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Skiing in Slovakia marks a racing centenary

SKIING in Slovakia’s High Tatras marked a centenary on February 4 as the first ski race with international participants was held on January 4 and 5, 1911. The organiser was Dr Michal Guhr and competitors were asked to pay fees equivalent to two to four crowns to participate. Skiers competed in several categories such as cross-country skiing and ski jumping, with the best jumpers reported to have reached a distance of only about 9.5 metres off an improvised ski jump.

The High Tatras as they appeared in an early 20th-century postcard.(Source: Sme-J. Krošlák)

SKIING in Slovakia’s High Tatras marked a centenary on February 4 as the first ski race with international participants was held on January 4 and 5, 1911. The organiser was Dr Michal Guhr and competitors were asked to pay fees equivalent to two to four crowns to participate. Skiers competed in several categories such as cross-country skiing and ski jumping, with the best jumpers reported to have reached a distance of only about 9.5 metres off an improvised ski jump.

Modern skiing began in Norway, which is seen as the homeland of the Nordic ski disciplines. Fans of the snow in the Kristiania region of Norway initiated cross-country skiing as well as ski jumping. They also pioneered “schuss boom” – straight and fast downhill runs that usually finished with a fall, controlled or not. A crucial advance in skiing technique came from the Telemark region which mastered the process of turning on skis that became known as telemark or later “kristiánka”.

From among all the early ski enthusiasts who helped to improve ski techniques, Austrian ski instructor Matthias Zdarsky is recognised as the creator of the technique often called snowploughing, the TASR newswire wrote.

Historical records indicate that skis were first used within the territory of Slovakia in 1865, when they were brought by pharmacist Karol Cornides after his travels through Norway. Another significant Slovak ski promoter was Dr Mikuláš Szontag who skied down Slavkovský štít in 1873. Captain Kamil Lersch began training soldiers on skis in military garrisons in Kežmarok and Levoča in the High Tatras as early as 1876 and it is reported that Count Andrássy of Humenné began using skis on his lands in the region of Vihorlat in 1882. Count Hohenlohe also equipped foresters working on his properties with skis imported from Norway as early as 1895.

J. Strižka from Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš was the first producer of skis in Slovakia and made them based on Norwegian designs beginning in 1887.

Sources cited by TASR in preparing its history of skiing in Slovakia included: Dejiny lyžovania na Slovensku 1860-1944, 1st edition, Poprad, 1997, by J. Terezčák and Lyžovanie; učebné texty pre študentov tel. výchovy, by B. Paugschová; as well as the websites www.muzeum.sk and www.wintersport.sk.


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