History of Skiing in competition

The history of skiing is based firmly in Scandinavia, the Norwegians having used it extensively for hunting, exploration and, eventually, military purposes. By 1750, the Norwegian army had set up different companies of ski troops, and, in 1767, there was the first fully-organised skiing competition.

Despite its status as a popular recreational hobby, it took almost eighty years longer for the first non-military skiing competition to take place. The event was held in Tromso, Norway in March 1843 and, although local villages had been competing for some time, this was the first race to be reported by the press. Similar events took place across Sweden and Finland but it was not until late in the nineteenth century that sport became truly institutionalised.

In 1861, the Centralforeningen for Udberedelse av Legemsovelser og Vaabenbrug (Central Association for the Promotion of Physical Exercise and Use of Arms) was established in order to unite the existing Norwegian clubs and distinguish them from the Swedish. They encouraged the clubs to organise competitions and, in 1867, a large scale competition took place in Christiania (now Oslo) in which skiers were judged by an official panel for their technique, posture and use of poles. The rules used in this competition were presented to all clubs in an annual report. The competition at Christiania was soon regarded as a national championship and, in 1892, moved to Holmenkollen hill where the first ski jumping competitions took place.

Elsewhere, the Swedish organised the Nordic games in 1901 and like the Norwegians, resisted the popularisation of Alpine skiing occurring across the rest of Europe. This did not stop the Alpine Club of France (CAF) though, who began to organise events in 1907 in order to promote the mountain tourism and encourage a competitive relationship between the Swiss and Austrian resorts.

This multi-faceted development of skiing culminated in 1924, when the first Winter Olympic Games took place in Chamonix, forcing the Nordic Games to be abandoned in 1926. The International Skiing Federation (FIS) was set up alongside this first Olympic tournament and went on to hold the first international championships in Nordic skiing in 1925 and the first international downhill skiing championship in 1931.

Skiing remained a practical hobby rather than a recreation outside Scandinavia for some time. It eventually took hold as a true sport in the United States, Canada and Australia and competitions began to take place outside Scandinavia. The FIS World Championships took place in Europe and Nordic Events were organised across the world, but the downhill events remained solely in the Alps. After the Second World War though, mountain tourism took off across the world and the events were consequently held in new destinations such as Spain, Chile and Japan.