Are you passionate about skiing or snowboarding? Well, so are Germans! In fact, Germany has more skiers than any other country in Europe, with more than 14.6 million Germans partaking in the sport.
But where did this winter sport originate?
Archeological research suggests that ski-like objects date back to 6000 BC, used primarily as tools to cross frozen wetlands and marshes in the wintertime. But recreational skiing is a much more recent activity.
In the 1700s, the Norwegian army held competitions where soldiers would learn how to shoot while skiing. Those races were the precursors to skiing as an Olympic sport. And it didn’t take long for it to spread through Europe. Downhill skiing gained popularity in the 1800s and in 1924, the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France and featured cross-country skiing.
In 1936, downhill skiing was included for the first time in the Winter Olympics, held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Soon thereafter, people began constructing chair lifts and ski resorts, which caused recreational skiing to grow in popularity – especially in the 1950s and 60s.
Today, Germany has about 700 ski resorts, 1,384 ski lifts and 864 miles of slopes, making it a perfect wintertime destination for ski lovers. Many of these lie in the mountainous state of Bavaria. One popular ski town is Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which lies near Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze (elevation: 9,718 ft). The Rhön Mountains feature gentler slopes ideal for beginners, while the picturesque Black Forest has about 200 ski lifts that allow winter sports enthusiasts to experience a change of scenery.
While Bavaria contains the biggest ski resort, the Black Forest contains the oldest: Germany’s first ski tow was built in the Black Forest, and Germany’s oldest ski club was formed there in 1985.
But other regions of Germany – including the Ore Mountains in Saxony – also have their share of winter sports destinations.
By Nicole Glass, German Embassy