Winter sports are really fun, particularly when we get to participate in them. From snowboarding to ice skating, we love winter sports because they are both very entertaining and fast, and also give us something to do during otherwise bleak winter months. 

What if you had a sport that was a winter sport but was also so good that you could use it not only in resorts, but on average whenever you had snow in abundance. Cross country skiing is a great sport, which is also a solid activity, if there is enough snow. Let us look back at it through history and see whence from it came and how it became what it is today.

Ancient History of Skiing

Skiing was actually used as a method of transportation, just as we could expect, and it was used in Scandinavia, at least by the earliest record, around 5000 years ago. Skiing was a way to safely traverse snow in winter, especially longer distances. Haakon the Good, King of Norway from 934 to 961, was known to send tax collectors on skis, which makes sense given the location.

Skiing was probably done in ancient China at some point, but we know for sure that it originated in Scandinavia. 

Skiing in “Recent” Times

Skiing was typically used either for transport or warfare. Dutch tropos were using skis to cover distances that are comparable to those that light cavalry could cover in decent circumstances. That was in the 13th century. Likewise, there are reports of Norwegians using skis in military education around 1747. Norwegians were among the first to use skis not only as a way of transportation, but also in the military. Immigrants in the United States in the 1800s used skis for transportation. Most of the skiing breakthroughs were done by Norwegians, including Greenland and South Pole expeditions. Norwegians also brought skis to Japan after some of their military died in a snowstorm in 1902.

Skiing as a Sport

Norwegians, surprise, surprise, organized military ski competitions in the 18th century. There were actually four categories, shooting while skiing at top speed, downhill skiing among trees, racing on large slopes downhill without falling and of course, long distance flat racing. A public competition was held in 1843, there is a public record of it, in the city of Tromsø. There were turrenn competitions, which referred to long distance cross-country competitions. Such were open to people of all ages, provided that they can ski safely. 

Johan Grøttumsbråten was the first to use skate skiing, a technique used in cross-country skiing, at the 1931 World Championship in Oberhof. The technique didn’t pick up until Bill Koch used it with great success at the 1982 Cross-country World Championships. 

Growth and Popular Use

Given the success of cross-country skiing in the early days of winter sports, at the start of the 20th century, in the latter half of the 20th century, cross-country skiing became a nice way to explore the resorts and actually learn how to ski without fear of falling while losing control on a piste. 

It grew into different disciplines, one of which is called ski touring, which is typically done off piste, or off road, as it were. Ski touring is great and allows exploration of nature and especially mountain peaks which would be harder to climb on foot.

Ski mountaineering is ski touring on another level, finding steep routes through possible avalanche locations.

Cross-country skiing started as a method of transportation in ancient Scandinavia. Nowadays, it is an Olympic sport and has its own separate World Championship. It is also a solid recreational activity and has spawned many subgenres which tend to be more adventurous.