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Let's Talk About the History of Skis

Ski lift

January, 2017

As you and your family enjoy the modernization of skis and their associated equipment, including the top-notch gear that you can rent at Granite Peak, take a moment to consider the history of that equipment. We can guarantee you that you'll appreciate your skis even more.

Preserved rock paintings and carvings tell us that hunters and trappers were clearly using skis 5,000 years ago. But the Early Modern period of skiing really dates back to the Middle Ages when Scandinavian farmers and some warriors regularly used skis. A more formalized approach to skiing took hold in the 18th century when the Swedish Army trained and competed on skis. But the real progress in the development of skis occurred in 1850.

Fast-forward 167 years and think about the skis you own or rent and how remarkably easy it is to turn, stop, glide, skate and even jump for some of you. As you're skiing down the 75 different runs at Granite Peak Ski Area, think how difficult it must have been to literally ski on chunks of wood and makeshift straps, because long ago that was the equipment. This all changed dramatically when the cambered ski was invented in 1850 by woodcarvers in the hamlet of Telemark, Norway. Then, in 1868, Sondre Norheim demonstrated a Telemark ski that had a sidecut that narrowed the ski under foot, but maintained a wide tip and tail. This ski flexed more than previous versions and made edging possible.

Skis were made from Hickory, an extraordinarily tough and durable wood that allowed skis to be thinner and more resistant to scrapes and punctures. But as the Norwegians began making Hickory skis, they soon leaned that the expense of importing the wood from Louisiana was cost prohibitive. That's when Norwegian immigrants from Wisconsin, home to our very own Granite Peak Ski Resort, and Minnesota determined that they could produce Hickory skis at a fraction of the cost.

One of the next significant transformations to the ski came in 1932 when businessmen in Norway and Seattle independently invented three-layer, vertically laminated skis and sales skyrocketed. In 1945, 1,000 pairs of the first aluminum laminate ski were produced under the brand name Truflex, but sales never materialized. Then, in 1947, Howard Head, an aircraft engineer invented an aluminum sandwich ski that was plasticized with a honeycomb core. Many regard this invention as the precursor to the modern skis we use today.

Many innovations occurred at a rapid pace thereafter including the first fiberglass ski in 1959 and dozens of subsequent improvements to it as plastic components were further developed. The next breakthrough came in 1990 when deep-sidecut "shaped" skis were produced, and that, as we say, is history.

So, you might want to stop by the Granite Peak Rental Center and try some Demo Skis (Adults Only) to see the latest advancements in ski technology. And never forget that Hickory might be good for cabinets, flooring and tool handles, but not so good for skiing.