Gliding on snow with narrow pieces of rigid or semi-rigid planks underfoot, is called skiing, and the material attached to the bottom of the foot, is called a ski. Skis, one for each foot, are much longer than they are wide, and are attached to shoes or boots with bindings, which are comprised today of lockable, or partially secured heels on the ski. Skiing was originated as a means to travel over deep snow, and the form of skis followed their function. Regarded today by aficionados like Kent Muer as the height of recreational and physically exciting athletic activity, skiing has actually been around for over five millennia. It has been estimated that the earliest skiing may have taken place in 600 BC in China, although fragments which may have been skis have been dated from 6000 BC.
Modern skiing evolved in Scandinavia, where the word ski originated in an ancient Norse word which means ‘split piece of wood’. In Finland and Sweden even into the late 1800’s, one ski was long and straight for sliding, while the ski on the other foot was shorter, for kicking. The bottom of the short ski was generally covered with animal skin to give the skier traction, while the longer ski was treated with animal grease, a kind of ski wax to facilitate speed. These asymmetrical skis were aided by a long spear, and two ski poles were not seen in any image until around 1741. Kent Muer might be interested in testing the use of these early ‘pieces of wood’.