Skiing is the activity of gliding over snow using skis (originally wooden planks, now usually made from fiberglass or related composites) strapped to the feet with ski bindings. Originally used primarily for transportation, skiing evolved into a popular recreational and competitive activity during the 20th century.
Although skiing probably evolved gradually from snowshoeing, Norwegian Sondre Norheim is often called the "father of modern skiing". Sondre Norheim invented bindings that enabled the skier to do turns while skiing down hills, this form of skiing was called Slalom by Norheim and his comtemparies. This form of skiing is now referred to as Telemark or Telemark skiing. Skiing originally was a practical activity which resembled today's Nordic, or cross-country, style.
The invention of more firm bindings to attach the skier's feet to the ski, likely by Austrian's Matthias Zdarsky, enabled the skier to turn more effectively and led to the development of Alpine, or Downhill, skiing. Shortly thereafter, in the early 20th century, Austrians Johannes and Hannes Schneider pioneered the idea of rotating the body to help steer the skis. Shortly thereafter, this Arlberg technique, named for their home region, spread around the world and helped make skiing a popular recreational activity.
Types of skiing
Many different types of skiing are popular, especially in colder climes, and many types of competitive skiing events are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Ski Federation (FIS), and other sporting organizations. Skiing is most visible to the public during the Winter Olympic Games where it is a major sport.
In skiing's traditional core regions in the snowy parts of Scandinavia, both recreational and competitive skiing is as likely to refer to the cross-country variants as to the internationally more well-known downhill variants.
For many people, "skiing" means recreational downhill skiing in which one visits a ski resort, purchases a lift ticket, dons cold-weather clothing, skis, ski boots and ski poles, and embarks on a chairlift, gondola lift, or means mechanical uphill transport. Upon reaching the summit, the skier disembarks from the ski lift and travels downhill, propelled by gravity. Skiing technique is very difficult to master and accordingly there are ski schools that teach everything from the basics of turning and stopping safely to more advanced carving and mogul techniques. All skiers must take care to know the limits of their abilities, as the speed and technical difficulty associated with the sport can often lead to crashes or collisions and serious injury.
Many non-skiers wonder why skiers are willing to risk injury. Skiers have a variety of answers to this question, but a common explanation is that it simply feels good, rather like flying, and that, when done carefully, it poses no greater risk of injury compared to other sports. Of course, there is some possibility of danger but curiously, this is also part of the appeal of the sport. Skiing can also be the fastest means of land transport possible without mechanical assistance. Many skiers have had experiences where they have achieved a union of the mind and the body by practicing this sport where the mind trusts the body to perform in an exceptional manner and the body trusts the mind not lead it off a cliff. A sense of harmony and of peak experience can result resulting in a feeling of wholeness of self.
In addition to their role in recreation and sport, skiing is also used as a means of transport by the military, and many armies train troops for ski warfare. Ski troops played a key role in retaining Finnish independence from Russia during the Winter War, and from Germany during the Lapland War, although the use of ski troops was recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. The sport of Biathlon was developed from military skiing patrols.
Skiing was pronounced "she-ing" at the start of the 20th century, after the Norwegian pronunciation, and was usually written "ski-ing".
Skiing for people with disabilities
Downhill skiing for people with disabilities is a recreational past time open to those with any manner of cognitive and/or physical disabilties. Adaptations include the use of outriggers, ski tip retention devices, ski sliders, sit skis (dual and mono), brightly colored guide bibs, ski guides, and skier to skier communcation systems. Recreational skiing programs for people with disabilities exist at mountains across the globe. In the Northeastern part of the United States Maine Handicapped Skiing is one of the largest, operating out of the Sunday River ski resort. In the western part of the United States the Winterpark program in Salt Lake City, Utah attracts world class disabled athletes from Europe, Asia, and North America. Currently the International Ski Federation (FIS) sanctions a number of regional, national, and international disabled skiing events. Skiing for people with disabilities became popular after World War II with the return of injured veterans.
Skiing and society
In some places, particularly in the United States, skiing is often associated with wealth. Some resorts, particularly several in the American state of Colorado, are known as places where the affluent go on vacation.
The term "ski bum" has been used to classify skiers who want to spend the entire skiing season at the resort, engaging in their favorite sport; in reality, however, many different types of people engage in skiing. Some people take days off of work occasionally, go after work, after school, or on the weekends, for short trips if the ski resort is near their home, even if it is almost more than they can afford.
Recently, skiers and snowboarders have engaged in rivalry on and off the slopes, which is usually friendly and increases the notoriety of both sports; snowboarders often share hills with downhill skiers.
When a major celebrity dies in a skiing accident, or someone dies in an avalanche, the public is often made aware of some of the dangers of skiing. In early 1998, when Michael Kennedy and Sonny Bono died within a few days of each other in skiing accidents, there was a major movement to get people to wear helmets.
Snow and weather
Generally, downhill skiers prefer powder because it is more enjoyable. Downhill racers prefer icy slopes because the ice allows for a faster speed. Stiff skis work best for icy conditions. A snow base of 50 inches of snow is usually below optimal for mountains on the U.S. West Coast, but this is considered good for the East Coast. Annual mountain snowfalls are used as a measuring stick to determine how good a hill is for downhill skiing. The top ski resorts will generally get 600 inches or more of annual snowfall. East coast mountains tend to be more icy than mountains on the west coast, but this is not always the case. Also, it is commonly thought that European ski mountains tend to be more icy and have longer lift line-ups, though North American mountains are not excluded from this phenomenon.
Types of skiing
Health and injuries