What skiing types, styles and techniques are there?

November 14, 2022
Skiing involves much more than sliding down a snowy mountain on two wooden slats. In fact, there are numerous different types and styles: from downhill to backcountry and freestyle, and from recreational to competitive skiing. In this article, we’ll discuss some well and lesser known skiing styles. Read our ski type guide and find out what type of skier you want to be!
What skiing types, styles and techniques are there?

Alpine or downhill skiing

Alpine skiing or downhill skiing is without a doubt the most popular type of recreational skiing. When people talk about skiing, they usually refer to this style. Alpine skiing can be enjoyed on prepared slopes in commercial resorts. The runs are signposted and there are lifts and cabins to take you up the mountain. For this type of skiing, you can use different types of skis. Choose traditional skis to cruise down the mountain or take your carving skis if you want to make more aggressive turns. In downhill skiing, your ski boots are attached to the bindings at the front and back to provide stability and control. Alpine skiing is also a competitive sport. In this Olympic discipline, the goal is to complete a downhill course in as little time as possible.

Backcountry skiing

Backcountry skiing, also known as off-piste skiing, is just what the names imply: heading off the prepared slopes, into the backcountry. Most backcountry skiers are looking for unridden runs where they can find their own tracks in the fresh snow. In most cases, there aren’t lifts to take you up the mountain, so you have to get up there yourself. You can either hike without skis or put special skins under your skis for added grip. In some cases, you can also hire a helicopter to drop you off on the top. Backcountry skiing is a more adventurous form of skiing than alpine skiing, but also includes more risk. Therefore, preparation is key. It is advised to take an avalanche course and bring avalanche safety equipment. This helps you to localize your companions or be localized yourself in case of an emergency. It is also wise to take your own food and drinks, since there won’t be a restaurant or bar where you’re heading. Read more..

Ski touring

Ski touring is quite similar to backcountry skiing. The difference is that your boots aren’t attached at the back of your binding when heading up the mountain. This allows you to make more of a walking movement and makes climbing easier. In comparison to off-piste skiing, ski touring involves more time climbing and hiking, and less time downhill. It is a great way to explore the mountains; tours can take several days, and you can spend the night in specific mountain cabins. It involves the same safety risks as off-piste skiing, so be sure to take your safety measures!

Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is a type of skiing that is practiced on flat or hilly terrain. This generally means less speed, yet more physical exercise! Just like in ski touring, your heels aren’t attached to the binding. This helps to create a more efficient walk-like motion. Additionally, you can use the ski poles to help create a forward movement. Instead of moving your legs forward, you can also use a skating style where you move your legs sideways. Cross-country skiing or Nordic skiing is an Olympic sport that includes various distances. The biathlon event also involves cross-country skiing.

Freestyle skiing

Freestyle skiing is a form of skiing that isn’t about speed, but about acrobatic movements. It isn’t just one style of skiing, but involves a whole range of activities. Some forms of freestyle skiing are also included in the Olympics. A good example is the halfpipe, where you can launch yourself off both sides of the pipe to perform spectacular tricks in the air. Slopestyle, another form of freestyle skiing, is aimed at performing your best moves on a downhill course full of ramps, boxes and rails. Other forms of freestyle skiing include the big jump, where you focus on one spectacular move off a big ramp, and mogul skiing, where you have to complete bumpy parcours with jumps in between. Freestyle skiing isn’t a ski type for beginners. It also requires specific skis that are shorter and allow you to ski backwards.

Telemark skiing

Telemark skiing is a type of skiing that originated in the Norwegian region Telemark. It distinguishes itself from traditional downhill ski techniques, because the boot is only fastened at the front of the binding. When making a turn, the back knee is bent backward, while the heel is released. It is a very stylish and fun skiing technique, but is harder to master than conventional skiing methods. It also requires a specific type of skis and bindings.

What are the main differences between skiing and snowboarding?

Skiing and snowboarding are two ways to slide down a snowy mountain. The biggest difference is that snowboarders ride sideways using a board, while skiers go forward with two skis on their feet. In addition to that, skiers usually use ski poles to manoeuvre down the mountain.

Which one is easier to learn skiing or snowboarding?

This is quite a tricky question, because there is no consensus among experts as of yet. However, it’s often said that skiing is easier to learn, but harder to master. The reason for this is that on skis, you face forwards and can move both legs independently. Thanks to the poles in your hand, it’s not hard to keep your balance while standing still or at lower speeds. Especially if you have some experience with ice skating or rollerblading, skiing can feel quite natural.

Snowboarding, on the other hand, might be a struggle at first. With both feet strapped onto one board and trying to ride sideways, it’s harder to balance and maneuver. As a result, you will spend a fair amount of time falling and sitting on your knees and behind when you just start. But once you have survived those first one or two days, it’s often easier to progress. After one week, you’re often able to turn in both directions, and with a bit of luck, you can even perform some basic tricks.


Which one is faster: Skiing or Snowboarding?

In general, there are only small differences between skiing and snowboarding in terms of speed. Trained skiers and snowboarders you will see around the resort will reach similar speeds. The speed someone can reach depends more on a rider's comfort level, skill, and preferences than on the choice between a pair of skis or a snowboard.

When you look at world records however, skiing is the fastest of the two.

  • The world speed record for skiing is 255 km per hour by Simon Billy in 2023
  • while the speed record in snowboarding is ‘only’ 203 km/h. by Edmond Plawczyk in 2015

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Differences in style between skiing and snowboarding

Skiing is often seen as more elegant and graceful than snowboarding. This is largely due to the upright stance and parallel movements. Snowboarding, on the other hand, has a more loose and nonchalant style – a sort of swagger. Advanced riders are often able to express themselves in a creative way. This is especially true for freestyle snowboarders.

Is there a difference in equipment for skiing & snowboarding?

Of course, there is a difference in equipment between skiing and snowboarding. To begin with, for snowboarding you need a snowboard with bindings, and specific snowboard boots. These boots are often softer and more comfortable than ski boots. That is why they are called soft boots. For skiing, you need a pair of skis with bindings, and ski boots. In terms of clothing, you need the same equipment. We advise a water and wind resistant snow jacket and pants, plus insulating and moist-wicking layers underneath to keep you warm and dry.

Have Fun!

Snowboarding and skiing are both great sports that we deeply love. The question whether skiing or snowboarding is better, is impossible to answer, just like the question which sport is more fun. Consider what you find most important, and if you can’t decide, just try them both!

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