this is a paper i wrote for my graduation requirements paper for english class. it sucks cause i was high nost of the time, but there's some pretty cool shit in it.
Imagine this: you’re skiing down a mile long slope at 45 miles an hour. The wind is blowing in your face, trees whiz past your head, you hear the sound of your edges cutting into the snow every time you carve a turn. This is the most wonderful feeling you’ve ever experienced. Now you might understand why forty million people worldwide choose Alpine skiing as their favorite winter sport (Lund), but did you even wonder how it was invented?
Alpine skiing has progressed through equipment and technique over the past thousand years. The first evidence of any skiing at all is dated back thousands of years, around the same time period as Egyptian pyramid building. Wooden planks with toe straps, or straps connecting the ski to the front of the foot, have been found in mud bogs that have been moss dated to 4,500 years. Although, cave paintings suggest skiing has been around much longer.
The first caveman ever to strap skis on his feet didn’t do it to have a good time; he did it to survive. Early skis were used to hunt and travel in the deep snow of the Arctic Rim (“History of Alpine Skiing”). These skis were about ten feet long, and were propelled by long sticks. This technique of skiing was known as “stick-riding”. The skier carried a long stick, which they thrust into the ground to steer themselves. The rider would lean on the right side to turn right, and the left to turn left. Such a riding technique was neither quick, nor smooth. Skis such as these were not safe to take on steep hills for they were hard to control. They were designed basically to make it easier to travel through snow.
Skiing was not enjoyed recreationally up until about one thousand years ago. The first group of people to discover the joys of skiing was the Vikings (Lund). There are descriptions of people skiing written in Icelandic poetry known as Eddas, which was composed around 1000 A.D. Skiing was a symbol of aristocracy and was often bet upon to receive wagers by aristocrats such as Harald Hadrade (1046-1066A.D.)(Lund). This fad quickly spread to the Telemark region of Norway, where it went through the most drastic changes.
After many years of trial and error, the people of the Telemark region created the Nordic, or Telemark, ski binding. On the Nordic ski, there was an additional heel strap added to the existing toe strap, which was used for “stick-riding”. The heel strap was designed to keep constant pressure on the toe strap to keep the ski bound to the foot, yet the heel was free to move up and down. There are two different turning techniques used in Nordic skiing to control speed: the Christiania and the Telemark. The Christiania turn is used on more gradual terrain, and the skier keeps both his skis parallel. The Telemark turn is performed when the skier lifts the heel of his uphill foot to perform smooth, swift turns. This method is used mostly on steeper terrain.
The first publicly announced non-military ski event was held on March 21, 1843. It was hosted in Tromso, Northern Norway. As time went on, more and more people began to ski, and competitions such as this one were beginning to appear in many parts of Norway, especially Trondheim, Trysil, and Telemark (“Sondre Norheim”).
The British, who had learned to ski in Norway, or from friends who had learned there, did not invent Alpine skiing until the early 1900’s. The difference between Alpine and Nordic skiing lies mostly in the binding system. The binding on an Alpine ski is connected at both heel and toe, giving the skier more control over his skis, whereas on a Nordic ski it is only connected at the toe.
With the creation of Alpine skiing came many different sorts races. The first Alpine races were like modern day downhill races (Thorne, Patrick). There were no gates to pass through or turns required, the first to the bottom won. The first downhill race to be recorded in history was the “Roberts of Kandahar Challenge Cup”, which was held in winter, 1911 in Montana, Switzerland (“Timeline of Important Ski History Dates“). “The Kandahar” is still held annually in Mürren, Switzerland.
The second type of Alpine race was invented in January of 1922 by a British skier by the name of Arnold Lunn (Needham, Dick). This was the slalom race. Lunn dared his friends to ski through a series of wands paired together and stuck in the snow. Unknowingly, he created the most popular form of Alpine racing to date, which led to the creation of the giant slalom. As slalom became more popular, people began holding Alpine combined races, which combined slalom and downhill.
The equipment used in Alpine skiing has gone through many changes over the years, especially in the boots and bindings. The first Alpine skis were attached to the foot by buckles, which were hand fastened, and only came apart if forced or unlatched. The early boots were made of leather and often stretched from getting wet. If a ski happened to come off the skier’s foot it would slide down the slope like a missile, putting other skiers in danger.
It was not until 1939 that the first releasing ski binding was invented by Hjalmar Hvam. Hvam had broken his leg twice in two seasons because of the dangerous equipment, and decided to set out to make a safer binding. What he came up with was a swiveling toe piece, which released when a certain amount of pressure was applied. Hvam called this binding the “Saf-Ski”. The first heel-and-toe release system was invented by Mitch Cubberly and Earl Miller in the 1950’s, yet the ski still had to be latched to the boot.
In the late 1950’s LOOK© came out with the a step-in binding, which eliminated the need to bend over every time you needed to put your ski back on. This was the first fully integrated step-in/release binding system, yet it was still not reliable. It was 20 years before engineers had figured out the complexities of this sort of binding. In 1970 a safe, reliable step-in binding was finally developed.
Ski themselves went through many changes too in the 1900’s. In 1946, Head© developed the first aluminum, wood-core ski, which started a new generation of skiing. In 1947 the first hard, yet super smooth ski sole was invented. This base was known as Cellulix. It eliminated the hassle of having to rub wax on the bottom of the ski every couple of runs. Now the skier could wax his ski once and not need to wax it again for weeks.
Skiing was introduced to the Army in June 1941 (“Timeline of Important Ski History Dates“), when the 87th Infantry Division was activated. When World War II ended, many of the 87th Infantry Division’s veterans returned to America and founded ski resorts, such as Peter Seibert, who founded Colorado’s Vail ski resort in December of 1962 (“Timeline of Important Ski History Dates“). Fried Pfiefer was also a veteran who had returned to America and founded Aspen ski resort in Colorado.
Over the past thousands of years skiing has gone through many drastic changes. I’m sure that the early pioneers of skiing would never have Imagined it would become what it is today. Just imagine what skiing will be like in another 1000 years, if it still exists. Works Cited
“History of Alpine Skiing”. 21 February, 2003. http://www.speedski.com/historyofskiing.html.
Lund, Morten. “A Short History of Alpine Skiing”. Winter, 1996. Skiing Heritage. 21 February, 2003. http://www.skiinghistory.org/history.html.
Needham, Dick. Ski: Fifty Years in North America. New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987.
Pfief, Pat. “General Skiing History”. http://www.vailsoft.com/museum/historyUS.html.
“Sondre Norheim- the Skiing Pioneer of Telemark”. 21 February, 2003. http://www.sondrenorheim.com/history.html.
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