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This article is about the equipment used on snow. For the related activity, see Skiing. For the related activity on water, see Water skiing.
For other uses, see Ski (disambiguation).
A ski is a narrow strip of semi-rigid material worn underfoot to glide over snow. Substantially longer than wide and characteristically employed in pairs, skis are attached to ski boots with ski bindings, with either a free, lockable, or partially secured heel. For climbing slopes, ski skins (originally made of seal fur, but now made of synthetic materials) can be attached at the base of the ski.
Originally intended as an aid to travel over snow, they are now mainly used recreationally in the sport of skiing.
Etymology and usage
The word ski comes from the Old Norse word "skíð" which means stick of wood or ski.
In Norwegian this word is usually pronounced [ˈʃiː]. In Swedish, another language evolved from Old Norse, the word is "skidor" (pl.).
English and French use the original spelling "ski", and modify the pronunciation. Prior to 1920, English usage of "skee" and "snow-shoe" is often seen. In Italian, it is pronounced as in Norwegian, and the spelling is modified: "sci". Portuguese, German and Spanish adapt the word to their linguistic rules: esqui, Schier (a German plural of Ski) and esquí. In Dutch, the word is "ski” and pronunciation was originally [ˈʃiː] as in Norwegian, but since approximately the 1960s changed to [ˈskiː]. Many languages make a verb form out of the noun, such as "to ski" in English, "skier" in French, "esquiar" in Spanish, "sciare" in Italian, "skiën" in Dutch, "esquiar" in Portuguese or "schilaufen" (as above also Ski laufen or Ski fahren) in German.
Finnish has its own ancient words for skis and skiing. In Finnish ski is suksi and skiing is hiihtää. The Sami also have their own words for skis and skiing. For example, the Lule Sami word for ski is "sabek" and skis are "sabega". The Sami use "cuoigat" for the verb "to ski". The term may date back to 10,000 years before present.
The oldest wooden skis found were in what is today Russia (c. 6300-5000 BCE), Sweden (c. 5200 BCE) and Norway (c. 3200 BCE) respectively.
Nordic ski technology was adapted during the early 20th century to enable skiers to turn at higher speeds. New ski and ski binding designs, coupled with the introduction of ski lifts to carry skiers up slopes, enabled the development of alpine skis. Meanwhile, advances in technology in the Nordic camp allowed for the development of special skis for skating and ski jumping.
This type of ski was used at least in northern Finland and Sweden until the 1930s.On one leg, the skier wore a long straight non-arching ski for sliding, and on the other a shorter ski for kicking. The bottom of the short ski was either plain or covered with animal skin to aid this use, while the long ski supporting the weight of the skier was treated with animal fat in similar manner to modern ski waxing. Early record of this type of skis survives in works of Olaus Magnus.He associates them to Sami people and gives Sami names of savek and golos for the plain and skinned short ski.
Finnish names for these are lyly and kalhu for long and short ski.
Single long ski
The seal hunters at the Gulf of Bothnia had developed a special long ski to sneak into shooting distance to the seals' breathing holes, though the ski was useful in moving in the packed ice in general and was made specially long, 3–4 meters, to protect against cracks in the ice. This is called skredstång in Swedish.
Around 1850 artisans in Telemark, Norway invent the cambered ski. This ski arches up in the middle, under the binding, which distributes the skier's weight more evenly across the length of the ski. Earlier plank-style skis had to be thick enough not to bow downward and sink in the snow under the skier’s weight. This new design made it possible to build a thinner, lighter ski, that flexed more easily to absorb the shock of bumps, and that maneuvered and ran faster and more easily.The design also included a sidecut that narrowed the ski underfoot while the tip and tail remained wider. This enabled the ski to flex and turn more easily.
Skis traditionally were hand-carved out of a single piece of hardwood such as Hickory, Birch or Ash. These woods were used because of their density and ability to handle speed and shock resistance factors associated with ski racing. Because of Europe’s dwindling forests, the ability to find quality, plank, hardwood became difficult, which led to the invention of the laminated ski.Beginning in 1891, skimakers in Norway began laminating two or more layers of wood together to make lighter cross country running skis. These evolved into the multi-laminated high-performance skis of the mid-1930s.
A laminated ski is a ski composed of two different types of wood which are glued together. A top layer of soft wood is glued to a thin layer under a surface of hardwood. This combination actually created skis which were much lighter and more maneuverable than the heavy, hardwood skis that preceded them . Although lighter and stronger, laminated skis did not wear well. The water-soluble glues used at the time failed; warping and splitting along the glue edges (delaminating) occurred frequently and rapidly. In 1922, a Norwegian skier Thorbjorn Nordby,developed strong, waterproof glue which stopped the problem of splitting, therefore developing a much tougher laminated ski. Research and design of laminated skis rapidly progressed. In 1933 a new design technology was introduced involving an outer hardwood shell completely encasing an inner layer of lighter wood, successfully eliminating spontaneously splitting glue lines. This early design eventually evolved into an advanced laminating technique which is referred to today as Single-shell casing technology.
In 1950 Howard Head introduced the Head Standard, constructed by sandwiching aluminum alloy around a plywood core. The design included steel edges (invented in 1928 in Austria,) and the exterior surfaces were made of phenol formaldehyde resin which could hold wax. This hugely successful ski was unique at the time in having been designed for the recreational market, rather than for racing. 1962: a fibreglass ski, Kneissl's White Star, was used by Karl Schranz to win two gold medals at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. By the late '60s fibreglass had mostly replaced aluminum.
In 1974 Magne Myrmo becomes the last world champion (Falun, 15 km cross country) using wooden skis.