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Ski warfare, the use of ski-equipped troops in war, is first recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. The speed and distance that ski troops are able to cover is comparable to that of light cavalry.
World War I
During WWI the Italian Army raised 88 Alpini Battalions. Their purpose was to fight summer and winter in the highest regions of the Alpine Arch. Most of the battalions were dissolved after WWI. Only nine Alpini regiments remain in service today, and only four still train every soldier in ski warfare: the 4th Alpini Parachutist Regiment, 5th Alpini Regiment, 6th Alpini Regiment and 7th Alpini Regiment.
World War II
Ski troops played a key role in the successes of the Finnish war effort against the Soviet Union during the Winter War in 1939. Forested, rural terrain with no roads was used by Finnish ski troops with great success against the advancing mechanized Soviet troops. Most notably, in Battle of Suomussalmi, two Soviet mechanized divisions (45,000 men) were annihilated by three Finnish regiments (11,000 men).
The most common transportation for Norwegian soldiers during the Norwegian Campaign in 1940 was skis and sleds, and in Operation Gunnerside, paradropped Norwegian commandos covered a large distance using skis in order to reach and destroy a heavy water plant Vemork at Rjukan in Telemark, Norway, which was being used by the Germans as part of their nuclear research programme.
Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian defense forces use skis normally in cross country skiing but also by pulling squads of soldiers with tracked transport vehicles or snow mobiles. One or two ropes hang from the end of a tracked vehicle such as the famous Swedish Hägglunds Bandvagn 206 or the Finnish Sisu Nasu and troops hang on to the ropes with their hands and ski-poles.
The United States ski patrol plays a vital role in the plot to the book A Separate Peace.
Many nations train troops in skiing and winter warfare, including:
- Austrian Army — Certain soldiers are trained in ski combat.
- Danish Navy — Slædepatruljen Sirius (Sirius Arctic Patrol) patrols Northern and Eastern Greenland.
- Estonian Army — Conscripts routinely receive training in skiing and other winter warfare skills.
- Finnish Army — every soldier is trained in ski combat, and skiing is a part of standard required training for all conscripts.
- French Army 27th Chasseurs Alpins Brigade
- German Bundeswehr Gebirgsjäger
- Italian Army has the Alpini Corp with 16 Regiments.
- Netherlands' - Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, Korps Commandotroepen and the 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade - annual exercises taking place in the interior of Northern Norway
- Norwegian Army, every soldier is trained in ski combat.
- Polish Army 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade and elements of the 6th Paratroopers Brigade.
- Romanian Land Forces - Vânători de Munte (Mountain Hunters), every soldier is trained in ski combat.
- Spain - "Brigada de Cazadores de Montaña Aragón I" (Mountain Light Infantry Brigade Aragón I), in Jaca (Huesca) with a specialized section "Compañía de Esquiadores-Escaladores" (Skiing-Climbing Company), in Jaca (Huesca).
- Slovenian army 132nd Mountain Battalion is trained in ski combat and mountain survival, Slovenian army is member of International Federation of Mountain Soldiers - IFMS. Slovenia is also a host nation for NATO's Multinational Centre of Excellence for Mountain Warfare.
- Sweden Majority of soldiers are trained in ski combat
- Switzerland's 3rd Mountain Army Corps (Corps d’armée de montagne 3)
- United Kingdom - members of the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade are trained in alpine and cold weather warfare at facilities in Norway.
- United States - the United States Marine Corps through the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center  in northern California; the US Army in Alaska at the Northern Warfare Training Center and the Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vermont and the US Navy also in Alaska at Naval Special Warfare Cold Weather Detachment Kodiak.
- Australia's first ski troops by Col. R.W. Savage in Australian Ski Yearbook, 1942. Reprinted in: Bill Beatty. The white roof of Australia. Cassell, 1958. pp. 77-80.