Breaking down different kinds of skiing

breaking down different kinds of skiing
1/11 SLIDES © Lukas Gojda // Shutterstock

Breaking down different kinds of skiing

Traversing or gliding across snow has been a common sport for millennia. Fragments of skis—primitive but unmistakably similar to the skis of today—found in the north of Russia date back to 6,000 B.C.

Theorized to be used as a means to cross swaths of frozen land and hunt, skiing eventually transformed from a tool of survival to an activity done for fun. While people have long sailed down the Alps on skis, the advent of film and television sent skiing global. Skiing and big-mountain explorations were captured by filmmakers like “Ski Bum” Warren Miller, while James Bond regularly escaped foes on the slopes. The sport became popular in many places around the world with the climate and terrain to support it—and even in places where it doesn’t, as is the case with Dubai’s indoor ski park.

Skiing became the sport we know today in Norway thanks to the country’s history with skiing that made its way into military training and eventually competitions, personified by Sondre Norheim. Norheim crafted his own skis and dominated early competitions in the late 1860s and 1870s. Skiing spread in popularity across Europe and debuted in the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix, France, with Nordic and jumping events.

Skiing in the Olympics has since grown into five main ski events: alpine, cross-country, jumping, freestyle, and a combined event consisting of both jumping and cross-country racing. Mogul, ski cross, halfpipe, and slopestyle are newer additions to the freestyle event.

Skiers like Olympian Bode Miller became household names. Athletes Sarah Burke and Shane McConkey captured the hearts of fans across the globe before untimely deaths. Others jumped from success on the slopes to parallel careers as entrepreneurs, including heli-skiing mountaineers Doug Coombs and Dean Cummings, and those who started their own ski companies, including Tanner Hall and the late JP Auclair, who founded Armada. Those and more skiing athletes have continued to evolve the sport. The X Games include new, 21st-century events like slopestyle and ski superpipe, and hosts informal competitions in urban skiing.

Meanwhile, mere mortals who have viewed these superheroes are curious about how best to explore on snow, and what gear to get. Curated breaks down seven types of skiing, along with the type of equipment you’ll need, notable figures, and a basic history of that type of skiing. Continue reading to learn more about options you might want to try.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
2/11 SLIDES © Tomas Marek // Shutterstock

Alpine/downhill skiing

Those who know skiing primarily via the Olympics are probably most familiar with the competitive side of alpine, aka downhill, skiing. But the everyday skier isn’t necessarily focused on speed. Accessing terrain—via mechanized options, including chairlifts, gondolas, rope tows, and magic carpets—is one of the aspects that sets this type of skiing apart from those that require human power to ascend the mountain before gliding back to the base.

Different options of skis allow skiers to choose the perfect ski to manage the surface they’re gliding across on a given day. Width, stiffness, and dimensions are altered to make skis that handle different conditions. Carving skis—often used in the American northeast or generally in icy conditions—are thinner, with edges set at different angles to facilitate carving into the ice while skiing.

Skiers in the Western states—with consistent natural snowfall or “deep pow”—make more use of wider skis that are excellent for fresh powder. Those who want one ski to handle everything turn to all-mountain skis. Because there are so many subtypes within this discipline, there’s a style that fits every personality and every degree of fitness or thrill-seeking tendencies. Downhill bindings are also different from those used in other disciplines: The heel is locked down to the binding through the boot.

Mikaela Shiffrin now holds more world records in the downhill discipline than any other American skier, and Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark still holds the record for most World Cup wins overall.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
3/11 SLIDES © Daniele Romano // Shutterstock

Telemark/free-heel skiing

Telemark is an old-school kind of skiing that’s becoming a bit of a lost art. It’s mainly seen in downhill skiing in-bounds, though one uses a similar technique and bindings for backcountry and freeskiing. Telemark bindings have a free-heel boot, which is useful for lunging and carving. 

One notable record in the sport is that of Rainer Hertrich, a snowcat operator who telemarked every single day for eight years, logging 100 million vertical feet. Some skiers in this discipline share Hertrich’s drive —and others just like the freedom and options the sport gives them.

