Skiing Facts

10 Interesting Skiing Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Last Updated on April 3, 2021 by James

Skiing is a fascinating sport. Its historical, cultural and geographical relevance are constant reminders that skiing is an awesome activity.

The broad, archaic and downright crazy nature of skiing makes it a fascinating topic to discuss. There is countless new information to learn and an abundance of fun facts to enjoy.

Now we have your attention, it’s time to introduce our top 10 skiing facts.

#1 The U.S. has the most skier visits to ski resorts in the world.

Are you wondering where most people are hitting the slopes? Well, the answer is the U.S.

According to a 2018 report by Laurent Vanat, US resorts have seen an average of 54.9 million skier visits per season. This figure was based on a 5-year average and puts the US just ahead of France (54m) and Austria (51.7m) at the top of the pile.

Another interesting skiing fact is that of the 54.9m US skier visits, 94% were from people based in the US. In comparison, 72% of French resort visitors were French based.

U.S. ski resort fact
U.S. resorts attract a lot of domestic ski tourists

#2 The first ski chairlift was installed at Sun Valley Ski Resort in 1936.

Since their invention, chairlifts have been a revolution in the sport of skiing. They provide us with a comfortable and convenient way to ascend the mountain, which most of us take for granted.

The first chairlift was installed in 1936. It was created and installed by Union Pacific Railroads, with it being the showpiece of their brand new Sun Valley Resort in Idaho (USA).

The design was not too dissimilar from modern lifts, although it probably lacked the same level of safety. It featured a single chair that was suspended by a rotating cable.

It’s hard to tell if they knew how historic their invention would be at the time. However, it’s gone on to revolutionize the ski industry and change the face of skiing.

Sun Valley chairlift facts
You can still visit an original Sun Valley chairlift at Ruud Mountain (Image: Kingmiwok CC-BY-4.0)

#3 The longest ever ski jump is 253.5 meters.

Ski jumping is a deaf defying sport. Especially if you’re Austrian high-flyer Stefan Kraft, who in 2017 jumped a staggering 253.5m to break the record for the longest competitive ski jump.

To put that figure into context; it’s the same as jumping over 2.7 football fields.

It’s probably not surprising to know that ski jumpers haven’t always been flying insane distances. In fact, the first ever ski jump world record was set by Olaf Rye in 1808.

The Norwegian dubbed the ‘godfather of ski jumping’ launched himself 9.5 meters, with only an audience of soldiers for company. Albeit less astonishing than the distances achieved today, it was probably just as dangerous considering the equipment available at the time.

#4 The first artificial ski slope was built in 1927.

In 1927, the world’s wait for a year-round skiing solution was over. The opening of the ‘Schneepalast’, or ‘snow palace’, marked a turning point for the sport of skiing.

Built inside an abandoned Austrian train station, the Schneepalast was the first ever artificial ski slope. It features a 70m (230ft) long main slope that was constructed entirely from wood.

It was designed to be a dry ski slope, with mats and an unknown ‘fake snow’ substance creating the surface. Unfortunately, the uneven surface caused a host of injuries and the slope closed down after only one year of operation.

This initial development of artificial ski slopes ultimately led to snowsports being brought to countries across the globe.

The huge structures we see today have come a long way since these humble beginnings. Modern indoor ski centres now have real snow, multiple slopes, chairlifts and coffee shops.

First artificial ski slope
The Schneepalast was the first artificial slope (Image Credit: ONB Vienna)

#5 The world’s longest ski slope is 14 miles.

If you want to find out what real ‘thigh burn’ feels like, then head over to Chamonix (France). It’s home to the 14mile (22km) long ‘Vallee Blanche’, which is commonly agreed upon as the worlds longest ski slope.

The gruelling slope starts at the top of the ‘Aiguille du Midi’ lift station, before ascending more than 2700 vertical meters (8858ft). It’s entirely off-piste and you should expect to encounter everything from deep crevasses to wind-swept ice.

If you’re looking for an on-piste adventure, the 13 mile (21km) descent from Zermatt to Valtournenche will suit you better. It’s known as the world’s longest groomed ski run; starting 3900m (1275ft) above Zermatt (Switzerland) and finishing at 2300m (7546ft) in the Italian village of Valtournenche.

Vallee Blanche Chamonix Skiing Fact
The Vallee Blanche is long, but it’s also prone to adverse conditions

#6 The oldest person to ever heli-ski was 95.

