Skis are Older Than the Wheel | NPR Story

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timeline of skiing
History of skiing timeline. photo: national geographic

What came first:  the ski or the wheel?  According to an NPR story, it was the ski.  We’ve previously reported on the origins of skiing and how skiing is about 9,000 years old and from Scandinavia.  This article proposes that skiing is 10,000 years old and from China.

Scientists say the Altai hunter's lifestyle extends back thousands of years, as evidenced by this ancient rock engraving of a skier chasing an ibex. photo: npr
Scientists say the Altai hunter’s lifestyle extends back thousands of years, as evidenced by this ancient rock engraving of a skier chasing an ibex. photo: npr

Here’s an excerpt from the NPR Story:

Deep In China, ‘Cowboys’ Have Skied For Thousands Of Years

The birthplace of skis is under debate, but the ski is believed to be even older than the wheel.

“So they’re one of the very first forms of transportation,” travel writer Mark Jenkins says.

Jenkins recently traveled to China, which claims to have invented skis almost 10,000 years ago. His exploration is documented in the December issue of National Geographic.

Jenkins went to the Altai Mountains in Northwest China, about where Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Siberia come together — “kind of dead-center Central Asia” — where the Tuvan people have been skiing for at least 4,000 years.

hunting elk on skis
A lassoed elk struggles after Serik demonstrates the age-old technique of capturing game in deep snow. photo: Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic

“Their skis are remarkable,” he tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “They cut them from red spruce. They bend them by heating them and steaming them, and then they nail on horsehair on the bottom of the skis, which is very slick to glide forward but then grabs when you go uphill.”

But this isn’t just about making it down the mountain: The skis are for hunting. In a region that can get temperatures of 40 degrees below zero, these hunters don’t even know what frostbite is. In a single-file line, pulling sleds, the men search for elk — elk tracks are obvious in the snow because of the animals’ heavyweight. On skis, they can track the elk for three to seven days.

Read or listen the full story here:

Deep In China, ‘Cowboys’ Have Skied For Thousands Of Years


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