequently speeded up their development and spread. The Norwegian military had skiing competitions from the 1670s and the first known civilian ski race took place in 1843 at Tromsø, Norway.

Skis were used in the 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, with speeds of up to 90 mph, were organized between competing mining camps by 1857.

Ski pioneer Sondre Norheim, from Morgedal in Telemark, is known as the father of 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.  In 1850 he is credited with inventing a heel-strap binding using birch-tree roots. This organic heel strap was instrumental in allowing skiers to attempt jumps and steep downhill runs without losing their skis. 

Altai Skiers.  Photo by Dave WaggAltai Skiers.  Photo by Dave Wagg

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, now known as Oslo. He may not have actually invented anything, since there is little evidence to prove that he did, as most of the inventions attributed to Norheim were known a long time before him. 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. However, Sondre Norheim proved an inspiration for generations of skiers.

In 1880, the Englishman, William Cecil Slingsby, helped inspire ski mountaineering after his crossing of the 1,550m-high Keiser Pass, Norway, on skis. Just a few years later, in 1888, the Norwegian, Fridtjof Nansen made the first crossing of Greenland, by travelling from East to West on skis. The report on his expedition 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 wealthy classes of Europe, as well as being adopted by the army in several countries.

Skis were first manufactured in 1879 by a Norwegian immigrant to Minnesota named Martin Strand. Minnesota remained dominant in ski manufacturing when in 1911 the Northland Ski Company was founded and produced hickory skis that remained the market standard for 30 years. The future arrived in 1933 when the Norwegian Ostbye-Splitkein and the Americans Anderson and Thompson developed the first laminated skis. A year later in 1934, all-aluminum skis were developed and sold in France, though they enjoyed only a limited production run Aluminum skis were to gain commercial viability in 1949 when produced by the American Howard Head. Fiberglass came of age in 1960 when Kneissl, Sailer and Plymold developed the first commercially viable fiberglass ski.
 

Read more about the recent discoveries in China below - 

© Vintage Winter


2 Responses

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セリーヌコピー

July 19, 2013

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Heidi
Heidi

October 27, 2009

I just saw these Altai Chinese skiers in the new Warren Miller film Dynasty

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