Skiing, Sport

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Skiing, Sport


one of the most widespread winter sports, including cross-country racing, ski jumping, the Nordic combined event (cross-country and jumping), alpine skiing along special routes (the slalom, giant slalom, and downhill), and the biathlon (cross-country events involving rifle shooting). Two types of sport skiing now being developed are ski flying (jumps from ski jumps with a designed projection capacity of more than 90 m; the largest of these ski jumps is in Planica, Yugoslavia, and the world record is 165 m by M. Wolf, 1969, German Democratic Republic) and the speed descent along a special straight route (the time is recorded for a 1-km segment; the highest speed is 183.4 km/hr by M. Morishita, 1970, Japan).

The first competitions in sport skiing were held in Norway in 1767. In an organizational and teaching sense, the sport of skiing took shape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when national ski clubs were first formed. Clubs were formed in Norway in 1874, Finland in 1886, Germany in 1891, Austria and Sweden in 1892, Russia (the first competition was held in St. Petersburg in 1894, the Moscow Club of Skiers was founded in 1895, and a national championship for 30-verst [32-km] ski races was held in 1910), the USA in 1900, Switzerland in 1902, Great Britain in 1903, Italy in 1907, and Japan in 1910. The Middle European Ski Union was formed in 1905 and the International Ski Federation (FIS) in 1924. In 1972 the FIS united about 50 national federations; the USSR joined in 1948. In the northern countries cross-country races, ski jumping, the Nordic combined events, and the biathlon are popular, whereas in Central Europe, the USA, and Japan alpine skiing has become paramount.

The most important international ski competitions are the Winter Olympics (held since 1924), the world championships (since 1929), the Holmenkollen Games (since 1883, Norway), the Lahti Games (since 1922, Finland), the Falun Games (since 1948, Sweden), and the Kavgolovo Games (since 1961, USSR). The Vasa marathon race, over a distance of 85.8 km, has been held since 1922 in Sweden. An international event since the 1960’s, it is run from a common start with about 9,000 participating skiers. The major competitions in the USSR include national championships for cross-country racing, since 1919; ski jumping, since 1926; slalom, since 1934; the Nordic combined event, since 1935; downhill, since 1937; giant slalom, since 1953; and biathlon, since 1958. The Spartakiad of the Peoples of the USSR, held every four years since 1962, and the Holiday of the North (since 1934) feature skiing events, and there are USSR cups for all types of sport skiing (since 1969).

Cross-country races are the most popular type of sport skiing. They are held on rough terrain along specially prepared routes with distances ranging between 500 m and 80 km, depending on the age and sex of the competitors. The classical international distances are 10-km, 15-km, 30-km, and 50-km races and the 40-km relay for men and, for women, 5-km and 10-km races and the 20-km relay. The racer must have strength, speed, and endurance, as well as a mastery of the techniques of different skistrokes, ascents, descents, turns, and stops and the ability to use the technique appropriate to the terrain and snow conditions.

The strongest cross-country racers are skiers from the USSR, Norway, Finland, and Sweden (see Table 1). In the Olympic Games between 1956 and 1972 they won 95 of the 99 medals awarded: 33 for the USSR (11 gold, USSR (11 gold, nine silver, and 13 bronze); 23 for Sweden (eight, eight, and seven); 21 for Finland (six, eight, and seven); and 18 for Norway (seven, eight, and three).

Table 1. World’s best ski racers
 CountryOlympic winsWorld championshipsYears of competition
Hakulinen, V. ...............Finland331952-60
Kuzin, V. S. ...............USSR121954-60
Jernberg, S. ...............Sweden441954-64
Mäntyranta, E. ...............Finland321962-72
Greoningen, H. ...............Norway211964-72
Ellefsaeter, O. ...............Norway211966-72
Brenden, H. ...............Norway21952-60
Vedenin, V. P. ...............USSR221966-72
Baranova, L. V. ...............USSR141954-62
Kolchina, A. P ...............USSR171954-68
Boiarskikh, K. M. ...............USSR321964-66
Kulakova, G. A. ...............USSR321968-72
Gustafsson, T. ...............Sweden21962-68
Oliunina, A. S ...............USSR121968-72

Among the USSR men who have repeatedly won championships are I. S. Utrobin (13 times), P. K. Kolchin and V. P. Vedenin (12 times each), V. F. Oliashev (11 times), and D. M. Vasil’ev, V. P. Smirnov, P. A. Volodin, and F. M. Terent’ev (ten times each). The Soviet women champions include L. V. Baranova (18 times), A. P. Kolchina (13 times), and Z. D. Bolotova (12 times).

In 1972 about 5 million people engaged in sport skiing in the USSR. More than 2,200 of them are masters of sports, and about 43,000 have a first-class rating. All voluntary sports societies and departments have ski sections. Cross-country skiing is a mandatory subject in the physical training curriculum for students in all types of schools and in the physical training section for soldiers and officers of the Soviet Army. Cross-country skiing is included in various types of multipleevent sports competitions and in the norms of the All-Union physical training complex called Ready for Labor and Defense (the GTO complex).


Lyzhnyi sport [Uchebnik dlia institutov fizkul’tury], Edited by M. A. Agranovskii. Moscow, 1954.
Lyzhnyi sport [Uchebnoe posobie dlia institutov fizkul’tury]. Edited by B. I. Bergman. Moscow, 1965.
Agranovskii, M. A. Lyzhnyi sport. Moscow, 1966.
Donskoi, D. D., and Kh. Kh. Gross. Tekhnika lyzhnika-gonshchika. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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