Skiing really is much older than most think. There are ancient drawings of humans skiing great distances to follow and hunt herds of reindeer and elk using fur coated skis (modern day skins). In more recent times, skis were used for hunting and military use. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that camber was developed which allowed the ski to re-distribute the weight more uniformly across the ski. The late 1800’s brought innovation in the form of composite layers, which reduced weight from the traditional wooden ski. In the early 1920’s the metal edge was introduced to help skis gain more traction during turns.
The next great innovation was the bear-trap binding which used a cable under tension to fix the ski in place. In the mid-1940’s the use of wax became popularized thanks to a wood veneer layer which could hold the wax. However, it wasn’t until the mid-1950’s and the introduction of a polyethylene layer that the ski industry was revolutionized by minimizing the amount of wax needed. The polyethylene layer also made it easy to repair rock scratches. The bear trap binding lasted for the next 40 years until the heel and toe alpine binding was introduced in the mid-1960’s to help skiing become safer by allowing the ski boot to eject under shear loading. This binding has been in place and has only been improved upon with increasing technology. The modern bindings have made leaps and bounds in weight reduction by using composite materials. This makes skis lighter and more responsive. The most recent technological breakthrough has been the parabolic shape of the ski which was first introduced in the 1990’s.
After being able to see with my own eyes each of these technological advances in ski technology, it amazes me how similar modern-day skis are to those back in the 1800’s. I think the biggest difference between the old and new gear is how much safer the newer equipment is. Ski gear now is designed to prevent injury in the event of a crash whereas the older equipment did not release. I am still amazed at how light the skis used to be. The lighter bear trap bindings were essentially weightless when coupled with the wooden skis. One of these days I think it would be really fun to take some old ski equipment out on the bunny hill and give it a test spin just to feel what it would have been like back in the day.