While many people dread the beginning of winter, outdoor enthusiasts revel in the winter landscape. Skiing is a popular winter recreation activity for people around the world. But did you ever stop to think about when people begin incorporating skiing into their lifestyle?
Flash back to 6300 B.C.E. and envision the snowy, harsh terrain of Europe and Asia. The earliest archaeological evidence of skiing dates back to this time, and a wooden ski was discovered just north of Lake Sindor outside of Moscow, Russia. Our human ancestors began hunting the variety of fauna living in the European and Asian continents. Moving over snow-covered terrain can severely limit mobility, and our innovative ancestors developed skis to move swiftly and quietly through the landscape. At this point, skis were made to help move more efficiently and to make life easier. The skis varied by human location and population, revealing skis with varying sizes and shapes. It is unknown how widespread the use of skis were. Despite this unknown, it is fairly certain that using them improve mobility would have been valuable technology in any environment with deep snow.
The specific roots of skiing remain unclear. Valuable artifacts are all we have help build a story leading to present day. The oldest physical skis were found in Russia and the oldest description of skiing appears in a Chinese text tracing back to 205 and 225 B.C.E. Despite the muddled origins, modern skiing is often attributed to indigenous people of Scandinavia know as the Sami (also called Laplanders). The Sami people have a historical range across Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. They are traditionally semi-nomadic and rely on reindeer herding, and of course, skiing across the arctic terrain. This technology was adopted by other cultures as a means of transportation, which eventually led to the sport and recreation skiing that we see most commonly today.
Next time you hop on your skis for an adrenaline rush, consider the long, mysterious history of skiing technology and human innovation.