Insider's Guide: The Evolution of Skiing

We all love to ski, but how did skiing come to be? How did developments in technology revolutionise skiing as we know it? Here is a brief guide to the evolution of skis.


Ski Total | cave painting of prehistoric skiing
Image sourced from freethepowder

  • There are rock paintings depicting hunters using skis over 5000 years ago, however skis have been around for much longer…
  • Skis from the stone age have been discovered in glaciers, which retreated over the years. They were used by stone age hunters, who tracked herds of elk and reindeer.

Early Modern History:

Ski Total | Sami man with crossbow and skis in 1674
Image sourced from snowbrains

  • Skis were regularly used by Scandinavian people throughout the Middle Ages (primarily farmers, hunters and warriors).
  • The Swedish Army trained and competed on skis during the 18th century.

Modern period:

Ski Total | history of skis
Image source from newgeneration

Before 1840:

Ski Total | Cambered ski

Image sourced from freethepowder

The bow-shaped cambered ski was developed by wood carvers in Telemark, Norway. These thinner, lighter and faster skis, replaced plank-like ‘transportation’ skis.


Ski Total | ski pioneer, Sondre Ouverson Norheim

Image sourced from Telemark

Ski pioneer, Sondre Norheim created the Telemark ski: a wider tip and tail, coupled with a sidecut that narrowed the ski underfoot.This resulted in improved agility and turning.


H.M. Christiansen created the first two-layer laminated ski in Norway. He used a tough hickory or ash base, coupled with a lighter body of spruce or basswood, which resulted in a lighter and springier ski.


Ski Total | first steel-eged skis made by Rudolph Lettner

Image sourced from skimuseum

Austrian Mountaineer, Rudolph Lettner, invented The segmented steel edge. This gave skis a much better grip on snow, whilst still allowing the wood to flex.


Ski Total | old ski binding

Image sourced from Norsk Skogmuseum

Swiss ski racer, Guido Reuge, invented the Kandahar binding, which uses a spring-loaded cable to hold the heel down.


The first successful three-layer laminated skis were invented independently by Bjørn Ullevoldsaeter in Norway and George Aaland in Seattle. The skis did not delaminate easily, as they were made with with waterproof casein glues, which also made them lighter and stronger.


Aluminum ski poles started being mass produced in Saint-Ouen, France.


Ski Total | Howard Head at work in his ski factory in

Howard Head at work in his ski factory, image sourced by Airport Journals

Howard Head’s plywood-core, pressure-bonded aluminum, steel-edged skis became the most successful early metal ski, supplanting half of wood skis by 1960.



Kofler introduced the first polyethylene base, which was instantly adopted by ski factories, as it was easily repaired and slippery, meaning wax was no longer needed.


Ski Total | first owner of Rossignol, Laurent Boix-Vives
Image sourced from Magazine Sciare

Owner of Rossignol, Laurent Boix-Vives, built aluminum compound skis, which revolutionised downhill racing in 1959.


Fred Langendorf and Art Molnar invented the first successful plastic fiberglass ski in Montreal. By 1968, fiberglass supplanted both wood and aluminum for slalom and recreational skis. However, aluminum laminates were still used for GS and downhill skis.


Ski factories started mixing high-strength materials into fiberglass to make a tough, wax-retentive, high-speed base material. These fiberglass compounds supplanted polyethylene as the base material.


Elan and Kneissl built deep-sidecut ‘shaped’ skis. These moved away from the classic telemark shape towards a new generation of easy-carving skis.

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