What are Different Types of Skis?

Sheri Cyprus

Different types of snow skis are used depending on the type of activity the skier is doing as well as the terrain and the snow conditions. The different types used in snow skiing include alpine, cross-country, alpine touring, overland and Telemark skis. They also include twin-tip, mogul, monoskis and jumping skis. The differences between each type of ski might include the length, width and shape of the ski as well as the design of the binding, which is how the skier's boot attaches to the ski

Cross-country skis allow for the foot to lift off the ski.
Cross-country skis allow for the foot to lift off the ski.

Alpine and Cross-Country

The main difference between cross-country skis and alpine skis, or downhill skis, as they are often called, is that a cross-country ski allows the heel of the boot to be free while the toe is attached to the ski with the binding. The entire boot is attached to an alpine ski. A cross-country skier must have his or her heel free in order to extend that leg forward in a walking or running type of motion, which is the main method of propulsion in cross-country skiing. For an alpine skier, having the boot attached at the heel and the toe gives him or her greater stability and control while skiing downhill.

Alpine, or downhill, skis keep the booted foot attached to the ski.
Alpine, or downhill, skis keep the booted foot attached to the ski.

Alpine Touring

Alpine touring skis are shorter and wider than most other skis, which allows the skier to execute tighter turns on hard snow. These lightweight skis are designed for steep slopes and mountain snow conditions. Soft snow versions also are available. An alpine touring ski often includes a notch in its tail and a hole in its tip. A climbing skin — material attached to the bottom of ski to add more glide — can be attached to the notch, and the hole can be used to insert rope or other material to form a rescue sled out of two alpine touring skis.

A pair of Alpine skis.
A pair of Alpine skis.

Overland Touring or Backcountry

Overland touring skis are designed for use on rolling hills where the snow is deep and tracks might not already exist. Also called backcountry skis, these generally are wider than alpine, although narrow versions also are available. Wide overland touring skis are used for deep snow in backcountry regions that do not have set tracks. The wider ski help prevent it from sinking deeper into the snow. Narrow versions also can be used for deep snow and are better when there already are set ski tracks.

Slalom courses are run downhill.
Slalom courses are run downhill.


Telemark skis, which are named after the Telemark region in Norway, are relatively flexible touring or downhills skis that have bindings that attach only at the toe. They often have metal-edges and are available in racing styles. Varieties for different types of snow such as hard pack and powder are also available.

Telemark skiing was introduced in 1868 by Sondre Norheim of Norway.
Telemark skiing was introduced in 1868 by Sondre Norheim of Norway.

Twin-Tip and Mogul

Twin-tip skis are curved up at both ends to allow for easier spins and backward takeoffs. They are used in skiing on non-groomed snow in all types of terrain. Twin-tips also are used in freestyle skiing, which emphasizes jumps, spins and flips. Mogul skis are similar and are designed specifically for use on moguls, which essentially are large bumps. They are relatively flexible, although their tails must be stiff enough to allow skiers to use them to push off from the moguls.


Monoskis are made up of one ski rather than a set of two. Unlike on a snowboard, the ski bindings on a monoski are placed parallel to the length of the ski, side by side, so that the skier's toes point forward. Another version of the monoski features a seat mounted a short distance above the board, which allows them to be used by paraplegics, amputees, people who have limited use of their legs or people who have other physical conditions that would prevent them from standing while skiing. This type of monoski is sometimes called a sit-ski.

Skiboards combine design elements from skis and snowboards.
Skiboards combine design elements from skis and snowboards.

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Discussion Comments


I am not a great skier, but do enjoy going every chance I get. I have seen more than one person using monoskis because of a physical disability.

I think of the times I have trouble staying up on two skis, and am impressed by the determination they have to be on the slopes. I have a lot of respect for those people who don't let their disability stop them from doing something they enjoy like skiing.


I have only been skiing one time, and really didn't enjoy it. I took a lesson, but didn't feel like I caught on very well, and really don't enjoy spending much time out in the snow.

I spent most of the day in the ski lodge watching the other people ski down the mountain. I was especially fascinated with those who skied the moguls. I didn't know they had special mogul skis for this type of downhill skiing.

It makes sense because I had no idea how they were able to ski down those bumpy hills so fast and not fall flat on their face. It made for a very interesting afternoon, but I don't think I will be spending much time on the slopes wearing any kind of skis.


We live in the country and have several acres of land. We have made our own cross-country trails through much of our timber. Our whole family enjoys putting on our cross-country skis and spending time together outside.

I have some friends who love to downhill ski and think that cross-country skiing is too much work. I love the exercise and solitude of being in the woods on my cross-country skis.


Our family loves to downhill ski, so we are most familiar with alpine skis. I didn't learn how to ski until I was in my late 20's, but quickly realized how much I enjoyed it.

After paying to rent skis a couple of times, I decided I could save some money by buying my own pair of snow skis. I bought a used pair of bright yellow Atomic skis that severed me well for many years.

These were high quality skis that someone was selling because they no longer needed them. They looked almost new, and it was a great way for me to own a good pair of skis at a decent price.

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