The Different Types of Skiing: A Beginner’s Guide

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When asked what skiing is, you’d probably say that it’s one of the most popular activities done during the winter where people strap on ski boards and then slide down on snowy mountain slopes with a pair ski poles. However, in addition to downhill skiing, there are many other enjoyable ways to ski. If you’re planning activities for your next winter vacation, you might want to explore other types of skiing. Here are some of them.


Alpine skiing, or downhill skiing, is the most common type of skiing. Skiers ride chairlifts or gondolas to reach the top of the slope or piste where they prepare to slide downhill. Ski resorts groom the slopes so they can be used by both beginner and competitive skiers. Alpine skiers wear ski boots that clip into fixed-heel bindings mounted on ski boards. These bindings help eject the boot in case of slips to prevent leg injuries.


Sometimes referred to as off-piste, all-mountain or out-of-area skiing, backcountry skiing means skiing on unpatrolled or unmarked areas outside ski resorts. Backcountry skiers would hike up mountain slopes and then ski downhill on their own. While most backcountry skiing take place outside ski resorts, some backcountry skiers would ride chairlifts to reach the piste of a ski resort and then hike further up and outside the ski resort before traveling down the slopes. Backcountry skiers use bindings with free-heel feature to allow them to ski both uphill and downhill. For safety reasons, skiers must undergo avalanche assessment and rescue training before going backcountry skiing.


Also called Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing is a form of skiing that involves a flat terrain. Unlike in alpine skiing where skiers travel downhill, cross-country skiers navigate snow-covered landscapes, either in a striding or a skating motion, by using their ski poles to push themselves forward. Cross-country skiing requires endurance and can be a great source of workout while enjoying nature.


Freestyle skiing, sometimes dubbed as “circus in the snow”, is an acrobatic type of skiing. The mountain slope is turned into a playground, combining the features of a piste and skate park. Freestyle skiers perform complex tricks and stunts, including aerial jumps, twists, turns, and somersaults.


Telemark skiing, like alpine skiing, involves skiing down the piste. But what differentiates it from alpine skiing is that the skiers have free-heel bindings which allow down to lift their heels when going downhill. Telemark skiing is also applicable in backcountry skiing but tele-skiers need to undergo avalanche training and must bring additional equipment like climbing skins and avalanche safety equipment


People skiing downhill

Ski-mountaineering combines alpine skiing and mountaineering, where ski-mountaineers climb the summit of a mountain either wearing skis or carrying them and then sliding down on their skis. Ski-mountaineers must be equipped with advanced skills in both skiing and mountaineering as it may involve higher altitude, rock or ice climbing, and crossing rock crevices.

With these skiing types in mind, you can now decide which one to include on your itinerary. If you’re not sure which skiing type to try, you can always start with the basic ones like alpine skiing or cross-country skiing and then branch out from these once you get comfortable.

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