Activities The Great Outdoors Skiing Styles Offer Varied Options for Every Skill Level From downhill to backcountry, find your mountain groove Share PINTEREST Email Print The Great Outdoors Skiing Basics Gear Hiking Climbing Snowboarding Surfing Paddling Fishing Sailing Scuba Diving & Snorkeling Learn More By Mike Doyle Mike Doyle is an award-winning skiing journalist who grew up in New York snow country and has skied all over the world. our editorial process Mike Doyle Updated December 23, 2018 Skiing has evolved into many disciplines that vary greatly. You can glide along at your own pace in the beautiful backcountry, fly over the mountain with downhill speed, or go wild with freestyle skiing. 01 of 05 Cross-Country Getty Images/Ryan McVay Also known as "Nordic skiing," cross-country involves skiing over snow-covered terrain. Abbreviated as "xc skiing," cross-country skiers glide over the countryside, rather than speeding down steeply sloped terrain. Most cross-country skis are long and thin, allowing the weight of the skier to be distributed quickly. Cross-country skiers use poles to propel themselves forward. Cross-country boots are attached to the ski with a binding, but the heel remains free. If you like speed and a challenge, downhill skiing will provide both. Downhill skiing has more of a learning curve and you will need more of a structured lesson program to get started. Cross-country skiing, because it uses your natural movement, doesn't take as much effort to begin. 02 of 05 Downhill Getty Images/Adam Clark Perhaps the most popular form of skiing, downhill, or "Alpine," skiers ski down mountains and strive to ski well on challenging terrain. Downhill skis vary in length and shape depending on the height of the skier and the type of snow they will be tackling. Downhill skiers use ski poles, and their boots are reinforced plastic that steadily holds the foot to the ski. The average downhill speed of skiers varies by type—skiing speeds of professional athletes can reach upwards of 150 mph but most recreational skiers travel between 10 and 20 mph. 03 of 05 Backcountry Getty Images/Jakob Helbig From rolling hills to jagged high peaks, skiers seek out backcountry terrain for solitude, freedom and untracked powder. There has been a recent surge in the popularity of backcountry—also called Randonee—due to open-gate policies at ski resorts, big-mountain freestyle skis, rising lift ticket prices, and advances in ski equipment. "'BC' is where it’s at," says Evo, using the acronym for this skiing form. "The pristine powder, the pillow lines, the majestic tree runs, and no one around to mar the experience but a few of your best friends." 04 of 05 Freestyle Getty Images/Adam Clark In freestyle, skiers do tricks or jumps. From skiing on halfpipes to "getting air" and soaring over jumps (and then doing tricks in the air), freestyle skiers also ski moguls. Most freestyle skiers ski in normal downhill ski boots, yet some use twin tip skis, which allow them to perform jumps and ski through moguls well. Others use snow blades, which are cross-country skis. 05 of 05 Adaptive Getty Images/Soren Hald Adaptive skiing uses specialized equipment and/or training to allow people (with disabilities) to experience the benefits of skiing, according to Adaptive Adventures. Skiing is a fantastic sport for people with physical disabilities or visual impairments because it helps to develop balance, fitness, confidence, motivation, and social skills. The primary methods for adaptive skiing and riding are stand-up, sit-down, snowboarding, and ski bike. Stand-up skiing includes two-, three-, and four-track skis, while sit-skiing includes bi-ski, dual-ski, and monoski.