The sport of downhill skiing has become an iconic part of life in many mountain towns throughout the developed world. As we’ve noted in earlier blogs, the culture, innovation and educational system surrounding this sport have flourished. This culture continues to grown to support a thriving industry that extends far beyond the mountains. Many depend on the sport of skiing to support their livelihoods and way of life . This includes Instructors, coaches, professional athletes, guides, technicians, resort staff and countless industry employees.
How Old Is Skiing Believed To Be?
The roots of downhill skiing begin with this very thing; a way of life. The innovation of skis made this possible. Plus, a rich culture that evolved around these simple tools of movement. Skis gave ancestral peoples unmatched ability to move quickly and efficiently over deep snow. Allowing their hunting parties to successfully track and take down large game animals like elk. Their wooden skis and fitted horse-hide skins made mountain slopes accessible on both uphill and downhill aspects. This meant these hunters could climb undetected above game herds. They could also then stage a quick downhill run to outmaneuver the animals in deep snow packs.
Where Is Skiing Believed to Have Started?
The nomadic peoples in the far north of the Asian and European continents were shaping and utilizing skis as many as 5000, to even 8000 years ago. It’s true! Early skiers in Scandinavia and the Altai Mountains region of China were likely skiing on hand-shaped boards before the Great Pyramids of Egypt existed!
Anthropologists and historians now widely believe that skiing got its start with the nomadic hunters of the Altai region. The art of skiing spread north and then west along the Arctic ocean. Skilled hunters followed herds of elk and reindeer. They eventually reached Scandinavia with the ancestors of the Sami people about 5000 years ago.
Both regions still embrace a rich and unique culture of skiing today. In the Altai Mountains, (in southern Siberia – right at the center of Russia) they carefully hand-crafted skis. A special style of downhill skiing is a source of pride for the Mongol Tuvan tribe. Similarly, the Sami peoples of Scandinavia also remain tied to skiing culture. Their native language includes over 100 distinct words for snow!
The history of skiing is as deep as a great powder day! Use the links in this article to learn more about early skiers, their cultures and of course, the skis themselves.