Skiing has a history of almost five millennia. Although modern skiing has evolved from beginnings in Scandinavia, it may have been practiced as early as 600 BC in what is now China.

The word "ski" is one of a handful of words Norway has exported to the international community. It comes from the Old Norse word "skíð" which means "split piece of wood or firewood".

Asymmetrical skis were used at least in northern Finland and Sweden up until the late 1800s. On one leg the skier wore a long straight non-arching ski for sliding, and on the other a shorter ski for kicking. The bottom of the short ski was either plain or covered with animal skin to aid this use, while the long ski supporting the weight of the skier was treated with animal fat in similar manner to modern ski waxing.

Early skiers used one long pole or spear. The first depiction of a skier with two ski poles dates to 1741.

Until the mid-1800s skiing was primarily used for transport, and since then has become a recreation and sport. Military ski races were held in Norway during the 18th century,and ski warfare was studied in the late 18th century. As equipment evolved and ski lifts were developed skiing evolved into two main genres in the 1930s, Alpine and Nordic.

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