Information on Vikings and skiing?
I can't seem to find too much juicy info on vikings and skiing. I once heard or read some story about a Queen in Norway that needed her baby prince escorted to safety over the mountain pass and she had some of her most trusted viking warriors escort him, and there was a picture of a viking warrior with his companion skiing down a mountain with his spears on his back and a baby wrapped in a blanket concealed behind his round shield, with a fierce storm blowing past them. When I learned of that I couldn't help but rave to all of my friends that skiing was better because vikings did it. But I've been looking all around for information on the Internet and haven't been too successful. On Brittanica I found some of the following information if anyone was interested:

Skiing was a prehistoric activity; the oldest known skis date to between 8000 and 7000 bc and were discovered in Russia. Early skis have been found in many areas of northern Europe: a 4,000-year-old rock carving depicting skis was found near the Arctic Circle in Norway, and hundreds of ski fragments that are 1,000 to 3,500 years old have been found in bogs in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Some of the first skis were short and broad, resembling snowshoes more than modern skis. Skiing certainly was not confined to Europe, though, as the first written references to skiing are from the Han dynasty (20025 bc) and describe skiing in northern China.
Skiing also has long been employed for military purposes. Norwegian men on skis reconnoitered before the Battle of Oslo (1200). Ski troops were also used in Sweden in 1452, and from the 15th to the 17th century, skis were used in warfare in Finland, Norway, Russia, Poland, and Sweden. Capt. Jens Emmahusen wrote the first skiing manual for Norwegians in 1733. Since 1767 there have been military ski competitions with monetary prizes. These competitions may have been the forerunner of biathlons, which combine skiing and target shooting. Military skiing continued into the 20th century where snow conditions and terrain favoured their use for scouts and for a type of mounted infantry with a first-strike advantage against small objectives. In particular, ski troops fought in both World War I and World War II. Many veterans, especially of World War II, were very active in promoting the sport of skiing after returning to civilian life.

(The part about the Battle of Oslo may have been what I had learned from).
Anyway, does anyone have any information that might lead one to believe that vikings, or at least Scandinavians used ski's for battle purposes, or anything about it at all? I do know that they used them for hunting by chasing their prey down the mountainside and chucking spears at them.
So, any further info?
The event you refer to about soldiers skiing with the baby prince is probably the famous one about how the two common soldiers took the prince Haakon Haakonson over the mountains from Lillehammer area to Ren (sp?) area over the distance of 58 km. at year 1206. Since there has been a petroglyph found that hs ben dated to 4000.y. BC. that would seem to indicate that Vikings probably used the skiis, the question, however, is how often did they went to war during wintertime?
Viking Skiing
Hi Garrett,

I have nothing to add to Artis' reply, except that the 'Vikings' are known to have also used skates, made from bone, but highly unlikely in the context of warfare!

I havent heard much about sking but there is a piece in the Fostbraeora saga that suggests that the vikings invented snow boarding in combat
A worrior called Borgeir slid down an icy slope standing on his spear shaft killing his enemy Bultardi with his axe as he flew past
In Dalarna in Sweden there is an annual cross country ski race called Vasaloppet. It's held in honor of King Gustav Vasa, who supposedly had to ski to outrun King Christian of the Kalmar Union's troopers. This is an example (albeit a much later one than the Viking Age) of skiing during war. But like everybody said, this is not skiing into battle. I think it's possible that they went to the battle on skis, but very doubtful that they fought. :)
The original story about the escape of prince Haakon is still memorialized in the modern Birkebeiner ski race in Norway (there are US and Canadian races as well). Its thought Birkiebeiner refers to the birch bark lower leg protection worn by the skiers to protect them from suffering cuts from the hard top-crust of the now at very cold temperatures. In the modern event, racers carry a sandbag(?) of about the same weight as a baby to commemorate the escape.

Just out of pure speculation, it seems like doing any close fighting while actually strapped into skis would be almost impossible (as well as looking pretty silly); still there's a lot to be said for moving quickly over terrain that is impassable to others :)

This is probably the painting referred to:

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Yeah, that is the same painting, although, got to say, that everything on it but the skiis seem to be rather inaccurately depicted :)
Agreed, although I think actually the skis have just as much "romantic license" as the rest of the painting (especially the pair with what look like miniature boat prows on the front).
They are definitelly too rised I think - but form is more or less ok - I have seen the find of a 12th centiry ski from one of glaciers in Norway and the general outline seemed pretty much like that on the picture. Which, overall, is quite characteristic to National Romanticism style...
The oldest skis found in norway are about 5000 years old, so skiing was definitely around by the viking age.
Early skis where often asymetrical, with one short ski, with fur underneath, for kicking off and a long ski for gliding. Only one staff was used.
Symetrical skis and two staffs where not introduced until the late 1800's.

Despite what one might think, land warfare in scandinavia was often conducted in winter, because where there are no propper roads anyway, it is much easier to move sledges than carts.
However, the main transport was stil horses, both to pull the seldges and for riding. In Norway, the settlement pattern tends towards seperated, independet farms rather than villages, and the larger of these would usually have one or more horses, used for labour and transport. Thus, when the Leidang (milita) was mobilized, the men from these farms would also have horses.
Naturally, these horses where not battle trained, and one dismounted to fight.
Really off-the-wall source, but I seem to recall reading in a Ripley's Believe It or Not book that the Norse hunted wolves from skis.
If I see a HEMA group pulling that one off I will be seriously impressed :)
I appreciate all of that, but has anyone got any pictures of the skis themselves? There's any number of articles on the internet, saying there's 12th and 14th c. skis in Norway, Finland, and Slovenia (I think) but no one has any pics...

My friends and I do some winter trekking in kit (1770) and since two of us just decided to have a go this year in our new 14th c. kits, we thought we might ski. I assume deer hair would be about ideal for the "push" ski, yes? I totally see how that would work. And a single spear as a staff--again, I see that.

I think that there's a 14th c. account of Finns in a Swedish army scouting on skis. But I wouldn't want to fight on skis....

However, Swedish 18th c. regulations required men to be able to load and fire on skis,a so perhaps crossbow or archery from skis would be correct. Certainly sounds like fun....
Here is a picture of a 5000 year old pair of skis preserved in a bog in northern Sweden according to the text. The text says little more than that and that they call the stick a "shovelstaff" and is thought to have been used both for skiing and clearing snow and that, until about a century ago, using only one stick was standard. I don't know how much skis would have changed until the viking-period, but probably not that much? Lastly a picture of a runestone with a skier in the bottom left corner. Not to detailed though. ;)

Ah, now I see that the request in the last post was for an even later period. Still, someone might find it usefull. :D
Douglas S wrote:
Really off-the-wall source, but I seem to recall reading in a Ripley's Believe It or Not book that the Norse hunted wolves from skis.

Well, if they hunted anything during the winter, skis would most probably be involved, since they're almost a prerequisite for keeping up with game animals in several feet of snow. Certainly a lot faster, easier, safer and more reliable than wading. :)

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