Though humans have been skiing since 3000 B.C., it’s been only about 100 years since skiing changed from a means of transportation to a means of recreation. And when humans started skiing for fun, they decided that one way to have a good time was to ski downhill as fast as they could.
Alpine skiing could not have begun without a very important invention — the first toe-and-heel binding, developed by Sondre Norheim of Telemark, Norway, about 1850. Prior to this, skis had been held to the foot with toe straps and an occasional, flimsy heel strap. But Norheim’s toe-and-heel strap was so sturdy that skiers could head down steeper hills without worrying their skis would come off.
The words “alpine” and “nordic” also show how the two forms of skiing developed. “Nordic” refers to Scandinavia, where skiing began and where the land is relatively flat. “Alpine” refers to the Alps, that steep and grand mountain range in the centre of Europe. Nordic skiers pushed themselves across flat land, while alpine skiers raced down steep mountains.