Winter Sports: History of Ice Sports Modern Bells and Whistles

Winter Sports: History of Ice Sports Modern Bells and Whistles

In most parts of the world, snow and ice are natural bounties of winter. While some feel the urge to enter hibernation mode, others see a plethora of thrilling possibilities. Over the centuries, the latter group has invented numerous ways to make the most of these conditions. However, one of the biggest hindrances in the development of winter sports was that exact dependence on the moody Mother Nature.

That is why winter spots, for a long time, were a sideshow, overshadowed by globally-popular summer sports. Yet, many activities have involved in competitive sports across the globe. Environmental factors have allowed Scandinavians to play a major role in the popularization of them. Today, however, they are playing both outside and indoors, even in places like resorts in the middle of a desert.

The winter is coming

Some winter sports were initially a means of survival, ways for people to overcome challenges that winter environment throws at them. Others were born out of thrill-seeking and innate human desire to explore, push boundaries, and raise the bar. We must give pay special respect to Nordic Games that were the prelude of Winter Olympics, and served as a platform for ice sports to reach new heights.

  • It is true that this competition was not so well funded and was predominantly a Swedish phenomenon. Only one of the eight Nordic games was held outside this country. Nevertheless, they were the first international multi-sport event of this sort, the driving force behind the rise of many disciplines.

So, now we will dive into a brief history of sports that are well loved and played today.

As old as the hills

Sleds have one of the longest histories as they have been around since the ancient times. As for modern sleds, they have been invented in Switzerland in 1870, with hotelier Caspar Badrutt building ice tracks for delivery sleds. Nowadays, people enjoy three competitive sledding disciplines: skeleton, luge, and bobsled. They mostly differ in terms of the number of people who man the sleds, techniques used, and positions that competitors take.

Ice skating is also a sport with the long and rich tradition that reaches the primordial mists of recorded history. Believe it or not, the oldest skates ever found date from 3000 B.C. They were edgeless and made of bone, which means they were used more for gliding than skating. The steel-edged version came only in the 13th or 14th century. At that time, we still do not have those spectacular acrobatic movements.

  • Namely, an American Jackson Haines is credited with inventing modern ice skating because he was the first to use dance and ballet moves. So, the expressive forms we enjoy today are actually more recent than most people think. Eventually, in Summer Olympics 1908, the sport made its graceful appearance. And over time, for the most part in the modern era, many other disciplines have emerged from ice skating, such as speed skating.

Northern League

Furthermore, hockey is a variety of stick and ball games that have existed for millennia. The first evidence of this sport can be found in English engravings from 1797, where a certain daredevil is seen skating on a river Themes with a stick and “bung” (cork stopper from a barrel). Thanks to British soldiers who embraced the sport, it spread across Canada and America. The first competitive game was organized in Montreal back in 1875.

Moving on, curling is another sport that sparks attention, often reefed to as “chess on ice”. It was invented in Scotland and the headquarters of the World Curling Federation are still there. As you may know, the goal is to slide round stones of polished granite to the opposite house. The teams consist of four players and two of them are sweepers who use brooms to direct the stone.

  • Biathlon is quite prominent today and, not surprisingly, has military roots. Norwegian soldiers have been running on skis and shooting since the mid 18th century. At the time, it was not a real sport, but more of a “military patrol” routine. As such, it did not take hold in the Olympics until it transformed into an individual racing on skies with guns. In the 1960’ it took the form that we recognize today.

The next level

Another sport that owes a huge debt to Norwegian military is ski jumping. It all began when one soldier decided to show off his skiing skills in the front of his colleagues. To their utter amazement, he managed to jump 30 feet in the air. The new sport took Norway by the storm and jumpers were constantly getting more ambitious. After the first few organized competitions in the 19th century, the bright future of ski jumping was sealed.

Finally, in the turbulent 60’, we witnessed the rise of snowboarding, which is one of the newer ice sports.  It had quite humble and romantic beginnings. An American dad bound two skies together to make a new ride for his daughter. This contraption, which was dubbed “Snurfer”, was sold in million units over the course of the next decade. Innovations and improvements to the design lead to the real explosion of popularity in the 80’ and 90’.

Harder, colder, better, faster

From the prehistoric times to modern halls, winter sports have been present for a long stretch of human history. Today, many of them are well-organized, commercialized, and funded, but that was not the case before. How the sports were founded, developed, and played tells us a lot about human nature, struggles, and ambitions.

Integration of multifarious disciplines under one name, as well as the establishment of the Winter Olympics,  marked the beginning of the new era. Those who want to get the show on the road has many, many options. And regardless of what floats your boat, there is hardly a better way to get active and have fun in the winter conditions.

Do you know some additional information about winter ice sports that we don’t know? Please submit it to us!

Sean Lockwood

Sean is a programmer with a passion for extreme sports. Favourite extreme sports discipline is biathlon. Started this blog because of the great love for nature and adrenaline which results in something extreme like Extreme Sports Lab (ESL).

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