Is Skiing A REAL Sport? Why Some Argue It’s Not

by Robert Stanley | Updated On: September 6th, 2022
man skiing

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For years there has been a popular debate as to whether skiing is a sport. 

Most believe without question it is and would argue that professional skiers are amongst the very fittest and strongest athletes in the world. Whereas others, see skiing as a popular pastime that can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. So can both be true?

Skiing Is A Sport 

Just by clicking on your TV in the middle of the ski season, you can’t help but be blown away by the sheer athleticism on display by some of the world’s finest skiers. 

The world’s top alpine skiers simply have it all.

Unbelievable strength, agility, balance, and power. These are all essential ingredients in helping make the perfect skier. 

That’s not all.

The skiers you see on TV have drive, self-confidence, and courage. A skier at the top of his game will need a combination of both physical and mental traits.

Cross country skiers often have quads like tree trunks, and it’s no exaggeration to say these competitors are amongst the very fittest on the planet.

All skiers are taking their various disciplines to new heights. For many, the drive for faster times and the sheer pursuit of perfection make skiing one of the best sports in the world.

The Olympic Argument 

Special Olympics
Photo by Special Olympics 2017 under CC0 1.0

With every four years that pass, the Winter Olympics seem to get bigger and bigger. 

Those who believe skiing is a sport need to look no further than the Olympics, where skiing across a whole variety of disciplines make up a considerable portion of the Olympic program.

Skiing and the Olympics go back a long way. The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924 with ski jumping and cross country skiing playing a part.

Since alpine skiing’s inception into the Olympics, the men’s and women’s downhill competitions have become established as ‘blue riband’ events and often pull in huge audiences from all over the world.

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Due to the vital role that skiing plays in the Olympic movement as a whole, many see skiing as the ultimate winter sport. 

Yearly World Cup events and World Championship 

World Championships
Photo by Guillaume Baviere under CC BY-SA 2.0

Staying within the professional ranks, the infrastructure surrounding professional skiing is solid and amongst the most organized in all winter sports.

Across skiing’s many disciplines there is a yearly World Cup competition. Taking place across different resorts and lasting for a period of months, competitors earn points for how well they do at each event. 

Once all the events have been completed, the participant with the most points will be declared the World Cup Champion.

That’s not all.

Every two years, the World Championships have competed. Behind the Olympics, the World Championship is the most prestigious event skiers to compete for.

With such rigorous and intense competition, many will point to these elite competitions and championships as another key reason why skiing has to be considered a sport.

Evolution of Equipment 

Mont Blanc Skiers

Some of the world’s best and most popular sports can be defined by their equipment and advancement in technology.

Sports like tennis are constantly seeing innovations in racquets. Football boots are becoming more and more advanced and the kits that some of the most popular sports teams on the planet wear to look like they have been manufactured in laboratories. 

Skiing is no different, and the constant evolution of skis, equipment, and attire in the pursuit of excellence is another indicator that skiing has to be considered as a sport.

For countries such as Austria and Switzerland, skiing is the most popular pastime and the national federations of these countries invest vast resources into sports science and sports manufacturing contracts. 

The sole aim behind this investment is to give them an overall edge over the rest of the competition.

Skiing is big business, and like other sports around the world, the demand is only getting higher.

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Popularity 

Ski Lessons5
Photo by Simon Hannaford under CC BY 2.0

When discussing whether something is a sport or not, popularity is often used as a reasonable benchmark.

If we use popularity as the measuring stick as to whether skiing is a sport or not, the overwhelming answer has to be yes. And yes, it’s more popular than snowboarding

Skiing is practiced all over the world, from Japan to New Zealand. Even in desert cities like Dubai where it never snows, huge indoor snow parks are being built – for better or for worse (environmental impacts).

Millions head to the mountains across Europe and North America every year. Despite its popularity, there is evidence of a decline in participation while resorts are suffering the effects of climate change.

Skiing isn’t a sport 

Whereas we have just listed some of the reasons why skiing is a sport, there are others who vigorously believe that skiing simply isn’t one.

Race Against The Clock

Nordic Combined

Across the majority of skiing disciplines such as the downhill events, competitors don’t race against each other, but against the clock. 

With the only rival being the clock, many believe that the lack of human competition can make skiing less of a sport than sports that see competitors race against each other at the same time.

With an element of closed competition, many believe this contributes to skiing not being an official sport.

It’s a pastime!

Whilst at the top end of the sport, skiers are blessed with an abundance of physical and mental traits, the same can’t be said on the amateur side of things. 

Whereas the professionals will don lycra, the average Joe wouldn’t be seen dead in it.

The difference in attire between those who ski for a living and those enjoying a week’s holiday in the mountains is massive.

That’s not all, for some skiers the après-ski element is far more enjoyable than the actual skiing itself.

For detractors of the sport, they see this side of skiing as another indicator that skiing is a sport that can’t be considered seriously if people tend to use their time on the mountain for a jolly.

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Skiing Is A Lifestyle 

Couple Skiing
Photo by Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

To some, they see the notion of sport being geared around competition. Even at the amateur level, sports such as football or tennis have an abundance of competition that can be accessed.

In these sports, you train to play in competitions or matches. You train and practice to win.

Skiing is different. Skiing is a lifestyle. People see the joy of sliding, traversing (or even falling!) as a release.

People don’t ski to win, they ski to escape their 9-5, they ski to be at one with the mountain and nature all around them.

Skiing is there to be enjoyed and it can thrive outside the world of intense competition.

So what do you think?

Blue Jacket

In this article, we have tried to present two clearly differing viewpoints.

For what it’s worth, this writer is firmly in the skiing is a sports camp. 

It’s hard not to be in awe of the supermen and women we see throw themselves down a mountainside. The fact they can do it safely comes from years of practice and dedication to their sport.

Even at my level, skiing is still a physical endeavor, and yes we might partake in the odd beer here or there, but our bodies and minds have had to work incredibly hard and by the end of the day we are shattered.

I can see why people consider skiing as a lifestyle rather than a sport, but I think the two go hand-in-hand. Just because I don’t compete in ski competitions or races, doesn’t mean that my skiing doesn’t embody what I believe a sport is.

It’s also hard to overlook the fact that skiing is the most popular winter sport and to me is the embodiment of the Winter Olympics.

Steeped in tradition and history, skiing is simply the best sport in the world.

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NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I founded this website so I could share everything that I wish someone had told me, when I started learning to ski in 2005. As seen in Yahoo, HowStuffWorks, MSN. Learn More

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