Did you know that skiing was originally a form of transportation in the mountains of Europe, well before it became a sport?
Now there are many types of skiing for athletes of all ages to enjoy. Besides alpine skiing, which takes place on steep hills, competitions also take place in cross-country skiing, the biathlon, and freestyle. Cross-country skiing is a race on a long, flatter course. The biathlon is a competition made up of two events — cross-country skiing and target shooting. Freestyle skiing is also made up of two events — skiing over moguls, which has competitors race down a run covered with bumps, and aerials, where competitors ski up a ramp and do twists and turns in the air.
Alpine skiing was first introduced to the Olympics in 1936. Germany's Franz Pfnür won the first men's gold medal in the alpine combined competition.
After World War II, alpine skiing in the Olympics really took off as men and women competed in the downhill, the slalom, and the alpine combined. The giant slalom was added four years later.
No American man had won an Olympic Gold medal in alpine skiing until 1984, when two accomplished the feat. Bill Johnson won gold in the downhill, while Phil Mahre was the champion in the slalom. Phil's brother Steve won the silver medal in the slalom in that same year. In 2006 in Torino, the U.S. earned two golds in alpine: Ted Ligety in the men's combined and Julia Mancuso in women's giant slalom
Austrian Hermann Maier (the “Herminator”) not only won two gold medals at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano (who can forget his spectacular crash?), but he also was the 1998 World Cup champion. He's been World Cup champ four times.
Cross-country skiing has actually been an Olympic event since the first Winter Olympics took place in 1924. There were two races, one 15 kilometers and one 50 kilometers. Thorleif Haug of Norway won gold in both of them.
Cross-country skiing in the 1990's was dominated by another Norweigian, Bjorn Dählie. He is the winningest Winter Olympian of all time with 12 medals, including eight golds.
For the first time in Olympic history, snowboarding became an official Olympic event for both men and women at Nagano in 1998. There are two snowboarding competitions in the Olympics — a halfpipe and the giant slalom. The U.S. took three gold medals home in 2006: Shaun White in men's halfpipe, Hannah Teter in women's halfpipe, and Seth Wescott in men's snowboard cross.
One Olympic event that men compete in but women do not is ski jumping. There are two different jumps that are used — one is 90 meters and one is 120 meters. No North American has ever won an Olympic gold medal in ski jumping.