A Spotlight On the Lesser-Known Skiing Events

Even if you just watch skiing once every four years at the Winter Olympics, the sport can be exciting, fast-moving and exhilarating. Some people watch it for the thrills and spills of the rapid descents that the top skiers put themselves through and others gain a certain pleasure from observing the technical skills on display. In fact, skiing attracts a great deal of interest from gamblers over the course of a season. You can find odds on nearly all of the major events and even sites dedicated to winter sports betting tips. The growth in popularity of skiing as a spectator sport has not been universal, however. It should be said that whilst blue riband events like the Alpine downhill often attract big audiences, there are some lesser-known disciplines which still come under the auspices of the sports governing body, the International Ski Federation (FIS). What are they and what do they entail for competitors?

Cross Country Skiing

A cross-country skier in action
Source: Svengollon, Wikimedia

This discipline takes incredible fitness levels and a powerful cardiovascular system from all those who take part in it. Some of the fittest athletes of any kind are involved in cross country skiing, one of FIS’ longest-standing Nordic style events. Men’s events first began taking place as early as 1925 while those for women only got off the ground in the 1950s. Many events involve skiers using parallel tracks in the snow which involves gliding from one foot to the other using a pair of poles for propulsion. Skiers can take short rests on minor slopes but must force their way up hills in lung-bursting feats of endurance, too. The sport developed from military activities where patrols would use skis to get about. Nowadays, the events tend to be long and are often in excess of 50 kilometres. Relay races and Paralympic events have also been introduced.

Ski Jumping

The thrilling sport of ski flying
Source: Val 202, Wikimedia

Ski jumping does not get the attention that it deserves. Perhaps this is because the sport has a number of technicalities that make it a little impenetrable the first time you see it. Ski jumping is based on the length of jumps, just like a normal long jump in athletics. However, what makes ski jumpers different is that they are also awarded points based on style, always a subjective matter. Another of the so-called Nordic skiing events, ski jumping usually requires a man-made structure from which each competitor launches themselves. Although the sport has been under the jurisdiction of FIS since the 1920s, it was considered a male-only pursuit until the 1990s when women first became involved. Ski jumping takes a tremendous amount of commitment and bravery on the part of competitors. A sister sport, known as ski flying, has also developed in which participants can move through the air for more than 250 metres!

Mogul Skiing

Mogul skiing
Source: Dominic Trewin, Wikimedia

This sport first started to become popular in the 1970s but it took until the 1992 Winter Olympic Games for it to become truly internationally recognised. Still not well-known by the general public, mogul skiing involves skiing over a series of bumps on a specially prepared course. Competitors must weave their way through the course and perform a series of sharp turns so it takes it out of the ankles and knees. Certain routes through the bumps, or moguls as they are known, become quicker thanks to the efforts of previous competitors. A typical mogul course is short, perhaps only 250 metres from end-to-end. However, there is plenty of action because the moguls themselves are spaced only a few metres apart from one another. Impressive turning is essential because this accounts for the greatest proportion of a participant’s score. Additional points are awarded for jumps, known as airs, and the time the course was completed in.

Grass Skiing

A competitor at the 2009 Grass Skiing World Championships
Source: Christian Janksy, Wikimedia

It is worth noting that FIS is not just a winter sport governing body any more. The federation also stages summer skiing events that are run over grass pistes. Grass skiing developed as a way for Alpine skiers to keep in good condition and to develop their skills in the down season. Nowadays, grass skiing is considered to be a burgeoning sport in its own right. Participants use gloves, poles, skiing helmets and boots. However, instead of conventional skis, they wear shortened ones with a series of in-line rolling treads which allow them to make progress down a hill. A German named Richard Martin came up with the concept in the 1960s and he immediately set about encouraging skiing resorts to take up grass skiing as a means of generating income during the summer months. The grass needs to be relatively short for an event to take place but when it is some surprisingly high speeds have been recorded from the most intrepid of grass skiers.