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Skiers on the Bloke Plateau

Photo: Igor Modic

Skiing on the Bloke Plateau was recorded as early as 1689 by Janez Vajkard Valvasor, a member of the Royal Society, in his work titled The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, so the people of Bloke are considered to have the oldest tradition of skiing in central Europe.

Skis from the Bloke Plateau  are among the most remarkable ethnological curiosities of Slovenia. They are of autochthonous origin and part of proto-Slavic heritage. 

Skis were known as a means of transport on the Bloke Plateau and in the nearby hills around Sveti Vid. They allowed people to move across the snow and transport goods. People used them to go to church, to run errands, to go into the forest and even to attend funerals. They were not generally used for sport, except on Shrove Tuesday, although the young men of the area may have also used them on other occasions. Their first mention in written documents dates from 1260. 

To make their skis, the people of Bloke used the wood that was to hand. Besides beech and maple, ash was considered most suitable because of its pliability. After cutting the wood to the correct length, they would submerge one end in water. They then boiled the wood for between two and three hours in order to soften it, after which they could bend it in a special frame. The skis were around 150 centimetres long and 15–20 centimetres wide. The curvature of the bent ends had a height of around 10 centimetres.

The bindings were originally made from willow switches and later from leather. To stop the foot from slipping, felt from an old hat was attached to the ski. Climbing boots – standard working footwear in winter – were used as ski boots. The skis would get wet when used and begin to straighten out, so careful owners would always bend them again. A pair of skis could last up to 15 years.  

Text by Tanja Glogovčan