In the world of skiing, there are many different types. While all rely on the same basic gear and maneuvers, the different types all have something unique to offer to skiers. If you’re new to the sport, here are five of the major skiing styles you can expect to see.


Downhill skiing

Downhill, or alpine, skiing is the type that most people think of when referring to skiing. This type is done at resorts with ski lifts on courses that are marked and patrolled. The necessary gear consists of stiff plastic boots that latch into fixed-heel bindings that are mounted to the set of skis. Keeping skis parallel while making turns helps skiers to get down.


Backcountry skiing

Backcountry skiing, sometimes referred to as off-piste skiing, is any kind of skiing that isn’t done in the patrolled boundaries of a designated ski area. Typically, alpine touring or telemark gear is used, using climbing skins and bindings to ski uphill before heading back down. Before going backcountry skiing, you have to be adequately equipped and ensure that you’ve educated yourself on what to do in the case of an avalanche. This includes knowing how to do an avalanche assessment and rescue.


Ski mountaineering

Ski mountaineering combines backcountry skiing and hiking. Skiers focus on reaching the summit of a mountain before skiing back down. Typically, alpine gear is used for traveling across the snowy slopes and glaciers. In addition to traditional backcountry gear, skiers may also need ski and boot crampons and an ice ax.


Cross country skiing

This type of skiing is generally done on gentler, rolling landscapes compared to the terrain used for downhill skiing. The skis used are long and thin, with flexible boots designed to attach to the skis via bindings which leave your heels free. Instead of relying on a lift to carry you uphill, you climb the hills yourself. Within cross country skiing, there are two different types: classic skiing and skate skiing. In classic skiing, your skis remain parallel as you glide forward and back. With skate skiing, you use skis that are slightly shorter and kick them out to the side to move forward.


Freestyle skiing

Freestyle skiing adds in acrobatic tricks to the sport of skiing. Tricks include jumps, moguls, somersaults and twists. It’s usually practiced at downhill ski resorts on a course with terrain features created explicitly for freestyle skiers. The same type of gear used for downhill skiing can be used in this form as well.