Ski Term Glossary

Navigating ski terminology can be quite a challenge for those who are beginners to the various ski-related sports. Below is a list of common forms of skiing as well as other terms related to winter sports.

Forms of Skiing

Cross-country skiing – A form of skiing where a person using skis, poles, and their own physical strength to move across snow-covered terrain without the help of ski lifts or other forms of assistance. Cross-country skis have free-heel bindings. See our article for more information about cross-country skiing.

XC skiing – Shorthand for cross-country skiing.

Skinny skiing – Alternate term for cross-country skiing.

Classic skiing – The original form of cross-country skiing. Skiers propel themselves by striding forward. See our article for more information about classic skiing technique.

Skate skiing – A more recent iteration of cross-country skiing. Skiers stride side-to-side (like ice skaters) while using ski poles to propel themselves against the snow.

Nordic skiing – Most commonly used to refer to cross-country skiing, but in fact can be any form of skiing where the heel of the boot releases from the binding. Along with cross-country, common forms of Nordic skiing include Telemark Skiing and ski jumping.

Downhill skiing – Sliding down snow-covered slopes on skies. Downhill skis have fixed-heel bindings.

Alpine skiing – Alternate term for downhill skiing.

Telemark skiing – A form of skiing which combines elements of cross-country and downhill skiing.

Backcountry skiing – Skiing in the backcountry on unmarked or unpatrolled areas either inside or outside a ski resort’s boundaries. Can include the use of ski lifts or transport.

Off-piste skiing – The European term for backcountry skiing.

Touring (ski touring) – Skiing in unmarked or unpatrolled areas. Similar to backcountry skiing but doesn’t use a ski lift or transport. Often includes elements of both cross-country and downhill skiing.

Ski mountaineering – A form of skiing that includes climbing mountains then skiing down the mountain.

Skimo – Abbreviation of ski mountaineering.

Slalom skiing – A discipline of downhill skiing that involves navigating between poles or gates.

Other Common Ski Terms

Biathlon – A winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. See our article on biathlon for more information about the sport.

Biathlon rifle – A special rifle designed for the sport of biathlon.

Gondola lift – The means of transportation at ski resorts. Generally, supported by a system of cables from above.

Mondopoint – Universal footwear size system. The most common unit of measurement for ski boots.

Ski wax – A material applied to skis to reduce friction with the snow.

Crampon – An accessory that can be added to ski boots to allow for easier travel on glaciers and mountains. Commonly used in ski mountaineering to ascend mountains.


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