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Different Types of Skiing

Snehal Motkar
Skiing is a form of a recreational sport that has grown popular over the decades. With the increasing popularity, newer styles and types of skiing are getting evolved day by day. This story provides you information on the main as well as subtypes of skiing.

Adaptive Skiing

It is a type of skiing that allows physically disabled individuals to participate in skiing with the help of special equipment.
The word 'ski' has its origins in the Norwegian word skíð which means a piece of wood, and 'skiing' or 'to ski' means travel using a ski. People living in the Arctic region have used skiing was a mode of transport for the past 4,000 years. Today, skiing is employed less for transport and more for recreational purposes.
It is also extremely popular as a competitive sport (the Winter Olympics) with various styles and types of skiing disciplines. Generally, skiing can be divided into three major types: nordic or cross-country, alpine or downhill, and freestyle. Let us take a closer look at the three major types and their differences through this story.

Nordic/Cross-country Skiing

It is a type of skiing that is also known as ski touring, XC skiing and has a history of 4,000 long years.
The Nordic or cross-country skiing belongs to Norway, where it was initially used for the purpose of transportation. Around 1,000 years ago, the sport made a drastic shift from a mode of transportation to a recreational sport and spread to several parts of the world like an epidemic.
It became an enjoyable medium to spend a snow-filled day for most of the people. However, even today, it is used as a mode of transportation in areas with Arctic conditions. There are several disciplines like ski jumping, Nordic combined and biathlon that involve cross-country skiing.
The Nordic skiing is performed on a flat terrain, and the skiers adopt three different styles for their skiing event―the Classical technique, the Skating technique, and the Touring technique.


The classical technique is based on a straight gliding movement in the forward direction. The skies used in this type are narrower than your foot and are coated with sticky wax at one end to enhance the grip while pushing off the snow for forward momentum. The skies are kept parallel to each other while moving one at a time in motion.


The skating style, unlike classical skiing, is characterized by a V-shaped glide that is similar to the movements in ice skating or roller skating. It is the fastest style performed in cross-country skiing, but confined only to groomed snow surfaces.


It is a skiing style that is similar to the classical style, the only difference being the skies. The skies in this style are a little wider than classical skiing, and the style is usually associated with ungroomed trails. Another unique feature of touring skies is that they have small bumps or scales on the bottom to obtain a good forward momentum.
Apart from skies, the equipment for cross-country skiing includes two skiing poles made of aluminum or fiber-glass are used in cross-country skiing, which have a basket-like attachment at the end. This basket-like attachment is beneficial for a better grip on the snowy surface. The boots of a cross-country skier are lighter than those of an alpine skier, and their bindings match the ski while leaving the heel free to rise and fall.

Downhill/Alpine Skiing

As the name suggests, a skier in downhill or alpine skiing, glides down the snow-covered hills using long and sleek skies.
Although being a recreational activity, alpine skiing also developed as a form of sport activity with professional skiers participating in several international competitions like Olympic Games, annual World Cup Series, biennial World Championships, etc. Alpine skiing can be incorporated in four disciplines: Slalom, Super G, Downhill, and Super Combined.
Although alpine skiing owes its origin to cross-country skiing, there are quite a few differences in both skiing types. While cross-country skiing is done on a flat terrain, downhill skiing requires hills with steep slopes. There is a noticeable difference in the equipment of both skiing types. While the boots of alpine skiers are completely attached to the skies, the heels are left free in cross-country skiing.

Typical Alpine Skiing

As mentioned above, it is the locked-heel variety of skiing, which offers proper control over the gliding movements. However, the skies are heavier than those used in Nordic skiing, which may cause discomfort to certain extent. The skies in this skiing style are around 60-90mm wide underfoot and around 80-120mm wide at the tip. The skies towards the tail are quite narrower as compared to the tip.

Alpine Touring (AT) or Randonee

This skiing style is characterized by its free and locked-heel technique. The binding setup allows the heel to free up using the skins for climbing the hills, but get locked while descending. The skies used in this style of alpine skiing are lighter than the typical alpine gear, but heavier than the telemark gear.


Unlike other types of downhill skiing, in this technique, the boot is attached only at the toe, allowing the heel to come up from the ski. As the heel is free, it allows the skier to go into a lunge position in order to turn. The act of lunging while turning is a technique called the telemark turn. The skis are not parallel, but staggered. And the outside ski, called downhill ski, is pushed forward by the skier's lunge.

Freestyle Skiing

It is a skiing style, which was thought to be unsafe, for the possible dangers it presents to the skiers and hence, was not accepted as a sport activity. However, in the middle of the 20th century, it got a new name as "hot-dogging" which took freestyle skiing to the highest peak of popularity.
Furthermore, freestyle skiing has now developed as a competitive sport, and athletes from several parts of the world participate in this event to get an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of a large audience. Following are the styles incorporated in Freestyle Skiing:


Freestyle skiing includes presentation of some breathtaking acrobatic skills by the skiers while on their alpine or cross-country skiing run. These acrobatic skills were presented in some non-competitive events in the past, which made freestyle skiing all the more popular. Nowadays, the skiers in competitive events are judged on the artistry and level of difficulty.


It is a type of traditional freestyle skiing in which the skier runs down faster the steep pistes with two jumps in between. At an advanced level of skiing, the skiers spin off during a jump for scoring more points during a competition. The skier is judged on the speed, the quality of turns, the height of the jump, etc.

Big Air

Flat spins, misty flips, 1080-degree rotations, and a backward landing are some mesmerizing, dreadful patterns included in big air style of freestyle skiing, wherein, the skier is judged on the level of difficulty. The skies that are used in this skiing style are twin tip skies that are commonly used for all mountain playing activities. These ski varieties not only add to the pleasure of skiing, but also ensure the safety of the skier.
Apart from these, some newer events that are included in freestyle skiing are half pipe skiing, ski across, aerials, etc. Whatever the style be, it is important to note that freestyle skiing is similar to extreme skiing that possesses the highest levels of dangers and risks if not performed with appropriate basic skills.


Waterskiing is a sport that was invented in the year 1922 by Ralph Samuelson. In this sport, a person is pulled behind a boat or a cable ski installation above a water source with the help of a towrope.
The skier skims through the water surface at the speed of around 20 miles per hour. Good muscular endurance, body control, and upper and lower body strength are the basic requirements to become a good water skier.
There are two different ways a skier can take a start to begin waterskiing. Firstly, the skier can crouch down on the water surface and take a deep water start. When the skier is ready the driver accelerates the boat to bring the skier out of the water. Secondly, the skier can take a 'dry start' from the shore, but this is usually recommended for professionals.
Along with the driver and the skier, there is another person involved in this sport, who plays the role of a spotter also known as an observer. This spotter monitors the skier's movements and informs the driver if anything goes wrong. All the three individuals communicate with each other through hand signals. Waterskiing includes the following subtypes:
♦ Team jump waterskiing
♦ Barefoot waterskiing
♦ Pyramid waterskiing
♦ Ballet and swivel waterskiing
♦ Doubles waterskiing
♦ Snow waterskiing
Snowboarding is a type of skiing that involves use of a single wide ski, also known as a snowboard. This form of skiing is similar to surfing and skateboarding, which has no poles or any markings on the track.