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Cross country skiing is the oldest type of skiing. It emerged from a need to travel over snow-covered terrain and developed as a sport at the end of the 19th century.
For centuries in the snow-covered North, skis were required to chase game and gather firewood in winter time. With long distances between the small, isolated communities and hard, snowy winters, skiing also became important as means of keeping in social contact. The word “ski” is a Norwegian word which comes from the Old Norse word “skid”, a split length of wood.
Different types of skis emerged at various regions at about the same time. One type had a horizontal toe-piece binding. The modern ski bindings are based on the Fennoscandian model of the 19th century. The East Siberian type was a thin board with a vertical four-hole binding. Sometimes it was covered with fur. The Lapps used a horizontal stem-hole binding. Present-day cross country skis were developed from the type used by the Lapps.
Norwegian army units were skiing for sport (and prizes) in the 18th century. Skiing for sport appeared in Norway in the mid 19th century; the first race on record is 1842.The famous Holmenkollen ski festival started in 1892, with the focus initially on the Nordic combined event. However in 1901, a separate cross country race was added to the festival.
The men’s event debuted at the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix in 1924 and the women’s event debuted at the 1952 Oslo Games. The sport has traditionally been dominated by the Nordic countries.