While such telemark skiers are becoming a rare breed, those who practice it are a voracious community who are currently pushing to bring telemarking into the 2022 Olympic Games, which could restore its popularity.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
4/11 SLIDES © gorillaimages // Shutterstock

Cross-country/Nordic skiing

The first Winter Olympics, in 1924 at Chamonix, included a “Nordic combined” event that included both cross-country and jumping, as well as a separate jumping event.

Cross-country skis are long and light, perfect for transporting oneself a maximum distance with minimal effort—important, given that these skiers get no help traversing the mountain. And like telemark skis, the heel is free. Classic cross-country involves gliding in a parallel motion, on either tracks or off-piste, while skate cross-country involves pushing off diagonally in a movement similar to ice skating, on tracks designed specifically for this discipline.

Because this sport can take skiers into the depths of the wilderness, it’s appealing to those seeking the peace inherent in that environment. Other participants use cross-country skiing as cross-training for other sports, including competitive cycling.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
Slideshow continues on the next slide
breaking down different kinds of skiing
5/11 SLIDES © Flystock // Shutterstock

Backcountry skiing (also known as alpine touring)

Exploring the backcountry gives you access to untracked (or at least less-tracked) powder and terrain in off-piste areas, but you typically have to “earn your turns” by “skinning” up the mountain. Specialized lighter-weight alpine touring (AT) bindings will be especially helpful when climbing up the mountain.

Alpine touring boots help with allowing greater foot mobility and strength in instances where you’re skinning uphill. Then, of course, there’s the need for a lot of aerobic capacity and lower-body strength. Those with bigger budgets and less desire for an uphill workout can also get to virgin snow via snowcat or helicopter. This type of skiing attracts adventurers as well as those who love the calm of the wilderness.

What’s most important to bring with you on backcountry excursions is knowledge, certification, and respect for the dangers of out-of-bounds skiing. The risk of backcountry skiing is heightened for those who are not trained in avalanche safety. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in more people than usual flocking to the slopes in the 2020–21 winter season, many of them inexperienced. This resulted in the season tying the record for most deaths due to avalanches in the U.S., with 36 lives lost.

Before contemplating a backcountry adventure, it’s advisable to complete an avalanche safety course, and learn how to use a beacon, a probe, and a shovel.

A beacon is an electronic device that communicates with other beacons for the purpose of alerting those nearby to someone stuck under deep snow. A probe is used to pinpoint the horizontal location of a person buried following an avalanche. Additionally, it can be used as a measuring device that gauges the depth of snow. Before you go backcountry skiing, tracking avalanche conditions for the day is a must. There are several apps for exactly this. Finally, backcountry skiing should never be undertaken alone. It’s also a good idea to gain plenty of practice in controlled environments and to bring a first aid kit and food and water.

There’s also sidecountry skiing on terrain that is outside of the ski area boundary and less-traversed because of the advanced skills and/or hiking or skinning required to get there. Ultimately, sidecountry skiers are at a higher risk as there is no ski patrol or avalanche mitigation in the sidecountry. Sidecountry skiing is often where people get hurt because it is more easily accessible, lulling inexperienced skiers into a false sense of security.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
6/11 SLIDES © Roberto Caucino // Shutterstock

Ski mountaineering

One step beyond backcountry skiing is mountaineering, which may involve traversing the mountain by foot at times while carrying your skis, as well as additional gear, including crampons, rope, and an ice axe.

This sport attracts the adventurous and those who possess—or want to develop—multiple skillsets for exploring the mountain. Knowledgeable ski guides can help those getting into mountaineering with introductions to difficult terrains and best practices for enjoying this more extreme form of skiing safely. Like any enterprise that takes skiers to isolated or rough terrains, it’s smart to go with friends or form small groups that retain the independence of ski mountaineering adventures while providing safety in numbers. Mountain climbing and building endurance to high altitudes are helpful for making the most of mountaineering.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
7/11 SLIDES © Matej Kastelic // Shutterstock

Freestyle skiing

“Go big or go home” is one of the common refrains in freeskiing, where athletes seek out cliffs to jump and chutes. Even non-skiers love to see the feats of athletes in the films created by industry icons including Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research.

Freestyle skiing, aka freeskiing, started as a reaction against the more-regimented discipline of ski racing and evolved over the years due to new options in terrain and gear. In addition to defined downhill runs, freestyle skiers look for resort-built and naturally occurring features. Terrain parks built specifically for the sport include jumps, boxes, and rails.

