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The History of Skiing

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Skiing, or traveling over snow on wooden runners, has a recorded history of almost five millennia.

Ancient history

The first hints to the existence of skis are on 4500 to 5000 year old rock drawings, e.g. at Rødøy in Norway. There are also remains of skis in bogs, with the oldest ski found in Hoting, Sweden, which is about 4500 years old.

The word ski goes back to two Old Norse roots, both older than 4500 years: saa and suk. In modern Norwegian this word is pronounced "shee". This word is now used in most languages in the world. Languages like English and French use the original spelling "ski", and modify the pronunciation. Languages like Italian pronounce it exactly as in Norwegian, and modify the spelling: "sci". German and Spanish adapt the word to their linguistic rules; "Schier" and "esquís". Interestingly, many languages make a verb out of it, such as "to ski" in English or "sciare" in Italian, which is not possible in Norwegian. In Swedish, a close relation to Norwegian, the word is "skidor".

Other history sources have it that skiing in Iran dates back to 2000 BC, when ancient tribes are believed to have devised a ski board made from animal hide. Linguists associate the word "ski" with the Aryan language, from which Persian is derived.


There are six possible roots from which skis might have developed:

The pedal snowshoe, which was an oval wooden board later on covered with fur.

The sledge runner, which seems to be a very obvious model for the ski, though it is hardly taken into account.

The fur shoe, which was a combination of moccasins and sandals and worn together with pedal snowshoes.

The marsh shoe, which later on was taken to colder regions with snow.

The canoe or the coracle, both being utilized in northern regions from very early on. Having been used as sledges, small ones might equally have served as proto-skis.

The ski being a spontaneous invention is very unlikely.

The fur that covered the skis made it possible to walk on them nearly noiselessly, prevented them from gliding, avoided snow to stick to them and also strengthened the often thin skis.


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