Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Skiing - 1700's Style

Sick at home on the couch the past few days, I had tv as a companion. When I was not asleep I caught bits and pieces of interesting cooking shows, including a new favorite, New Scandinavian Cooking. I love the chef, Tina Nordstrom, who does a lot of cooking out in the open. Yesterday she was preparing pumpkin soup in a cauldron out on the ski slopes. She mentioned that though skiing goes way back in history, actually to 600BC in China, skiing became more than a utilitarian pursuit, a form of transportation, in the 18th Century. This caught my attention.

To backtrack a bit, the word ski comes from Old Norse, "skio" meaning stick of wood. In Norwegian the word is "vedski" meaning split wood, or "skigard" which means split-rail fence.

The first recorded skiing for enjoyment or competition came in the 1700's. This stems from the military use of skis where soldiers practiced by racing. This recording comes from 1767. The races also included target practice, similar to Olympic Nordic combine competitions now. In 1799 a French traveler, Jacques de la Tocnaye, visited Norway and wrote in his travel diary:
In winter, the mail is transported through the Filefiell mountain pass by a man on a kind of snow skates moving very quickly without being obstructed by snow drifts that would engulf both people and horses. People in this region move around like this. I've seen it repeatedly. It requires no more effort than what is needed to keep warm. The day will surely come when even those of other European nations are learning to take advantage of this convenient and cheap mode of transport.
When I was growing up, I learned to downhill ski along with my family. It was exhilarating! There was such a sense of freedom, and excitement. Later on, I took up Nordic cross country, which is much like Tocnave suggests, "moving around quickly unobstructed by snow drifts". Cross country gets you way back off the beaten path, and the scenery is quiet, peaceful, magical. I regret the change to snow boards these days. It's not quite the same, but all things change.

Needless to say, now I yearn for some pumpkin soup!

And by the way, the first known ski jumper was Olaf Rye, 1809!