China may be a relative newcomer to skiing, and winter sports more generally. But the tradition of skiing stretch the generations back in a mountain community in the northwest of the country, which some Chinese historians believe is the birthplace of the sport.
As proof, the researchers pointed to cave paintings in the community, located in the lowlands of the Altai Mountains. The paintings depict hunters on skateboards, and Chinese archaeologists say they date back more than 10,000 years.
Other historians have questioned this claim, citing the difficulty of dating rock art.
To be sure, though, skiing has long been a way of life in the Altai Mountains of northern Xinjiang, a territory where China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia meet.
For thousands of years, the people of Altai – including the Kazakh, Mongol and Tuwas peoples – have been making wooden skis by hand and using them for transport and hunting. Traditional skateboards are wider and covered at the bottom with horsehide. Instead of plastic and metal fasteners, they are loosely tied with leather straps. Altai skiers also use a wooden stick for balance.
Nils Larsen, a documentary filmmaker who studies ancient ski history, has visited the area several times. Recalling a particular ski outing, Larsen says that traditional skis are a much better fit than his modern skis given the soft, deep snow in the area.
“We couldn’t keep up with them,” Larsen said. “They’re crazy skiers.”
In recent years, the local skiing tradition in Altai has faded with modern encroachment and the Chinese government’s encouragement of modern winter sports. At the same time, authorities in China have sought to use the region’s skiing tradition as a selling point for tourists, part of a larger government-backed plan to turn Xinjiang into a an international ski destination.
On the eve of the Beijing Olympics, Chinese state media released a series of videos about the local ski culture in Xinjiang and the many ski resorts that have been built around the area. During this month’s opening ceremony, organizers displayed footage of ethnic minorities in traditional ski costumes in the Altai region.
Chinese officials have said that the development of winter sports will help bring economic prosperity to the region. But critics have accused the government of using Xinjiang’s skiing history to whitewash harsh repression of minorities, a persecution that the United States and other governments Genocide is labeled.
Rushan Abbas, an Uyghur-American activist whose sister, Gulshan, said: “I find it insulting and heartbreaking that the Chinese Communist Party uses the guise of sports to turn our homeland into a zone ski resorts and bury crimes against humanity and policies of genocide. , was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Xinjiang.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/sports/olympics/skiing-china.html Is China the birthplace of skiing? Some people believe so.