I was recently going over the FIS Nordic Ski website and also the USSA Nordic site looking for race results and schedules. One thing I had never noticed before on the USSA site was a brief history of Nordic skiing, racing, and also a breakdown of the official events. Speaking of ski history if it interests you and you happen top be in the U.P.check out The US Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, Michigan. I stopped by on a trip to Marquette, MI a few year back and found it quite interesting and it was surprising how many familiar names from Tahoe were there! The organization covers all aspects of ski racing and history; alpine, Nordic, jumping, etc. Anyway here’s kind of a cool little blurb from the USSA site. I’m not sure what the original source or who the author of it is but here it is:
What is cross country skiing?Paintings thought to be at least 6000 years old, discovered in Russia in the 1930s, show a hunter – wearing cross country skis and skiing alongside some reindeer -demonstrate the long history of cross country skiing, which has been essential to survival in cold climates for centurues. Even today, cross country skiing is maybe the best way to survive – and to stay fit – during the winter season. In fact, elite cross country skiers are widely regarded as the fittest athletes in the world. The sport requires a strong culture of training, and the ultimate levels of fitness and toughness in order to succeed.
By the 16th century, the entire Swedish army was fully equipped with skis. The Norwegian army held cross-country ski competitions as early as 1767. The first civilian event took place in the far north of Norway, in 1843. The nordic countries pioneered cross country skiing, which is now known as one of the “nordic” disciplines of the Olympic Winter Games, along with ski jumping and nordic combined.
Cross country skiers competed at the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, in 1924, in 18-kilometer and 50-kilometer races for men. Women cross country skiers made their debut at the 1952 Olympic Winter Games in Oslo. The cross country skiing technique known as skating or free technique became a separate Olympic competitive discipline at the Calgary 1988 Winter Games.Cross country is organized into two techniques: classical, where the skis move parallel to each other through machine-groomed tracks in the snow, and free technique where skiers propel themselves in a manner similar to speed skating, pushing off with the edge of their skis. Classic technique is the original, ancient method of skiing. Free technique is more modern, having been pioneered by U.S. Ski Team member Bill Koch in the early ’80s, and is slightly faster than classical – almost 10% faster on average. Bill Koch used the free technique to proprel himself to the overall World Cup title in 1982, and remains the only American ski racer to win not only that title, but also an Olympic medal (silver, 1976) and a World Championship medal (bronze, 1982).
In Olympic cross country skiing, women compete in individual sprint, team sprint, 10 km individual start, 15 km pursuit, 30 km mass start and the 4×5-km relay. Men compete in individual sprint, team sprint, 15 km individual start, 30 km pursuit, 50 km mass start and the 4×10 km relay. The technique used (classical versus free) in the 10 and 15 km individual start, individual sprint, team sprint and mass start alternates with each cycle of Olympic Games.