What are the Different Types of Skiing?

Sheri Cyprus

Skiing is gliding on snow with the use of equipment. The wide range of variations is diverse. Cross country, downhill or alpine, backcountry, twin-tip, and helisking are the main different kinds of skiing.

Many cross country skiing trails become hiking trail in summer.
Many cross country skiing trails become hiking trail in summer.

Cross country skiing began thousands of years ago in Scandinavia as a means of transportation. Considered fairly easy to learn with a low chance of injury, this method is enjoyed by people of all different fitness levels and ages. Even most toddlers can cross country ski. Beginners should stick to easier terrain. Special sit and ski sleds for disabled skiers are available in many parts of the United States.

Cross country skiing is easy enough to be done by a toddler.
Cross country skiing is easy enough to be done by a toddler.

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Downhill or alpine skiing is more difficult than cross country. The gravitational force and positioning on turns demands agile negotiation and strong leg muscles. Downhill skiing can be both mentally and physically challenging. Managing all the equipment while constantly strategizing downhill moves takes practice and concentration.

Downhill skiing involves skiing down steep slopes or mountains.
Downhill skiing involves skiing down steep slopes or mountains.

Backcountry skiing is often defined as skiing on ungroomed snow and natural terrain. Overland ski touring and mountain ski touring are the two types, but sometimes these types blend together in ski touring. Overland is similar to cross country as the main idea is to enjoy the scenery while being off the well-travelled paths. Good locations for overland skiing are usually hiking trails in a mountain or forest that is away from roads.

Some skiers prefer the backcountry to a ski resort environment.
Some skiers prefer the backcountry to a ski resort environment.

Mountain ski touring combines downhill with climbing mountains. No ski lifts are used here! These tourers need to be physically fit. Mountain ski touring using alpine touring equipment allows parallel turns to be made with the heel of the boot attached to the ski as in alpine skiing.

Heliskiers are airlifted to remote locations by helicopter.
Heliskiers are airlifted to remote locations by helicopter.

Telemark skiing is a type of mountain ski touring. The telemark, also called the free heel, has the heel free and not attached to the ski to make the telemark turn. Yo-yoing is mountain skiing on a climbing rack set out on a hill for both ascents and descents.

Twin-tip skiing uses skis with both ends that are narrow. Twin-tip design allows for easy spins as well as backward take offs. Freeride, which is all terrain skiing on non-groomed snow, and freestyle, which is skiing with many jumps, flips, and spins, are two types of twin-tip.

Heliskiing takes place in areas accessed only by a helicopter. The terrain is varied and the snow is ungroomed. Sometimes forest areas are skied or other times only open slopes are skied during heliskiing.

Cross country skiing involves using skiis and poles to cross terrain.
Cross country skiing involves using skiis and poles to cross terrain.

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Discussion Comments

healthnwell

Something that is fairly new where I live is called skate skiing. It is a lot of fun. It is a cross between cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. The skis ar much shorter and you move almost like you are ice skating. It is a big workout, but at the end of the day you feel very invigorated.

There are usually lessons available at a Nordic ski center and for the beginner you can rent the equipment. Since it is like ice skating, but on skis you need balance and properly fitted equipment so ask the experts to help you and have fun!

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