The Skill of Ski-Archery

Historically used as a weapon for hunting or in combat, today archery is primarily a recreational activity. Archery is sometimes referred to as an art, rather than a sport, and it certainly takes a lot of skill to propel an arrow, by means of a bow, with the accuracy required to hit a target, whether stationary or in motion. Ski-archery, also known as ski-arc, combines the skill of the archer, with the strength and endurance of cross-country skiing in a sport that is gaining quite a following.

It is believed that ski-archery has its roots in the Scandinavian countries, with the first documented evidence being a picture from the mid-1500s of a skier carrying a bow, poised in the shooting position. Ski-archery was established as a sport in the mid-1980s in Italy, and has gone through a number of refinements before being recognized as a competitive sport by the governing body of archery – Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc (FITA) – in 1991. The ski-archery craze soon spread from Italy to France, Germany, Slovenia, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand and the USA. The International Biathlon Union (which represents a similar sport, but with shooting) and FITA combined forces to develop ski-archery as a recognized competitive sport. As of the northern winter season of 2006, FITA became the sport’s official international governing body.

In a ski-archery competition, the archers carry their bows and arrows in a specially designed backpack during the skiing section of the event. Over the 12 kilometer distance for men, and 8 kilometers for women, competitors shoot one end of four arrows every 4 kilometers. In one of those ends, the archer is required to shoot from a kneeling position. The archer’s feet may not lose contact with the skis throughout the competition, so when kneeling to shoot, although the archer may loosen his/her skis for comfort, the feet must remain in contact with the skis. Targets, which are 16 centimeters in diameter, are placed 18 meters from the archer. For each target that is missed, the archer is required to complete a penalty circuit of 350 meters before continuing with the race. The first competitor to cross the finish line is declared the winner.

Archery has come a long way since it was first invented for hunting, possibly in the late Paleolithic or early Mesolithic periods (more commonly referred to as the Stone-Age), with competitions currently being held for target archery, field archery, 3D archery, clout archery, crossbow archery and flight archery. Ski-archery adds yet another challenging dimension to this ancient art.