Skiing is another one of those sports that has its origin in a mode of transportation – like horse racing or even auto racing. Norwegian Sondre Norheim is typically honored as the father of skiing as a recreational sport. For many centuries prior to becoming a recreational pursuit, those in wintry climates used skis to get through the snow more quickly when traveling or hunting. Nordic countries led the way in this type of skiing, called cross country skiing, which is now popular wherever sufficient snow falls to provide a good track.
Downhill skiing followed as a sport, which grew in popularity when means of getting back up the hill like tow ropes and chair lifts were designed and implemented. Cross country skis used today look very much like the ancient predecessors. They are long skis, which gives them the ability to distribute the skier’s weight over the length of the skis to keep them from sinking too far into the snow. And cross country, or X-country, skis are narrow to allow them to glide quickly through the snow. The footwear used for X-country skis fits more like shoes than a boots, and features one of various types of binders which secure them to the skis.
By contrast, downhill skis employ a heavy boot which keeps the foot and ankle more stable, since down hilling involves more turning, which can apply torque to the lower legs. In addition, downhill skis are wider than their cross-country cousins, providing the skier greater control. Downhill skis come in a variety of lengths. Determining the right ones for you is determined by level of experience and by the conditions of the hill. In general, the shorter the skis, the easier they are to handle. Many downhill skiing turns involve lifting the skis off the snow, which is easier with shorter, lighter skis. More advanced skiers will use longer skis which give them greater stability when racing or when coming down especially steep or difficult mountain sides. Ski jumpers use flat, broad skis which give them greater air resistant or lift so that they may stay in the air as long as possible. Of course, so-called “hot dog” skiers use different skis altogether, based on the maneuvers they are attempting to achieve that will please fans and judges alike.
Before you buy your next pair of skis have a clear idea of the type of skiing you want to do. Cross country skiing is tough, but it is great exercise with plenty of fresh air, usually in very beautiful areas. Downhill skiing offers more thrills, but also a greater potential for injury. Either way, strapping on a pair of skis is a great way to stay fit and have some fun in winter.