types of skiing
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Learn The 10 Different Types of Skiing And Start Enjoying Today

Last Updated on March 6, 2023 by Molly Egan

Skiing at Mt. Snow in Vermont

What are the Different Types of Skiing?

The types of skiing include alpine, telemark, freestyle, Nordic (classic and skate), uphill skiing, backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering, adaptive skiing, and heli-skiing. All types of skiing involve gliding on snow using skis.

Each type involves varying skill levels and physical fitness but can be enjoyed in similar terrain and snow conditions. In need of ski gear, then here’s the best skiing gear.

Can You Ski All Types of Skiing at a Ski Resort?

No, heli-skiing or ski mountaineering requires access to specific terrain. Typically Nordic skiing is separate from ski resorts that offer backcountry skiing, alpine skiing, and alpine touring (uphill backcountry skiing or skinning).

Alpine Skiing

What Type of Skiing is Called Off-Piste Skiing?

Off-piste skiing, also known as backcountry skiing or off-trail skiing, is in natural terrain outside marked ski runs. It requires skill and experience to navigate variable terrain, has inherent risks, such as avalanches, and requires specialized equipment.

How Many Kinds of Skis Do You Need for the Different Types of Skiing?

It varies, but at least five types: alpine skis for downhill alpine skiing, alpine touring skis for uphill and downhill, classic cross-country skis, skate cross-country skis, and Telemark and backcountry skis.

The main difference between these different types of skiing, is the ski shape, primarily the bindings, and the ski boots that pair with the ski bindings are the key differences.

Alpine Touring

How Many Types of Skiing are There? Read below.

  1. Alpine skiing (downhill skiing)

  2. Telemark Skiing

  3. Freestyle skiing

  4. Cross-country skiing (Nordic skiing)

  5. Cross-country skiing (Skate skiing)

  6. Alpine touring (uphill skiing)

  7. Backcountry skiing (off-piste)

  8. Ski mountaineering

  9. Adaptive skiing

  10. Heli-skiing

Alpine Downhill Skiing in Colorado

1. Alpine Skiing (Downhill skiing)

Alpine skiing, also called downhill skiing, involves skiers going downhill on ski slopes or ski trails using fixed-heel bindings, typically on a mountain with a ski resort. Skiers of all skill levels can enjoy alpine skiing.

2. Telemark Skiing

Telemark skiing is a heel-free skiing technique that combines elements of both classic skiing, alpine and cross-country skiing. This type of skiing uses special bindings to the skier make telemark turns and flexible boots.

Telemark skiers have their heels free and only the toe of a ski boot fixed. Telemark skiers are very fun to watch and it is a competitive sport! It’s named after the Telemark region of Norway where it originated.

3. Freestyle Skiing

Freestyle skiing is a style of skiing that involves skiing off jumps and performing tricks, such as spins and flips. Freestyle skiing is typically done in a terrain park but can be anywhere on the same slopes or mountain.

Cross-Country Skiing in Prospect Park

4. Cross-Country Skiing (Nordic skiing)

Cross-country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing, is a type of skiing that involves gliding over groomed trails using a kicking and gliding motion. Cross-country skiing (Nordic) involves endurance skiing on narrow, lightweight skis.

5. Cross-Country Skiing (Skate skiing)

Cross-country skiing, called Skate skiing, utilizes a V-shaped stride similar to ice skating, providing speed and agility on groomed tracks. This style of cross country (or XC) has a slightly shorter ski than classic cross country.

6. Alpine Touring (Uphill skiing)

Alpine touring, also known as uphill and downhill skiing together, is the practice of skiing uphill with specialized bindings and then skiing back down. Skiers use climbing skins on the bottom of their skis to grip the snow while ascending.

When skinning (commonly called uphill skiing) your heels free from the rear binding to climb hills. To ski downhill, the rear heel special bindings rotated and then converted to a typical downhill skiing position.

Backcountry Gate at Vail

7. Backcountry Skiing (off-piste)

Backcountry skiing, or off-piste skiing, involves skiing in natural, unmarked terrain outside a ski resort. It requires special equipment, training, and awareness of potential dangers like avalanches.

Ski-Touring, ski mountaineering, and off-trail skiing are included as types of backcountry skiing. The backcountry terrain is natural, unmarked, and dangerous without the right knowledge, understanding and gear.

8. Ski Mountaineering

Ski mountaineers combine skiing and mountaineering and both ascending and descending mountainous terrain. Skiers often use skins on their skis to climb hills, remove them to ski down, and carry ice axes.

Backcountry Gear

9. Adaptive skiing

Adaptive skiing is skiing adapted for those with physical disabilities. Skiers use specialized equipment, such as sit-skis or outriggers, to enable them to ski.

10. Heli-skiing

Heli-skiing involves a skier being flown by helicopter to remote areas of untouched snow and then skiing back down. It requires advanced skiing ability and avalanche safety, popular among thrill-seekers, experienced skiers, and expert skiers. Some of the best Heli-Skiing in the world are in Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, and Patagonia.

Alpine Skiing in Colorado


Downhill alpine skiing, or downhill skiing, is skiing downhill on groomed or marked runs, while telemark skiing combines downhill skiing with the technique of a free heel. Downhill skiing is classic skiing.

Cross-country skiing includes classic and skate techniques on flat or gently sloping terrain. Alpine touring or uphill skiing is skiing uphill and downhill with special bindings, while backcountry skiing involves skiing in natural, ungroomed terrain.

Ski mountaineering combines skiing with mountaineering and requires ascending and descending mountainous terrain. Heli-skiing involves skiing in remote, untracked terrain accessed by a helicopter.

Freestyle skiing is a style of skiing that involves aerials, moguls, and acrobatic aerial maneuvers. Adaptive skiing is skiing adapted for people with disabilities.

Despite the types and forms of skiing, it is a great workout!

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