VIEWS: 1 PAGES: 5 POSTED ON: 5/11/2013
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.
"Skiing - Ning"