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Members of the US Air Force skiing at Keystone Resort's 14th Annual SnoFest

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.



Main article: History of skiing

Although skiing probably evolved gradually from snowshoeing, Norwegian Sondre Norheim is often called the "father of modern skiing". In 19th century, 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 contemporaries. This form of skiing is now referred to as Telemark or Telemark skiing. Skiing originally was a practical activity that resembled today's Nordic, or cross-country, style.

The invention of firmer bindings to attach the skier's feet to the ski, likely by Austrian 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, Austrian Hannes Schneider pioneered the idea of rotating the body to help steer the skis. Soon this Arlberg technique, named for his 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, as well as in places such as Alaska, 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" refers to recreational downhill skiing where 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 other means of mechanical uphill transport. Upon reaching the summit, the skier disembarks from the ski lift and travels downhill, propelled by gravity, usually along a marked run known as a piste. Ski routes are referred to as 'runs,' 'trails,' or 'slopes.' Off-piste riding, also known as "back-country skiing", includes unmarked areas within the ski resort's boundaries, frequently amongst trees ("glade skiing"), or usually in pursuit of fresh fallen snow, known as powder. Skiing or snowboarding beyond the ski resort's boundaries remains a misdemeanor in some western states, due to the danger of avalanches on the un-patrolled areas; or the cost of search-and-rescue for lost or overdue skiers.

Skiing technique is difficult to master, and accordingly there are ski schools that teach everything from the basics of turning and stopping safely to more advanced carving, racing and mogul techniques. The venue, speed and technical difficulty associated with the sport can lead to collisions, accidents, hypothermia and other serious injury or illness, including death. Ski Patrol exists as a voluntary organization to provide guidance, help, medical assistance and emergency rescue to those in need of it.

Many non-skiers wonder why skiers are willing to risk such 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, poses no greater risk of injury compared to other sports. Of course, there is some possibility of danger, but that is part of the appeal. Skiing is 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 to lead it off an un-navigable cliff. A sense of harmony and of peak experience can result 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 pastime open to those with any manner of cognitive and/or physical disabilities. Adaptations include the use of outriggers, ski tip retention devices, ski sliders, sit skis (dual and mono), brightly colored guide bibs, ski guides, and inter-skier communication 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 and obtaining simple jobs, mainly in the local tourism industry to make a living; 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. 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.


A color-shape rating system is used to indicate the difficulty of trail or slope. Trail difficulty is relative to a particular area; however, in North America, similarly marked trails are generally more difficult in Western areas than in Eastern. The same holds true with regards to larger ski areas vs smaller ones. The ratings are:

  • Green circle: An easy trail. Good for beginners, although Eastern green slopes are sometimes narrow and icy, referred to as "bowling alleys."
    • Sometimes, a double green circle is used to indicate something easier than a green slope, but this is rarely used.
  • Blue square: An intermediate slope. Blue slopes are steeper than green, but are usually groomed and wide. (Grooming is a process in which a large machine called a snowcat runs over the slope and smooths the snow, clearing it of bumps and moguls.)
  • Black diamond: A difficult slope. Black diamonds are often fairly steep, and may or may not be groomed. (In the American West, grooming is more uncommon on black diamonds.)
  • Double-diamond: Very difficult or experts-only. Usually extremely steep, and almost never groomed, or groomed for mogul. (In the American East, a "double-diamond" is often just an ungroomed slope.)
    • Some areas do not use the double-diamond, and a black diamond indicates anything more difficult than a blue square.

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 (1.3 m) 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 (15 m) or more of annual snowfall. Mountains on the East Coast tend to be icier than mountains on the West Coast. High altitude mountains generally have the least ice due to lower average temperatures, and a greater tendency for sublimation instead of melting as temperatures rise. 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. The elevation of a ski hill greatly affects the amount of snow it gets. The temperature drops 3 °C for every thousand feet (10 °C/km). So for example, Whistler-Blackcomb has an elevation difference of 5,000 feet (1.5 km) so it is 15 °C colder at the top than the bottom. Hence it can be nice and sunny with no snow at the bottom but the top has plenty of snow.

Skiing topics

Types of skiing

  • Cat skiing is a type of snow skiing that involves the use of a snowcat to transport skiers up mountainous terrain rather than helicopters or ski lifts used at ski resorts. It is considered a form of backcountry skiing or off-piste skiing, as the hazards encountered in a backcountry mountain environment are the same and professionals often guide participants.

Turning techniques


Competition events

Alpine events

Nordic events

Skiing organizations

International organizations:

National organizations:

Ski safety

Ski lifts


A skiier heading down a dry ski slope
A skiier heading down a dry ski slope

Health and injuries

Related sports


Launching for the 2005-06 season, became the first ski and snowboard vlog.

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