While documented evidence is lacking, cross country skiing was likely introduced to both eastern and western Canada by Scandinavian immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century. Although never an important utilitarian mode of travel, its popularity as a sport spread rapidly in the last decade of the nineteenth century in eastern Canada while in the west ski jumping was the primary focus.
From the endless mountain ranges of the west to the rolling countryside of the east, Canada's vast and snow-covered winter landscapes provide endless opportunities to participate in one of the nation's most popular pastimes, touring on skinny skis.
Herman "Jackrabbit" Smith Johannsen remains one of Canada's best known skiing personalities, "Jackrabbit" is said to be the name given to him by the Cree of northern Ontario impressed with his ability to make his way speedily through dense woods and deep snow. Born in Norway in 1875, his passion for skiing was undiminished until the day he died at the age of 111 years. Besides influencing countless skiers by his vitality and boundless enthusiasm, his contribution to the development of cross country skiing and tourism, particularly in the Laurentian region of Quebec and the eastern United States, was incalculable.
Nordic Combined is a competitive sport combining the results in two disciplines, ski jumping and cross country skiing. For ski jumping, strength, subtle physical skills and explosive power are required together with the aerobic endurance essential for competitive cross country skiing.
Derived from Military Patrol competition, Biathlon combines two opposing abilities in a single competitive event, the cardiovascular endurance and high pulse rates associated with cross country skiing and the complete calm and stillness required for rifle marksmanship.
Ski jumping was introduced into Canada by Norwegians in the 1870s. By the early 1900s it had become a popular spectator sport attracting thousands. The dedicated resources needed to build the towering ski jumps provided, in all probability, the impetus for the founding of Canada's first ski clubs, Revelstoke in 1893 and the Montreal Ski Club in 1903.
Alpine-style or downhill skiing as a sport separate from cross country or touring skiing, first emerged in Canada in the 1930s, some eighty years after the introduction of the innovative Telemark ski technique in Norway. Unlike the traditional ski with similar dimensions from its tip to its tail, the newer ski had a narrower waist allowing it to be turned more easily to control its speed on a slope.
From the mid-1970s to the early '80s, the cultural phenomenon known as the Canadian Men's Alpine Ski Team of Ken Read, Steve Podborski, Dave Irwin, Dave Murray, and "Jungle" Jim Hunter challenged the Europeans for downhill skiing supremacy. Flirting with disaster with an all-out style that earned them the well-deserved title of "Crazy Canucks", they electrified competitors and spectators alike with their daring and skill on the steep slopes of the world's downhill courses.
As Steve Podborski noted, "We're a bunch of guys who work hard, try hard and sometimes scare ourselves." Copied by the European teams, their successful style was emulated by the legendary Austrian, Franz Klammer. When he won the downhill Gold Medal at the 1976 Olympic Games at Innsbruck more than one competitor observed that he skied "like a Canadian".
"Freestyle" as a discipline emerged as skiers sought to push the boundaries of what was possible to achieve on a pair of skis. In the 1960s and 1970s,"hot-dog" skiers experimented with new manoeuvres that included acrobatic flips and jumps and the rapid turning required to negotiate steep slopes covered in forbidding mounds of snow called "moguls". These manoeuvres emerged as the separate disciplines of Aerials and Moguls.
Introduced by Sondre Norheim in Telemark, Norway in 1868, Telemark skiing, also called "free heel skiing", is a technique based on the Telemark turn in which the heel of the ski boot is not fixed to the ski.
Speed skiing is the most extreme branch of alpine downhill competition. With competitors attaining speeds of over 200 kph down the straight, very steep courses on their World Cup circuit, speed skiing is not for the faint hearted. Equipment is highly specialized from slippery, skin tight suits, long 240 cm skis, to fared helmets, anything to reduce wind resistance.
Coming relatively late to the winter sports scene, snowboarding evolved in the 1960s from experimentation with several designs inspired by other applications, including the surf board, the slalom water ski and the bracing of two alpine skis together. As the snowboard evolved into its present form it rapidly became a phenomenally popular sport especially among young people in the 1990s. Development of snowboarding's infrastructure was equally rapid, culminating in its recognition by the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) in 1994 and inclusion in the winter Olympic games in 1998.
Disabled skiers and snowboarders have the same need for recreation and competition as their able-bodied counterparts. Skiing and snowboarding are sports that even the multi-disabled can enjoy with the appropriate ski equipment and specialized instruction. Established in 1976, the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS), a volunteer based organization, oversees the activities of 11- divisions, one for each Province and the National Capital Region. The nature of the involvement includes both recreational aspects and competition up to the international and Paralympic levels.