Many types of competitive skiing events are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Ski Federation (FIS)
Skiing has a history of almost five millennia. Although modern skiing has evolved from beginnings in Scandinavia, it may have been practiced more than 100 centuries ago in what is now China, according to an interpretation of ancient paintings. However, this continues to be debated.
The word "ski" is one of a handful of words that Norway has exported to the international community. It comes from the Old Norse word which means "split piece of wood or firewood".
Asymmetrical skis were used in northern Finland and Sweden until at least the late 19th century. On one foot, the skier wore a long straight non-arching ski for sliding, and a shorter ski was worn on the other foot for kicking. The underside 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 a similar manner to modern ski waxing.
Early skiers used one long pole or spear. The first depiction of a skier with two ski poles dates to 1741.
Troops on continental Europe were equipped with skis by 1747.
Skiing was primarily used for transport until the mid-19th century, but since then has also become a recreation and sport. Military ski races were held in Norway during the 18th century, and ski warfare was studied in the late 18th century. As equipment evolved and ski lifts were developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, two main genres of skiing emerged—Alpine (downhill) skiing and Nordic skiing.
Also called "downhill skiing", Alpine skiing typically takes place on a piste at a ski resort. It is characterized by fixed-heel bindings that attach at both the toe and the heel of the skier's boot. Ski lifts, including chairlifts, bring skiers up the slope. Backcountry skiing can be accessed by helicopter, snowcat, hiking and snowmobile. Facilities at resorts can include night skiing, après-ski, and glade skiing under the supervision of the ski patrol and the ski school. Alpine skiing branched off from the older Nordic type of skiing around the 1920s when the advent of ski lifts meant that it was no longer necessary to climb back uphill. Alpine equipment has specialized to the point where it can now only be used with the help of lifts. Alpine Touring setups use specialized bindings which are switchable between locked and free-heel modes. Climbing skins are temporarily attached to the bottom of alpine skis to give them traction on snow. This permits Nordic style uphill and back-country travel on alpine skis. For downhill travel the heels are locked and the skins are removed.
The Nordic disciplines include cross-country skiing and ski jumping, which both use bindings that attach at the toes of the skier's boots but not at the heels. Cross-country skiing may be practiced on groomed trails or in undeveloped backcountry areas. Ski jumping is practiced in certain areas that are reserved exclusively for ski jumping.
Telemark skiing is a ski turning technique and FIS-sanctioned discipline, which is named after the Telemark region of Norway. It uses equipment similar to Nordic skiing, where the ski bindings are attached only at the toes of the ski boots, allowing the skier's heel to be raised throughout the turn. However, the skis themselves are often the same width as Alpine skis.