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China's Ice Cold, Remote West Holds the Key to Skiing's Origins

Cave paintings in the Xinjiang province in northwest China depict people wearing what appears to be skiis and herds of animals walking below them.

Archaeologists have dated these images between 10,000 and 30,000 years old, according to Chinese ski historian Shan Zhaojian. People today pretty much continue to get around the same way as they did in the past, using horse-hide skis, an indication that skiing originated in this region of China.

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Traditional skis made of wood and draped in horse-hide.
Traditional skis made of wood and draped in horse-hide. Photo:Reuters
A young boy makes his way on horse-hide skis.
A young boy makes his way on horse-hide skis. Photo:Reuters
Sulita (pictured) is not intimidated by the -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) morning as he heads out to ski.
Sulita (pictured) is not intimidated by the -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) morning as he heads out to ski. Photo:Reuters
The bottom of the skis are covered with horse-hide and shoes are strapped on with leather rope.
The bottom of the skis are covered with horse-hide and shoes are strapped on with leather rope. Photo:Reuters
The Xinjiang autonomous region government has organized races using traditional skis and recognizes skiing as a cultural heritage, however, Chinese ski historian Shan Zhaojian says the practice is dying out.
The Xinjiang autonomous region government has organized races using traditional skis and recognizes skiing as a cultural heritage, however, Chinese ski historian Shan Zhaojian says the practice is dying out. Photo:Reuters
Yonghong, a local villager, prepares buttered tea.
Yonghong, a local villager, prepares buttered tea. Photo:Reuters
According to Chinese ski historian Shan Zhaojian, archaeologists have dated these paintings as 10,000 to 30,000 years old, They depict people wearing what appears to be skiis and herds of animals walking below them.
According to Chinese ski historian Shan Zhaojian, archaeologists have dated these paintings as 10,000 to 30,000 years old, They depict people wearing what appears to be skiis and herds of animals walking below them. Photo:Reuters
The younger generation residing in remote villages like Khom will determine whether the use of horse-hide skis survive.
The younger generation residing in remote villages like Khom will determine whether the use of horse-hide skis survive. Photo:Reuters
Published 14 February 2018
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