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Alpine Ski Museum

Slovenia: At The Heart Of The History Of Skiing

This cutting-edge museum details the history of skiing, from its ancient origins to its modern status as an Olympic sport

The Alpine Ski Museum is located in the town of Begunje na Gorenskem, Slovenia, just a short drive away from the famously photogenic Lake Bled and other charming locations. The tiny Begunje is famous for a handful of big things: a pair of castles (Ravensburg and Kamen); the home and museum of polka legend Slavko Avsenik; and world-renowned ski manufacturer Elan.

The Alpine Ski Museum is a branded affair, organised by Elan and housed alongside its outlet store. While the exhibited skis were made by the home brand, they’re also the very skis that won famous competitions. Elan is best-known for having invented carving skis in 1991, which are today the universal standard for recreational skiers, but the museum nonetheless presents an objective history of skiing, complete with interactive displays. At this museum you’ll find a mechanical ski and snowboard simulator (think of skis and a snowboard on a giant metal spring), a digital slalom simulator and the material components of skis laid out so you can put them together and make like a master ski-smith.

Elan was founded in 1945 to provide skis for the Partisan soldiers of Yugoslavia, in order to enable them to better fight the occupying Nazis. However, the history lessons offered at this museum hark back to 10,000 BC, the approximate date of a cave painting of a hunter on skis carved into the rock of the Altai Mountains, along the border between China and Mongolia.

A similar carving dating back to around 3,500 BC was found on Norway’s Rødøya Island, demonstrating that skis were used to hunt wherever humans lived in snowy conditions. Wooden components of what experts consider to be proto-skis, dating back to between 7,000 and 5,000 BC, have been found at Vyg Lake in Russia. It seems that strapping wood to one’s feet to better glide over snow is an idea that has been around since time immemorial.

The sport of Alpine skiing was developed by Austrian Mathias Zdarsky in the 1890s, but back then most skis were just straight, smooth wooden planks, sometimes curled at the front, and with leather straps to hold your feet in place. The biggest technological revolution in skiing only occurred in 1991, the year Slovenia gained its independence, when Elan created the Sidecut Extreme (SCX) ski, based on the principle that carving (making smooth, sharp turns) is easier on a ski that has more of an hourglass shape than a stiff, straight plank. This shape, referred to more generally as “carving skis”, has since become the industry standard.

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