One of my favorite things to do in the world is to snow ski. I grew up in Sacramento, California which isn’t too far from Lake Tahoe. When I was five years old, my dad strapped on a pair of skis to my feet, gave me a few basic instructions, and then sent me hurtling down the mountain. While it may not be the safest way to teach a young child to ski, it worked. After that, every winter we would make the drive up into the mountains, step into a pair of skis, and fly down the slopes. Maybe it was the way I was taught to ski, or maybe it’s the adrenaline junkie in me, but I only know one speed when I’m on the slopes: FAST! The steeper and straighter the ski run, the better. The perfect run for me is one that teeters precariously on the fence between control and insanity. I can’t help it, though; it’s the only way I know how to ski.
The history of skiing, depending on who you listen to, dates back 3000, 4000 or even 7000 years. There’s not anything that can point to a specific date, but I think it’s safe to say it started a long, long time ago. One thing that all historians agree on is that skiing started as a mode of transportation. If you’ve ever tried to walk through knee-high snow before, you know why people decided to try and make getting around easier on themselves all those thousands of years ago. Strapping on a pair of wooden slats to their feet made it much easier to transport themselves, their families and supplies across the frozen landscape. An interesting side note, they lined the bottom of the wooden slats with fur to make the skis glide across the snow a little easier.
Recreational skiing did not really begin to gain momentum until the late 1800s. It was around this time that trains made it possible for people to get to the ski slopes, and advances in skiing technology made it more viable as a recreational sport. It was still slow to develop into a popular winter activity, because even if people could get to the ski slopes, they would have to walk to the top of the mountain to be able to ski back down. It was a long and tiring process.
In the early 1900s, a system of motorized ropes with handles would pull skiers up the mountains. That’s when skiing really started to take off. Then in the 1936, the first chair lift was installed at the Sun Valley ski resort in Idaho and skiing became a major winter draw, spawning the creation of hundreds of ski resorts all over the country and the world. The 1936 design of the chairlift was so sound, that the same basic principles are still used in most lifts to this day.
If you have never tried skiing, I highly recommend hitting the slopes the first chance you get. If you take proper lessons, you can usually learn to do it in less than a day. It is a fantastic way to exercise, and it is also a tremendous amount of fun. And if you see someone flying by you in a blur, that just might be me. Be sure to wave.
Until next time,
Today’s Fun Fact: Butterfly wings are covered with tiny, overlapping scales. The beautiful colors on the wings are created by reflected light and depend on the structure of the scales, not pigment.