Ski Canada Magazine
Mike Wiegele and Atomic might like to lay claim to the invention of the fat ski, but heli-skiers have nothing over the Vikings.
The discovery of one of the best-preserved historic skis suggests early skiers most likely straightlined it. Found in September on Norway’s Digervarden ice patch, the 1,300-year-old ski measures 187 cm long with a 170mm waist width and no sidecut. That’s about 50mm wider than the fattest skis today.
We reckon early skiers were probably more interested in travelling and hunting than turning, but the find does reveal new information about our ancestors, say researchers with Secrets of the Ice, a Norwegian archaeology program that uncovered the ski.
“There’s a lot of history preserved in this artifact,” says Julian Post-Melbye, an archaeologist who was part of the recovery team. “It tells a lot about ski history in general. [Early skiers] had the will and the ability to travel through the high mountains at an altitude of nearly 2,000m during the winter.”
It’s not the oldest evidence of skiing. Although rock paintings and wooden remains suggest the earliest human travel on skis may be more than 5,000 years ago in the Altai region of central Asia, Scandinavian evidence traces back at least 1,400 years. And what’s probably the longest wait to find a missing ski, Secrets of the Ice scientists found another better-preserved ski melting out of the Digervarden ice patch in 2014. They believe the new find is the pair to the original.
The find suggests the Digervarden skis were long, fat and pointy at one end. The binding wrapped over the toe and around the heel, similar to a telemark binding. And while many early skis had fur nailed to the bottom for climbing, there were no nail marks, suggesting the fur was either glued or non-existent. There was no evidence of ski brakes or corporate sponsorship decals.
What remains unknown is how the skis became buried in the ice. Was the owner following an ancient high route? Or hunting reindeer? Was the skier killed in an avalanche or lost his precious skis during a storm? The researchers expect more answers will surface as history unfolds in climate-change melt in the years to come.