Cross-country skiing has been used for thousands of years as a way of getting around on snow. The oldest skis, found in Russia, are believed to be more than 6000 years old. Ancient cave drawings in Norway are also evidence of skiing’s long history for use in both hunting and fighting. Cross-country skiing as a sport began in the mid-19th century, at about the same time that it was brought to North America. The first race on record was held in Tromsø, Norway in 1843.
Cross-country skiing was on the program of the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924 with two men’s events. Women began competing in Olympic cross-country skiing at Oslo 1952.
There are two basic racing techniques: classical and free. In classical technique, the skis move parallel to each other through machine-groomed tracks in the snow. In free technique there are no restrictions as skiers push off with the edge of their skis in a motion similar to skating. Free technique (also known as skate-skiing) is slightly faster than classical technique and also uses shorter skis. There are currently six events each for men and women on the Olympic program. Traditionally, Olympic events will alternate between classical and free technique from Games to Games.