Four Types of Skiing Every Beginner Should Know
Few sports are as intimidating to beginners as skiing. Between the special equipment, the limited season and geographic availability, and the skills you have to learn just to stay upright, it's easy to feel like getting into downhill skiing is an uphill battle.
But not all types of skiing are created equal, and the first thing you need to learn before you take up the hobby are the differences between them. That's why we've created this guide to four of the most popular types of skiing out there. Read on to learn what each term means, who it's for, and where you should go to try it.
What it is: Also known as downhill skiing, Alpine skiing involves descending snow-covered slopes of varying difficulty levels while wearing fixed-heel skis. It's the most popular form of skiing, and is generally the style ski resorts are built around, since it requires a lift to perform. In the U.S., trails are rated easy, intermediate, or difficult based on factors such as how sharp the turns are, how rough the terrain is, and the gradient of the slope.
This is for you if: you want to get your skis wet. Beginner slopes are a great place to learn the basics of moving in skis and reading terrain, and ski resorts often have instructors on hand to help you get started.
Where to do it: Many of the best ski resorts are in Mountain States such as Utah and Colorado, but you can find good places to ski all over, from Cascade Mountain in Wisconsin to Granite Gorge in New Hampshire. Click to see all skiing and snowboarding deals near you.
What it is: Cross-country skiing is a style of skiing that involves propelling yourself across flat terrain using your own locomotion, often at great distances. It bears the closest resemblance to the original form of skiing, which developed thousands of years ago in Scandinavia as a practical way to navigate snow-covered terrain. Modern skiers use one of two methods of propulsion: classic (a "striding and gliding" motion used on fresh snow and tracks) and skate skiing (an inward-and-outward angling motion similar to ice skating and used on smooth, firm snow). Both methods employ ski poles so skiers' arms can provide extra thrust.
This is for you if: you're not afraid of a little hard work. Cross-country skiing provides an excellent aerobic workout and works every major muscle group, so be prepared to get some serious exercise if you try it.
Where to do it: Our neighbors to the north are blessed with an abundance of excellent cross-country skiing sites, from Mont Saint Anne in Quebec to Callaghan Country in British Columbia. Click to see deals on trips to Canada.
What it is: Freestyle skiing is an umbrella term for any style of skiing that consists of doing tricks, jumps, and other technical maneuvers. Varieties include everything from mogul skiing (making timed runs on steep, bumpy courses that require lots of quick turns and aerial maneuvers) to aerial skiing (riding off jumps and executing spins, twists, and flips in the air). It can also involve performing these same tricks in a half-pipe, as is done during the Winter X Games.
This is for you if: you're after a challenge. It takes time to build up the skills necessary to pull off even the simplest freestyle skiing moves, so don't expect to get out there and start nailing somersaults right away.
Where to do it: Freestyle skiing facilities are a bit less common than those for downhill skiing, but plenty of ski resorts at least offer jumps as well as designated mogul skiing runs. If you're lucky, you may even have a training facility near you that lets you practice your skills indoors, as Axis Freestyle Academy in Toronto does.
What it is: Backcountry skiing refers to skiing done in unmarked, unpatrolled areas. It doesn't so much describe a method of skiing as it does a setting, and even an ethos: the term implies a quiet, solitary backdrop as well as a freedom to explore untrodden paths and untracked powder. Recent improvements in ski equipment have made this style more popular, though there are basic safety precautions regarding avalanches, hazards, and exhaustion you should understand before you go.
This is for you if: it's scenery you seek. Straying from the beaten path means you can take in all kinds of sights undisturbed, so be prepared to enjoy jagged peaks and mountain forest vistas few ever get to see.
Where to do it: The point is to do it anywhere you like, but you're more likely to find suitable (and scenic) terrain in a mountainous region such as the Rockies. Click to see deals on trips to the Mountain States.