Skiing is more than just cruising downhill on a snowy slope wearing your skis. While this is the form most people are familiar with, the sport has evolved and adapted over time to challenge and navigate different types of terrain. From Alpine Skiing, Nordic skiing, to Ski Mountaineering, this article discusses the delightful range of Snow Skiing activities practiced and enjoyed everywhere.
For starters, let’s begin with the type most of us are familiar with.
This is the type of Skiing most people know and the one Bikat Adventures teaches in the Basic Skiing Course in Gulmarg. Downhill Skiing is exactly what its name implies- it is skiing from the top of a hill to the bottom.
Alpine Skiing is another name that is used interchangeably with downhill skiing. Most downhill skiing is arranged in organised Ski resorts where the slopes are well-groomed and lifts are available to ride to the top of the hill from where you ski downhill once again.
There are different grades of skiing slopes available at Ski resorts from beginner to advanced. The advanced slopes are likely to be less groomed with more trees and difficult turns.
The gear used for downhill skiing is also unique. The ski boot is fixed into the ski by means of a Ski binding. The binding is sensitive to the weight of a skier and is designed to release the boot the moment there is a fall to prevent any injuries.
Freestyle skiing is a more advanced type of downhill skiing. In addition to skiing down the slope, a freestyle skier also incorporates a variety of stunts like backward skiing, jumps, flips and somersaults into the process.
The skis used are alpine skies but they have a twin tip to allow freedom of movement in both directions: forward and backward.
Needless to say, one needs to have a firm grasp over the basic, intermediate and advanced downhill skiing techniques before beginning training in freestyle skiing.
Backcountry skiing (a.k.a off-piste skiing) is skiing that takes place on un-groomed terrain outside of the confines of a Ski resort. This is the type that is done by a person out in the wilderness. This means a skier is likely to encounter varied terrain (flat, downhill, uphill) during their ski runs.
The gear is automatically designed to adapt to the varied terrain. Most backcountry skiers use skis with bindings that leave their heels free. This feature allows for greater mobility in the legs and lets the skier navigate uphill, downhill and across flat snowy terrain with ease.
Some Skis have a hybrid heel binding that allows you the freedom of both: leaving your heels free while climbing uphill and locking it in place while skiing downhill. When back-country skiing is done with this type of gear, it is also known as Alpine Touring (not to be confused with Alpine Skiing).
Note: Irrespective of the gear used, backcountry skiing is more advanced than downhill skiing and there are greater risks involved. It is necessary for the skier to have a firm understanding of intermediate skiing techniques along with training in avalanche assessment and rescue before attempting backcountry skiing.
Ski Mountaineering is a fantastic sport that combines both mountain climbing and advanced skiing. In ski mountaineering, a skier climbs to the top of a peak and then skis down. Most skiers prefer a hybrid ski model that allows them to switch between keeping their heels free and securing it in place. This allows them to climb up and down the mountain with ease.
Needless to say, Ski mountaineering is a highly advanced form of skiing that demands a skier to be well versed with both mountaineering and advanced skiing techniques, along with knowledge of avalanche assessment and rescue.
Note: Backcountry skiing is the over-arching term used for all skiing that happens on un-groomed snowy terrain. Ski mountaineering is a specific type of back-country skiing where one climbs up to the peak and then skis down the un-groomed slope of a mountain.
In cross-country skiing, skiers focus more on traveling long distances and less on skiing up and down slopes. Since the focus is more on distance, the terrain is generally flat or gently rolling. There are designated cross-country skiing areas for this purpose. Sometimes, skiers also practice cross-country skiing on backcountry slopes.
Cross-country skiing is also called Nordic skiing or XC in some circles.
The skies used for cross country skiing (also called Nordic skis) are unique in their length and shape. They are skinnier than alpine skies and long in length. The boots bind to the skis in such a way that the heels are free to move there by allowing ease while traveling long distances.
So far, all the types of skiing that we have discussed differ from each other in the terrain that one navigates. Telemark skiing differs from these in the technique of skiing that one employs and the gear used for it.
In telemark skiing, a skier skis with their heels unlocked at all times irrespective of the type of terrain they are on. The bindings of the skis are designed to hold the foot in place while leaving freedom of movement in the heels.
Adaptive skiing is a type of skiing that has been adapted to suit differently abled people. It can be downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing or any other type in between.
This brings us to the end of the article on different types of Skiing. While each type is exciting and rewarding to learn, it is crucial to gain a firm grasp of the basic skiing techniques first before moving in to the advanced sections.
That said, do let us know which type of skiing interests you the most in the comments below
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