Wayne Wong is one of the godfathers of the sport, and today’s freeskiers are chasing some of the same thrills. Mogul skiing was added to the Olympics in 1992, with ski cross added in 2010 and halfpipe and slopestyle added in 2014, but events like the X Games and other international competitions capture as much attention.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
8/11 SLIDES © Rudolfovich // Shutterstock

Adaptive skiing

Disability isn’t a word in the world of adaptive skiing. Technology that’s been tweaked to help with mobility challenges, and/or partners for those without sight, allow almost anyone who’s seeking the joy of gliding on snow to do so. Finances don’t have to be a show-stopper either, as there are organizations like Washington state’s Outdoors for All that rent or share sit-skis and other adaptive gear, as well as training and the chance to be part of a community, including racing.

Top adaptive skiers participate in the Paralympics, which encompass the alpine and Nordic skiing disciplines. Paralympic skiing competitions include athletes with physical disabilities like amputation, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users, and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
9/11 SLIDES © Maxim Khytra // Shutterstock

Extreme skiing

Within freestyle skiing is extreme skiing, which is defined by stunts and jumps in terrain parks. In-park terrain skiers require a different skill set to go to a terrain park on a mountain where skiers perform jumps and flips. These skiers are the best extreme freeskiers in the world, and will often go on expeditions to remote locations to chase the thrill, like to Washington’s Cascade Mountains or to Seward, Alaska, as sponsored by Teton Gravity Research in their latest film “Stoke the Fire.”

TGR skiers do Alaskan heli-skiing with trips and jumps but not in a controlled environment.

Other than big-mountain skis, the major requirement for this sport is top-level athleticism and a never-ending need for adrenaline rushes—and of course, the same rigorous training around avalanche preparedness and the tools of beacon, a probe, and a shovel. Extreme skiing is incredibly dangerous and should never be done alone or without meaningful experience in the side and backcountry in more controlled environments.

breaking down different kinds of skiing
Slideshow continues on the next slide

News Related


John Travolta 'is so proud of his daughter's maturity' after Kelly Preston's death

John Travolta is “so proud” of his daughter’s “kindness and strength”. © Bang Showbiz John Travolta The ‘Grease’ star lost his wife Kelly Preston in July 2020 when she lost ... Read more »

Watch Zendaya's Reaction When Timothée Chalamet Calls Tom Holland Her 'Celebrity Crush'

© ‘Buzzfeed’ Busted! Though Zendaya and Tom Holland have kept their reported real-life romance primarily private, the 25-year-old Dune star did get a bit of playful teasing from her co-star, ... Read more »

Celebrities react to Alec Baldwin's 'horrifying' prop gun accident

1/27 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail Celebrities and industry figures took to social media after learning of the tragic accident that occurred on the set of Alec Baldwin’s forthcoming film ... Read more »

These video games are worth a fortune today

1/40 SLIDES © Courtesy Heritage Auctions The most sought-after and valuable vintage and recent titles You won’t believe the prices collectors are willing to pay for your old and not so ... Read more »

Inside Saddest Factory Records: How Phoebe Bridgers Is Quietly Building an Indie Empire

Phoebe Bridgers Charlie Hickey Claud Scruffpuppie Billboard’s third annual package spotlighting the independent music business opens with an inside look at the Phoebe Bridgers’ run label Saddest Factory Records. Just ... Read more »

Kierra & Karen Clark-Sheard Team Up Atop Gospel Airplay Chart

Kierra Sheard It’s a family affair atop Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart, as Kierra’s “Something Has to Break,” featuring her mother, Karen Clark-Sheard, rises to No. 1 on the list dated ... Read more »

Best albums by The Rolling Stones

1/29 SLIDES © Scott Gries // Getty Images Best albums by The Rolling Stones The transcendent sound of The Rolling Stones has redefined multiple genres of music. The band grew out ... Read more »

Churches to castles: historic places to stay in Britain

1/45 SLIDES © Cowdray Estate/Facebook Historic hideaways Britain has a long and illustrious history that has resulted in a wonderfully eclectic mix of architectural styles. From royal palaces and Gothic cathedrals ... Read more »