In March 2019, Gordon Precious entered the record books as the oldest ever heli-skier. The 95-year-old from Hamilton, Ontario, achieved this feat on his birthday; proving that quiet celebrations at home are overrated.

In a video released by CMH Heli-Skiing; Precious can be seen making fresh tracks that put many younger skiers to shame. His balance, control and grace is a remarkable sight.

In a press release following the descent, Precious stated that he’s “looking forward to his 100th year heli-skiing”. His unconditional love for skiing is something to behold and we have no doubt that he will be creating more skiing facts for the record books in the future.

#7 Skiing is officially the national sport of 3 countries.

If you were wondering which countries have proclaimed their love for skiing; the answer is Austria, Slovenia and Norway. Each of these nations has ‘officially’ defined their national sport as skiing, adding to the reputation of snowsports on the world stage.

Austria and Slovenia have both recorded alpine skiing as their national sports. Both of these nations have a mountainous landscape and a rich history of skiing that dates back thousands of years.

Norway, on the other hand, has chosen cross-country skiing as their national sport. This is not too surprising, given that the term ‘ski’ is actually comes from the Old Norse word ‘skíð’, which means ‘split piece of wood’.

Cross-country skiing facts
Cross-Country skiing is a popular sport in Norway

#8 The fastest speed ever achieved on skis is 158mph.

Did you know that some people are capable of skiing faster than most cars? Maybe… However, you might not know that the world record for speed skiing stands at an eye-watering 158.424mph (254.958km/h).

The feat was achieved in 2016 by Italian speed skier Ivan Origone. Hurtling down the incredibly steep slope in Vars (France), he achieved the jaw-dropping speed without even breaking a sweat.

Speed skiing has seen big developments over the recent years, but has actually been a recognised sport for a long time. The first recorded speed skiing record was set by Tommy Todd in 1874, who achieved 87.7mph (141km/h) to put his name in the record books.

Since then, speed skiing has become formalised and the French Ski Federation have become the governing body. It now has a World Cup tour, with over 100 racers competing in 4 to 6 races per year.

#9 The world’s biggest ski area has 373 miles of pisted slope.

If you’re looking for a holiday destination where you will never ski the same run twice, look no further than ‘Les 3 Vallees’. Located in the French Alps, it boasts a whopping 373miles (600km) of ski slopes to keep you entertained.

The vast ski area is spread across the three main resorts of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens. It’s famed as one of the best ski areas in Europe, with seemingly endless terrain that guarantees you will never get bored.

Another noteworthy skiing fact is that the top 10 biggest ski areas in the world are all found in Europe. The close proximity of ski resorts within the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees mountain ranges has allowed many of them to be connected by lift systems.

Europe was once an endless list of small resorts. In recent years, the drive for bigger and better has led to many resorts being lift connected to form ski areas of titanic proportion.

Bonus skiing fact: The 11th biggest ski resort is Whistler Blackcomb, while Park City is the 12th.

Ski slope facts
No image can do justice to the magnitude of Les 3 Vallees

#10 The first descent of Everest on skis was in 1970.

On May 6th 1970, a rather unusual historic moment took place in the skiing world. Japanese alpinist Yuichiro Miura became the first person to ski down Mt. Everest.

Dropping into the south South Col of Everest with nothing to slow him down but a parachute, Miura managed to ski 6600ft (2000m) in 2 minutes and 20 seconds. He then lost control of his skis and tumbled another 1320ft (402m) down the steep Lhotse face.

Despite the setback, Miura lived to tell the tale in an Oscar winning documentary entitled ‘the man who skied down Everest’. He’s also the current record holder for the oldest person ever to climb Everest, doing so at 80 years of age.

It’s impossible to discuss Everest skiing facts without mentioning Slovenian adventurer Davo Karnicar. In 2000 he became the first man to ski nonstop from the summit to basecamp, covering 12000ft (3658m) in less than 5 hours.

Yuichiro Miura Skiing Facts
Yuichiro Miura (on the right) pictured at Mt. Cook (Image: Archives New Zealand)

Summing Up

The skiing facts listed here are a roundup of the most eye-opening information in the industry. With so many people passionate about snowsports, there are countless achievements being made every winter.

Choosing the most interesting information was a challenge, with so many amazing facts to choose from. However, everything on this list is more than enough to inspire and amaze.

The history of skiing is rich, while the future is fascinating. As long as we keep pushing the limits, I’m sure there are many more facts to come.

Do you have any interesting or ‘lesser known’ skiing facts to share? If so, leave a comment and let us know!