Snow in Science, Culture, and Climate

History of Snow Travel

Many of the winter recreational activities that people participate in today were originally invented to allow people to travel in snow to accomplish day to day activities necessary for survival. Over time, as people adopted motorized modes of transportation, such as snowmobiles, planes, and automobiles, travel by skis, snowshoes, and dog sleds was no longer necessary for practical reasons. These activities are still popular today, but they are primarily used for fun and competition. The winter sports that people enjoy today all tell stories about how people lived in the past and how northern lifestyles and technologies have changed over time.

Select the topics below to learn more about the origins of four popular winter recreational activities.


Man skiing downhill with single pole, circa 1905
Photo from Zdarsky Ski Museum on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain {{PD-US}})

Travel by Sled

Two indigenous women dressed warmly with a loaded toboggan sled
Photo courtesy of Yukon Archives, Claude and Mary Tidd Fonds #7324


A man and a woman driving a prototype motorized snow vehicle
Photo from Minnesota Historical Society on Wikimedia Commons (CC0)


Man on large snowshoes carrying beaded gun case
Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska and Polar Regions Collection E38874