Understanding the 6 Different Types of Skiing

When you think about a winter vacation to a snowy locale with glorious mountains, you probably have some sort of winter activity in mind. Whether you like the repose of sleigh rides or the adventure of horseback rides through the snow, there are tons of dynamic activities, including multiple types of skiing to try when you visit Telluride and Colorado as a whole.

One of the most popular winter activities, both in Telluride and around the world, is skiing. Though the most popular type of skiing is downhill alpine skiing, there are actually many other types as well. They are:

  • Alpine Downhill Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Backcountry Skiing
  • Alpine Touring
  • Ski Mountaineering
  • Hut-to-Hut
  • Heli-Skiing
  • Telemark Skiing
  • Freestyle Skiing
  • Adaptive Skiing

Below, we delve into understanding the different types of skiing. If any of them catch your eye, we also mention the best types of skis for those activities. Check it out!

Alpine Downhill Skiing

Like we mentioned above, alpine downhill skiing is typically the most popular type of skiing. So many places around the globe offer alpine skiing. This type of skiing requires a chairlift or other mechanical means to reach the slope of your choice, and then you ski downhill. These slopes are always groomed, marked, and patrolled. When making turns for this sort of skiing, skis must be kept parallel. Most resorts will have skis you can rent, but depending on what you prefer, you may want to have thicker or longer skis to stand up to the snow.

Cross-Country Skiing

Another very popular type of skiing is cross-country, or Nordic, skiing. Cross-country skiing is typically done on rolling landscapes, so you’ll experience much flatter terrain than that of alpine or backcountry skiing. Nordic skiing requires its own specific type of ski; it’s quite light for easy movement, and it uses a soft boot with no ankle attachment. There are two typical styles of cross-country skiing—classic and skating.

  • Classic Skiing: In this style of cross-country skiing, your skis remain parallel as you kick and glide forward and back. There are plenty of groomed cross-country ski areas, but this style also works for ungroomed terrain.
  • Skate Skiing: This sort of cross-country skiing is a bit different, as it requires slightly shorter skis than classic skiing. Though classic skiing could work for ungroomed terrain, this style works much better on a smooth surface. When you propel yourself forward, you kick your skis out to the side, similar to ice skating.

Backcountry Skiing

Sometimes called off-piste skiing, this type of skiing occurs outside of the patrolled ski resort area. This is a pretty wide-ranging term, as it encapsulates all skiing in the mountains on ungroomed trails. There are actually quite a few different types of backcountry skiing. All these require more, high-intermediate to advanced ski ability to stay safe, though. These types are:

  • Alpine Touring: Often called AT for short, alpine touring uses special bindings that can switch between free-heel to fixed-heel, so you can ascend with heels unlocked and descend similarly to downhill skiing.
  • Ski Mountaineering: Another subclass of backcountry skiing is that of ski mountaineering. The point of this form, however, is to get to the summit of a peak and then ski back down from there. People who do this type of skiing often use AT equipment to get to the top, but they also have to have tings like ski and boot crampons, ropes, and ice axes.
  • Hut-to-Hut: Hut-to-Hut skiing is just as it sounds. You will have a mix of alpine, cross-country, and backcountry skiing all to get from one hut to the next. Often a multi-day adventure, this type of skiing is for more experienced skiers.
  • Heli-Skiing: Another backcountry style that is quite obvious from its name is heli-skiing. This requires a helicopter to drop you down to the unpatrolled regions of the mountains. You should only try out this if you’re an advanced skier that can handle fresh powder and the endless chutes, steeps, and bowls.

Telemark Skiing

Similar to alpine skiing, telemark skiing has you go down the mountain, but instead of the ski attaching to the heel, these skis are unattached. This skiing type is defined more so by the way you turn, so you carve turns by lunging. This more daring version of the sport requires a bit more balance and skill. The nice thing about this sort of skiing is that it allows a lot more flexibility for the skier. This type of skiing also requires backcountry skis.

Freestyle Skiing

This more acrobatic form of skiing can include anything from moguls and jumps to aerial maneuvers. Freestyle skiing is most often done at a ski resort on terrain designed specifically for freestyle skiers. Freestyle skiing is actually now considered a competitive sport. Athletes can compete in the following various areas:

  • Aerials: Scored on jumps and landings.
  • Acro: Also known as ski ballet, it’s exactly as it sounds; ballet on skis. Similar to figure skiing, this combines jumps, spins, and flips in a choreographed routine. While this is not often competed any more, it was quite popular in the 70s and 80s.
  • Moguls: Skiers go over bumps on the slopes.
  • Big Air: Contains twists, spins, and various other positions in the air.
  • Dual Moguls: Two skiers compete head-to-head on the moguls.
  • Adaptive Skiing

The final type of skiing we will discuss is adaptive skiing. This sport gives those with physical disabilities the opportunity to participate by using equipment that adapts to their specific needs. From mono skis to sit skis, a lot of ski resorts now offer adaptive programs. Just make sure you call the resort beforehand and ask.

We hope this guide helped enhance your understanding of the different types of skiing. If these look like something you want to try, book your trip to Telluride now! Often considered one of the world’s best ski resorts, you’ll get to experience almost all of these ski types at one of the most charming locations. Book your Telluride house rental through Exceptional Stays, and you’ll get the opportunity to choose between ski-in ski-out properties, walk-to-ski, and remote locations perfect for backcountry and cross-country skiing. Start your next adventure in Telluride—you won’t regret it!


Book your one-of-a-kind stay with us online today!


Exceptional Stays

Related Posts


The Telluride Horror Show

Nestled in the picturesque mountains of Colorado, The town of Telluride sets the perfect stage for the annual Telluride Horror Show, inviting horror enthusiasts to

Telluride Jazz festival

Telluride Jazz Festival

Don’t Miss the Telluride Jazz Festival The Telluride Jazz Music Festival has been filling the San Juan Mountains with incredible music every year since the


Stay Longer, Save More

Unbeatable Telluride Lodging Specials Have you been waiting for the perfect time to book your dream getaway in Telluride? Take advantage of our limited-time lodging