If you are looking for a new adventure, an exciting hobby or a different kind of holiday, then skiing may well be the perfect choice for you. A fantastic sort of exercise taking you to beautiful places, skiing is tons of fun for beginners and pros alike, but if you have never gone before it can be tough to know where to begin.
Here we will have a look at the basic types of skiing and help you work out which might suit you, and how to get going.
Why is it called skiing?
You might think that skiing is a pretty funny word – and you’d be right. But it actually is one of those words that perfectly describes what it is. The word ski comes from the Old Norse skið, which means a split stick of wood or long snowshoe. You simply take a pair of these sticks of wood, put them on your feet and use them to traverse snow.
The word skiing in the present and popular meaning has been used since the 1880s, when it was described as a new sport that would allow you to cover ground quickly, and which you would become proficient in after only a short time practicing.
Many countries and different languages still adopt the word ski, or some variation of it, to describe the activity and equipment, though skiing itself far predates the name.
Cave paintings were discovered a few years ago that show skiing existed at least as far back as 6000BC, and potentially even earlier. We have no record of what it may have been called back then, however, so skiing is the best word that we have to use.
What are the main types of skiing?
There are several main types of skiing, with other variations existing on these themes. The kind of skiing you choose may depend on whether you are a beginner or expert, what kind of holiday you are looking for, or if you use skiing more as transportation or for exercise. They are:
- Downhill or Alpine Skiing
The most well-known and popular type of skiing, this is the kind you will probably be thinking of when you picture a trip away and a few days flying down the slopes. Much as it sounds, with downhill skiing, you ski from the top of the hill to the bottom.
While Alpine skiing does of course get its name from the Alps, it is also the type of skiing you can find pretty much anywhere in the world with a ski season.
Active Life skiing resorts in Japan, for instance, have some of the best downhill ski slopes in the world with some of the best backdrops you could imagine. If you are heading off on holiday and want to get started with no experience then an instructor will have you Alpine skiing on a beginner slope before you know it.
- Cross-Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing has been used to get around snowy areas for thousands and thousands of years. This again is suitable for beginners, but if you haven’t tried it before it can be best if you go with someone who knows what they are doing, and stick to an approved trail.
Unlike downhill skiing, this type allows you to go across fields and relatively flat ground without using ski lifts and other aids to get around – you do it all yourself. It is excellent exercise as well as being a handy way to get from place to place depending on where you live.
- Back Country Skiing
Somewhat similar to cross-country skiing in that you are on your own traversing the landscape, with backcountry skiing you are likely to have tougher and more unexpected terrain. In this way, it is less good for beginners, and should only be attempted by those with higher levels of experience.
- Telemark Skiing
There are lots of types of skiing that involve tricks and other freestyle moves, but telemark skiing is significant as it involves different equipment. Instead of being strapped to your skis, you wear special boots that allow you to jump and separate more easily.
Again this is not for first-time skiers as the lack of a proper binding can mean you risk the skis detaching, or a loss of control.
Another popular type among thrill seekers is heli-skiing, where you jump out of a helicopter to start. This way of reaching slopes means that you are often skiing in areas that are not as known as official ski slopes, and can again be incredibly dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. It is also tons of fun, but not for those who lack experience.
Similarly, off-piste skiing involves travelling in uncharted areas where you don’t know how deep the snow is, what is underneath you, or how hard or soft it is. With any off-piste skiing, you should always take the utmost care and do not attempt it unless you are a professional.
Is skiing hard to learn?
One of the best things about skiing is that it is said to be one of the easiest skills to learn. People routinely progress from absolute beginners to competent and capable skiers in just a couple of lessons. This makes it a superior choice for an adventure holiday because you won’t spend the whole trip learning to stand up.
The basics of skiing, going in a straight line, stopping and so on, can be taught by an instructor in more or less the first try. Practice does of course make perfect, and you must make sure that you don’t attempt anything too difficult before you are ready, but you should be able to tackle beginner and even intermediary slopes in no time.
There are many different types of skiing for you to choose from depending on your levels of experience and the kind of trip you wish to have. If you are just getting started, downhill or Alpine skiing is the best way to learn the basics and get a feel for the slopes, while cross-country skiing is better for exercise and getting around.
Whichever type you choose, give skiing a chance this year and try out a new skill, discover a fun hobby and enjoy the great outdoors all in one go.