Although its origin is obscure, skiing was a vital means of transportation and a valuable military skill in Scandinavia, where skis more than 4,000 years old have been discovered. Skiing was introduced into Central Europe at the close of the 16th cent. In the last half of the 19th cent., Norway held two-day carnivals that included races and jumping.
It is uncertain whether Americans learned skiing from natives or whether it was brought to America by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants in the mid-19th cent. The first U.S. ski club was formed in 1872, and the National Ski Association was founded in 1904. In 1924 the Fédération Internationale de Ski was founded, and skiing became part of the first Winter Olympics.
Skiing enjoyed a tremendous boom in the United States as a recreational sport from the 1930s, spurred by the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y. (1932 and 1988) and at Squaw Valley, Calif. (1960), and by the development of ski tows and lifts, which can place skiers at the summit of a run in minutes. Artificial snowmaking machines and the construction of runs of varying levels of difficulty have also contributed to the sport's expansion.