Delicious money-saving meals from canned foods

1/31 SLIDES © AnastasiaKopa/Shutterstock It’s in the can Having the essential canned foods in your store cupboard helps you save money and time but doesn’t mean you have to compromise on ... Read more »

Publishing Briefs: WCM Signs Jhené Aiko & Elvie Shane; Emeli Sandé Finds Reservoir

Jhené Aiko Warner Chappell Music has signed a co-publishing deal with Grammy-nominated artist Jhené Aiko. The deal includes all songs created by Aiko from January 2021 until the deal’s end, ... Read more »

K-Pop stars BTS dump Sony for Universal Music

K-Pop superstars BTS have ditched Sony Music’s Columbia Records as their distributor and marketing partner in favour of Universal Music. The move was confirmed by BTS’s management company Hybe after initial reports by ... Read more »

Brandon Lee's family offer support following Halyna Hutchins's death on film set

The family of late actor Brandon Lee have spoken out following cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’s tragic death in an onset firearm accident. © Provided by Cover Media Brandon Lee The incident ... Read more »

From USSR to Hollywood: how Halyna Hutchins succeeded as a top cinematographer

Halyna Hutchins was a talented and passionate cinematographer who was clearly enjoying her job as director of photography on Alec Baldwin’s latest cowboy movie. Over the past three weeks, she ... Read more »

You didn’t know these customs were offensive in some countries

1/56 SLIDES © Shutterstock You didn’t know these customs were offensive in some countries In a growing global culture of travel and tourism, it’s important to remember that our seemingly normal ... Read more »

'Dune' star Timothee Chalamet's wildest and most playful fashion moments

1/19 SLIDES © Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock Timothee Chalamet pushes the envelope in the best way possible when it comes to men’s fashion. To celebrate the debut of his newest movie, “Dune,” on ... Read more »

How U.K. Touring Is Struggling to Keep On Truckin’

LONDON — In April 2022, when Ed Sheeran begins his + – = ÷ x shows — which he’s calling the Mathematics Tour — dozens of trucks from the U.K. ... Read more »

System of a Down Postpone L.A. Stadium Dates After Singer Serj Tankian Tests Positive For COVID-19

Serj Tankian of System of a Down System of a Down were forced to postpone their two planned hometown shows this weekend at Banc of California Stadium after singer Serj ... Read more »

How Angelina Jolie Keeps From Being a 'Dramatic' Mom to 6 Kids

1/35 SLIDES © Sara De Boer/ Mother of six! Angelina Jolie has more than a handful of children in her brood, so it’s no surprise that the actress loves gushing about ... Read more »

Will Iran’s Censorship, Looming Internet Shutdown Dash Mehdi Rajabian’s Grammy Chances?

Mehdi Rajabian Iranian composer and musician Mehdi Rajabian would like nothing more than to be nominated for a Grammy. But the Iranian government’s plans to shut down communications to the outside ... Read more »

It's 'Lit'! Kim Kardashian's Kids Throw Her a 41st Birthday Party

Best birthday! Kim Kardashian’s kids helped her celebrate her 41st year on Thursday, October 21. © Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock Kim Kardashian Kim Kardashian’s Greatest Quotes About Motherhood Read article “The party ... Read more »

Adele calls divorce her 'biggest ever risk'

Adele says her divorce from Simon Konecki was her “biggest risk”. © Bang Showbiz Adele The ‘Easy on Me’ hitmaker – who announced their breakup in April 2019 after a ... Read more »

What 'Dune' Author Frank Herbert Said About the 1984 David Lynch Adaptation (Flashback)

© Universal Pictures Dune, the new star-studded epic from Denis Villeneuve, is getting positive reviews and praise for its visual interpretation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic. Before the author ... Read more »

Carrie Underwood can't stand her husband's collection of 'dead things on the walls'

Carrie Underwood gets frustrated with her husband’s belongings cluttering up their home. © Bang Showbiz Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood The ‘Love Wins’ singer has revealed what really grinds her ... Read more »

Shanna Shuts Down Troll Who Says Her Kids Will Be Kardashian 'Royalty'

Don’t knock her crown. Shanna Moakler fired back at an Instagram troll who claimed her kids will become part of reality TV “royalty” following Travis Barker‘s engagement to Kourtney Kardashian. ... Read more »

