The world’s most ancient ski

Yirkap’s ski

The world’s most ancient ski

“Once you’re a Syktyvkarer, you’re a skier”

“Once you’re a Syktyvkarer, you’re a skier”. In the capital of the Komi Republic, this half-joking proverb is known to every kid.

It can be seen on banners that greet citizens at the beginning of numerous tracks at the Dynamo training base. Almost each Syktyvkar family owns a full set of ski gears for adults and children. Hundreds of citizens flock to the training base every weekend. Dozens of tired clerks occupy tracks on weekday evenings to relieve stress after a work shift. The forests near Syktyvkar are riddled with ski runs for every taste: short ones and long ones, straight ones and winding ones, flat ones and bumpy ones. Everyone can choose a track according to their abilities.


The famous Olympic champion Raisa Smetanina began her career in the village of Bakur of the Izhma district. Today, the Komi Republic’s biggest ski stadium bears her name. It is located in the village of Vylgort of the Syktyvdinsky district and is where the national winter sports elite get together every spring for the competition. Known as the Russian Ski Championship, it has a reputation of being a real holiday for residents and guests of the Komi Republic.

About the ancient ski

The love of the Syktyvkarers for skiing might be explained by the fact that the Komi land is the place where it supposedly originated. A possible proof of that is stored in the ethnography department of the region’s National Museum. It is a fragment of an ancient hunter's ski, crowned with an elk's head.

The unique artifact was found in 1964 in the Vissky peat bog near Ukhta. In 2010, it was sent to the Hermitage for restoration and research, and the latter revealed that the fragment is almost 9,000 thousand years old. This gives grounds to consider it part of the world’s most ancient ski.

The nose of the ski, made of pine, is decorated with a carved head of an elk, which acts as an anchor-brake. It did not allow the hunter to roll down the mountain. The ski is made from pine. The discovery was named the "ski of Yirkap" and for a reason.

The legend of Yirkap

The ski was named after the Komi folklore hero.

The legend of Yirkap says that he was a hunter. Once upon a time, passing by Lake Sindor he saw the forest spirit Vorsa fighting the water spirit Vakul. Yirkap helped the former, making him win. In gratitude, Vorsa told the hunter about the tree that contained his soul, so-called As Pu. Having found it, Yirkap cut it down and made a magic ski from its wood. It allowed him to fly faster than his arrows, making him able to hunt better than anyone else.

However, Yirkap’s success aroused the envy of other hunters. With the filing of a witch, they gave the owner of the magic ski enchanted water to drink, which made him very heavy. The next day, while hunting on Lake Sindor, Yirkap fell through the ice and drowned. However, the magic ski did not follow him. It came off its owner’s foot, knocked down a pine and flew away.