SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (3-15-06)
They are central Asians, Mongols, and Kazaks, living in the remote Altay mountains of Xinjiang province, where some claim skiing was first conceived.
Using curved planks whose design dates back 2,000 years, the Altaic peoples are formidable skiers. They might not win a medal on perfectly groomed Olympic trails. But they can break their own paths, track elk for days in deep snow, and capture them live.
They don't zig-zag through slalom courses or bump down moguls. But using a single pole, they plunge straight down mountainsides in a blaze of efficiency, and climb hills with a speed and grace that has wowed the few Western experts who have witnessed their prowess.
"These skiers wouldn't do well in the Olympics," says pro skier Nils Larsen. "But the Olympians from Turin couldn't make their skis do what the Altaic skiers can.