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Skiing in Norway: A Rich History and Precarious Future

With Interview from Veteran Norwegian Competitive Nordic Skier Ragnar Horn

The History of Skiing in Norway

Skiing has been immersed in Norwegian culture for over 5000 years. In fact, the word itself can be translated back to the old Norse word “skíð” meaning “split piece of wood or firewood.” Primitive carvings found in Scandinavia depict humans utilizing skis as far back as 4000 B.C. with some of the best-known examples appearing in Norway.

On the island of Rødøy in Nordland a carving shows a skier holding a single pole and wearing skis of equal length, and one of the famous Alta rock carvings dating back to 10000 B.C. depicts a hunter on skis. In addition to these carvings, over 20 well-preserved skis or ski fragments have been found in drained bogs in Norway, some being dated as far back as 3200 B.C. As a country known for its fjords and glaciers, developing the skill of skiing would have been paramount to survival in the harsh climate not only for traveling quickly on land, but also to aid in hunting and the transportation of goods.

Within Norwegian culture, there are several stories in which the mythological Norse gods hunt on skis, and the gods Ullr and Skaði in particular were known as the god and goddess associated with skiing. The origin story of the Norwegian king Haakon IV tells of how in 1206 he was transported to safety by soldiers on skis as a baby during a tumultuous civil war. Said to have traveled through the hills between Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen valleys, today there is an annual cross-country ski race called the Birkebeinerrennet that is held in celebration of the journey. In another heroic effort, during World War II Norwegian commandos performed one of the most successful acts of sabotage after cross-country skiing several days to their destination.

Today, it is a rare occurrence to find a Norwegian who doesn’t know how to ski. It is very common to take part in organized basic ski training as a preschooler, and most schools have at least one compulsory ski day a year. The national has numerous successful ski resorts and is one of the most successful nations on the world stage at the Winter Olympics.

Ragnar Horn – Veteran Competitive Nordic Skier

This publication recently had the opportunity to speak with Ragnar Horn, a veteran of the competitive Nordic ski world and a successful shipping and investment leader. He tells us more about what brought him into the sport and what is needed to make sure the next generation of Norwegian skiing continues to thrive.

Concurrent to a life spent competing in Nordic, Horn attended the Cavalry Officer Candidate School, then moved to the United States where he attended Williams College in Massachusetts, graduating with honors with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. During his collegiate time in the US, Horn competed in Division I Nordic skiing competitions.

As an alumnus of the Harvard Business School, Ragnar Horn has been a member of the Global Leaders Circle since 2017 and Harvard’s Global Advisory Council. Ragnar Horn is a member of Right to Play’s Global Leadership Council. Horn also sits on several company boards including the Board of Eiendomsspar AS, Victoria Eiendom AS, Clarksons Platou AS and Clarksons Platou Securities AS.

With a family and a full workload as Chairman of Taconic AS, Horn continues to ski competitively every year and is currently ranked #6 in Visma Ski Classics’ global ranking for the 55-59 age group in cross-country skiing. He enters into the Visma Ski Classics, a commercially sponsored international long-distance cross-country skiing cup competition. In 2020 alone he competed in three races, the 62km La Diagonela in Switzerland, the 70km Marcialonga in Italy, and the 90km Vasaloppet in Sweden. In an extended expression of his passion for the sport, Horn’s company is also a co-sponsor for Team Ragde Eiendom, widely known as the best professional ski marathon racing team in the world.

Whilst Alpine ski disciplines are currently experiencing a surge in popularity, Horn has said that Nordic skiing builds a particular type of character that is crucial for the next generation of leaders. Cross-country requires determination, discipline and most of all resilience. Horn argues that this resilience has been crucial to his success and that in sponsoring Team Ragde Eiendom he hopes to inspire the next generation of Nordic skiers to keep the discipline thriving both in Norway and internationally.

However, the recent challenges facing the sport are not only inspiring the next generation to take up the sport. Norwegians are beginning to see the effect global warming is having and January 2020 was the hottest in recorded Norwegian history according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. Prior to 1980, Norway experienced an average of 140 days of annual winter - now the country has less than 100 and the number is predicted to drop further to 60 days within the next 30 years.

To combat this, the Norwegian government has been funding research to assist the skiing industry in the development of artificial snow and very recently the first indoor ski arena opened just outside of Oslo. The Norwegian government was also one of the first to ratify the Paris Agreement and has made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. In the future, in addition to government support the sport needs more passionate business leaders such as Ragnar Horn to invest in the sport, to support its growth and to ensure the next generation of Norwegian skiers have a bright future.

Only one thing is for sure, resilience, determination and discipline will be crucial values in charting the next chapter of Nordic skiing.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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