Penn Badgley Names the 'Worst' Thing Dan Humphrey Did on 'Gossip Girl'

© Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic Unlike his fictional counterpart, Penn Badgley has plenty of Gossip Girl secrets he’s willing to tell! The 34-year-old actor, who famously played Dan Humphrey on the hit teen ... Read more »

Selma Blair Reflects on Having Her Son Arthur Shave Her Head Ahead of Stem Cell Transplant (Exclusive)

© ET Selma Blair is sharing her journey with multiple sclerosis (MS) in her new documentary, Introducing, Selma Blair. The neurological disease is something the 49-year-old actress has been battling ... Read more »

Dove Cameron on Keeping Her Love Life Private and What She's Learned On Tour (Exclusive)

© etonline Dove Cameron has had a change of heart about openly discussing her love life. ET spoke to the 25-year-old “LazyBaby” singer, and she revealed why she’s decided to ... Read more »

We Tasted 5 Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets and These Are the Best

1/6 SLIDES © Shutterstock We Tasted 5 Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets and These Are the Best There’s something so satisfying about dunking a fresh, hot chicken nugget into the dipping sauce of ... Read more »

Highest-rated dessert shops in Albany, according to Tripadvisor

1/10 SLIDES © Canva Highest-rated dessert shops in Albany, according to Tripadvisor Research—and plenty of anecdotal evidence—shows that people tend to eat more calories and crave more sweet foods in the ... Read more »

The most shocking lies ever told by celebrities

1/30 SLIDES © Getty Images The most shocking lies ever told by celebrities We all tell lies—it’s just part of being human. And, of course, celebrities are no exception. Some of ... Read more »

Highest-rated dessert shops in Newark, according to Tripadvisor

1/12 SLIDES © Canva Highest-rated dessert shops in Newark, according to Tripadvisor Research—and plenty of anecdotal evidence—shows that people tend to eat more calories and crave more sweet foods in the ... Read more »

Celebrity Weddings of 2021: See Which Stars Tied the Knot

1/63 SLIDES © Courtesy Sarah Levy/Instagram Even a pandemic can’t stop wedding bells from ringing. As the world slowly began to open back up in 2021 following the COVID-19 crisis, stars ... Read more »

Hilarious snaps reveal bizarre ways people overcome everyday issues

1/12 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail It can be more sustainable and cost effective to solve a problem in your house using creativity instead of going to the shops, but ... Read more »

Gene Simmons puts his Las Vegas mansion on the market for $14.95m

1/17 SLIDES © Evangelina Duke-Petroni | The Ivan Sher Group Quick turnaround: Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, 72, is selling his home near Las Vegas for $14.95 million, People reported on Thursday. ... Read more »

11 Secrets Texas Roadhouse Doesn't Want You to Know

1/12 SLIDES © Provided by Eat This, Not That! 11 Secrets Texas Roadhouse Doesn’t Want You to Know When you really want a nice juicy steak and all the sides, but ... Read more »

ABBA release third track Just A Notion from upcoming comeback album

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo ABBA have released Just A Notion – the third track from their upcoming November 5 comeback album, Voyage. The iconic Swedish pop group – ... Read more »

Hunter Hayes Resurrects a Song Six Years in the Making — Courtesy of 'Tell Me'

Hunter Hayes has always been one to follow his instincts. He’s never questioned his gut and he’s never been scared to turn left when the world is telling him to ... Read more »

London's gateway to the world: Images show life at UK's biggest port

1/12 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail London’s gateway to the world for 200 years: Rarely-seen images capture life at UK’s biggest port since 19th century, when ‘knocker-uppers’ fired peas at ... Read more »

13 Cozy Chicken Pot Pie Recipes That Are Actually Healthy

1/15 SLIDES © Provided by Eat This, Not That! 13 Cozy Chicken Pot Pie Recipes That Are Actually Healthy On a stressful or nerve-wracking day, nothing is better than coming home ... Read more »

These stars appeared on game shows before they were famous

1/30 SLIDES © Getty Images These stars appeared on game shows before they were famous Many people would leap at the chance to get their 15 minutes of fame on a ... Read more »