Altay herdsmen use ancient fur snowboards for modern skiing

Xinhua
The fur snowboards, which are made of pine wood and horsehide, are still being used by local herdsmen because of their simple and smart designs.
Xinhua

Sengel, a 33-year-old herdsman from Altay Prefecture in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, started traveling through inhabited mountainous regions, with just a kind of ancient fur snowboards that were used by his ancestors about 12,000 years ago.

In 2015, an ancient rock painting depicting people hunting on the fur snowboards was found in Altay Prefecture, dating back about 12,000 years, which made Altay one of the places where skiing originated.

The fur snowboards, which are made of pine wood and horsehide, are still being used by local herdsmen because of their simple and smart designs.

“We choose the horsehide on which the grain runs in the same direction, which provides traction to prevent skiers from slipping when they are traveling uphill, while allowing them to slide forward more smoothly when going downhill,” Sengel said.

With eight other local herdsmen, Sengel planned to travel about 300 kilometers in mountainous regions in 10 days, including about 100km of uninhabited area.

“Through this trip, we hope more and more people can know about our fur snowboards in order to better preserve the ancient heritage,” he said.

While the fur snowboards used to be tools for local herdsmen during their travels and for hunting, they are used in recreational sport nowadays.

Many villages in Altay Prefecture, including Hemu, have their own skiing teams with fur snowboards and hold skiing competitions every year.

Compared with modern snowboards, the fur snowboards are more suitable for skiers to ski in undeveloped skiing areas without ski lifts or other forms of assistance, thanks to their advantages in traveling uphill, said Malichin, the team leader of the nine herdsmen.

Promoting the ancient snowboard skiing is in accordance with an ambitious plan China unveiled when it successfully bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics (to be held in Beijing), in which as many as 300 million people are encouraged to take part in winter sports.

The country released a 10-year plan in 2016 for developing winter sports, aiming to develop a national winter sports industry worth 1 trillion yuan (US$147 billion) by the year of 2025.

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