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Skiing - Ning

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									Skiing. The act of attaching two glorified planks to your feet and sliding down a
snow-covered hill at high velocities. So simple and yet so entertaining. It may be
difficult to explain to non-skiers, but to a ski junkie such as myself some of the best
moments in life occur strapped to boards made of fiberglass, wood (or alternatively
foam or aluminum), polyethylene and steel. I think I can honestly say that the
greatest feeling in life occurs when you clip into your bindings after a long weary
trudge up a snow covered peak and begin your rapid descent through waist high
powder, cruising through glades of trees deformed by massive layers of snowfall.
Your skis cut through the snow, giving you flotation as to not sink completely into
the fine frozen water crystals. These crystals are shot up into the air with every
carving turn, catching the sunlight and bombarding your brightly colored ski
equipment. Every so often, one will find its way inside, instantly melting against
your hot skin, cooling you down from the hike up to the top. Every so often you see
a perfectly shaped pillow and launch off it, trailing a huge cloud of powder. For a
split second time completely stops, and you are 100 percent in the moment. All
other thoughts and worries simply fall away as you focus completely on your body
and landing the jump. It is an exhilarating feeling and adrenaline shoots through
your body. THWUMP! Before you have a chance to truly enjoy it, the moment is over
and you are back to slicing through the snow looking for the next adrenaline rush.
While you are skiing, you have no outside thoughts; it is only on the ride home, with
your body glowing with the warmth of a physical workout, that you begin to ponder.
Where did skiing come from? Who came up with the idea? How did our gear evolve?
After a little bit of research I discovered that skis originated from Scandinavia (who
would’ve figured eh?) and are as old as the Egyptian pyramids (so about 5000
years). They were originally not used for leisure and entertainment but for
transportation and facilitating hunting through the deep snows of the northern
regions. These first forms of transit evolved from early snowshoes and were
constructed from long animal femur bones and can be seen in prehistoric
pictographic paintings. Wood planks with leather straps have been discovered in a
bog and moss dated to be 4500 years old. These forerunners of skis were
maneuvered by a technique called “stick-riding”. The riders would hold a solitary
pole and scraped it on the ground, using it for balance, steering and propulsion
forward. This method wasn’t really very effective, especially in steep down hills, but
it was still much more efficient than battling your way through meters of snow on
foot.




Skiing only evolved from survival to entertainment 1000 years ago, in the medieval
ages. There is mention of skiing in the Icelandic Eddas poetry, composed around
1000 A.D. The Vikings are believed to have been the first people to ski for
enjoyment, even gambling on ski results. The popularity of the sport quickly spread
all around the Scandinavian regions. However, skis were not used only for fun and
enjoyment. It was soon discovered that skis gave a very decisive military advantage
in winter combat. In the year 1200, during the Battle of Oslo, the Norwegians used
scouts on skis for reconnaissance against their
Swedish counterparts.
Skis were also used during a multitude of
conflicts such as the World Wars. In the Winter
War of 1939, 11000 Finnish ski soldiers
decimated 45000 mechanized Soviet soldiers.
The tradition of training soldiers to use skis
continues all the way to the modern day. In
fact, skiing is part of basic training of the
Norwegian army and most other Scandinavian
military forces.
 However, going back to the fun side of skiing, the first publicly announced non-
military ski event was held on March 21, 1843 in Tromsø, Norway. From that point
on skiing really began to evolve. First came downhill races, with the simple objective
of first person to the bottom taking the victory, the first of which being the
‘Kandahar’ in 1911 (This race is still held every year in Mürren, Switzerland). Then,
in 1922, a British skier named Arnold Lunn challenged his friends to ski through a
series of poles stuck into the ground. His idea quickly caught on and became the
most popular form of ski racing today; slalom. The first Olympic Winter Games in
1924, held in Chamonix, France, included the disciplines cross-country skiing, ski
jumping, Nordic combined (a combination of cross-country and ski jumping), and
Military Patrol (An early form of biathlon, combining skiing with rifle
marksmanship). Alpine skiing joined the ranks in the 1936 Winter Olympics at
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.




From the inclusion in the Olympics onwards, skiing just became more and more
popular. Ski resorts began to pop up and with the invention of the rope tow in 1932
and then the chairlift in 1937, enthusiasm for skiing skyrocketed. The increasing
amount of skiers meant that ski equipment had to improve as well. Before 1939 skis
were made from light wood like hickory or ash and were attached to your feet with
leather straps. In the case of a wipeout, the bindings would not release, which could
lead to nasty twisting injuries or broken legs. Fed up after breaking his leg twice,
Norwegian Hjalmar Hvam decided to do something about the unsafe bindings and
invented a binding he called the “Saf-Ski” which would reliably release the skiers
boot in case of an accident but stayed in place during normal skiing. These safety
bindings were a massive improvement over the old system but still not perfect. In
the 1950’s LOOK developed the first step in binding design but it took until the
1970’s for a safe and reliable step in binding to be developed. Skis themselves also
evolved quite drastically from the original wooden design. The traditional wooden
ski was rapidly replaced with steel edged and wood or another material core.
Synthetic materials such as polyethylene were used for bases and skis were not
required to be waxed after every day of skiing.
                                       Sadly, in the 1990’s the popularity of skiing
                                       began to wane. Most young athletes went
                                       directly to the ‘cool’ new sport of snowboarding
                                       and compared to the insane tricks and chill
                                       lifestyle of snowboarders, skiing began to be
                                       considered a sport for racers and old guys, in
                                       other words, boring. Snowboarders began to
                                       outnumber skiers. Seeing this trend, ski
                                       companies decided something had to be done.
                                       They attempted wild, out-of-the-box ideas like
snowblades and super short skis, both of which failed. Luckily for the entire culture
of skiing, help was on the horizon. A young group of freestylers composed of Mike
Douglas, JF Cusson, JP Auclair, Vincent Dorion and Shane Szocs, calling themselves
the New Canadian Air Force, had begun hitting up the then dubbed “snowboard
park” on their skis during their free time. They believed they could do anything
snowboarders could do, and do it better, on skis. At
the time, all they had to their disposal were their
mogul skis, but they had an idea. They sent their
proposal to multiple ski companies but all but
Salomon declined the idea. Little did they know they
had one of the most revolutionary ideas in the
modern skiing world on their hands. In 1998,
Salomon released the 1080, a twin tipped alpine ski.
This new technology opened whole new realms of
skiing and skiing culture. New tricks were invented
almost daily and freeskiing began to be accepted in
competitions and the skiing population. The trend of
stagnation was overcome, and once again, skiing is
more popular than snowboarding.

A whole new culture (almost with its own language) has formed around the “new
school” movement. From femurs to fiberglass. From survival to sport. The pioneers
of skiing could never have imagined how skiing has evolved over the decades.

								
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