The sport of moving across snow-based terrain with the feet clad in purpose-made boots that clip on to long, thinly-shaped wooden, metal, or synthetic-fibre runners (skis). For recreation, the dominant forms of skiing are Alpine or downhill (descents of varying steepness), and Nordic or cross-country (across more level, often wooded, terrain). Forms of competitive skiing also include slalom (within the Alpine category), in which racers swerve between upright poles in the snow, and jumping (within the Nordic category), in which skiers launch themselves from high up a hillside and seek to land as far as possible down the hill or slope, and in which points are awarded for style as well as distance. The Fédération Internationale de Ski has overseen the competitive form of the sport, and the sport has been a central one in the expanding profile of the Winter Olympics from 1928 onwards. A further discipline on skis, combining cross-country and target-shooting, is the biathlon, administered by the International Modern Pentathlon and Biathlon Union.
Skiing of sorts was a form of subsistence and survival in cold northern European areas (such as modern Finland) and the furthest east of European countries (such as Turkey). Norwegian breakthroughs in the design of the boot and the ski, so holding the foot in place, in the mid 19th century created the basis for competitions in jumping and racing, and clubs soon formed in Norway, and in California. The British became active in the Swiss Alps, and the English novelist Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in the Strand Magazine of his ski journey from Davos to Arosa in 1894. Skiing soon became one of the daredevil yet fashionable winter sports of the cosmopolitan European elite, encouraged by entrepreneurs such as Henry Lunn, father of Arnold Lunn. The Public Schools Alpine Sports Club, which opened in 1902–3 in Switzerland, announced the new sport to a wealthy and socially conscious constituency, for which how-to manuals and ski-analysis booklets began to be produced. Competitions began to be staged, and cups awarded.
Skiing's wider markets were opened up in the second half of the 20th century, with breakthroughs in mass (and cheap) tourism and travel, advances in the technology for being lifted up the slopes, and the popularization of the sport through its profile at the Olympics and the advent of colour television. Into the 1970s, top-level competitive skiers were purportedly amateur while the International Olympic Committee continued to oppose professionalism, though after their performance peaks some skiers could use their profile and celebrity to make lucrative livings, or lead initiatives that expanded the burgeoning recreational ski-resort industry; in the French Alps, for instance, Olympic champion and local boy Jean Vuarnet returned from his gold-medal downhill triumph at the 1960 Squaw Valley (USA) Olympics to lead the development of the model, architecturally modernist, carless resort Avoriaz at the heart of Portes du Soleil, the largest ski area in the world. By the mid 1990s, analysts reported a global ski market of 65–70 million skiers (55 million downhill, the rest cross-country); in these estimates, the USA with 15 million and Japan with 14 million were by far the biggest sub-markets, though pro rata Scandinavian and Alpine countries had much higher proportions of active skiers in their populations. Skiing remains the cultural preserve of affluent groups and individuals, though its trend-setting image has been challenged by the emergence of the more youthful, stylish, and free-styling activity of snowboarding.
Subjects: Medicine and Health — Sport and Leisure.