For centuries, skis were used in northern European countries to hunt and gather firewood in the winter. With long distances between small, isolated communities and harsh, snowy winters, skiing became important as a means of maintaining social contact. The word "ski" is a word that goes back to the Old Norse "skid," which meant "long piece of wood".
Norwegian army units were skiing for sport (and prizes) in the 18th century. Skiing for sport appeared in Norway in the mid-19th century; the first race on record is 1842. The famous Holmenkollen Ski Festival started in 1892, with the focus initially on the Nordic combined event. However, in 1901, a separate cross-country race was added to the festival.
The men’s event debuted at the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix in 1924. The women’s event debuted at the 1952 Oslo Games. The Nordic countries have traditionally dominated the sport.
There are 12 different cross-country races: Women compete in a sprint, team sprint, 10 km individual start, 15 km pursuit, 30 km mass start, and a 4 x 5 km relay. Men compete in a sprint, team sprint, 15 km individual start, 30 km pursuit, 50 km mass start, and a 4 x 10 km relay.