Find out more about Nordic and Alpine skiing and discover which one is best for fitness, speed and personal development
For most winter sports enthusiasts there is no better feeling than spending time amongst snow-covered mountains, with days spent outside, slipping across beautiful, white, powder snow and returning home at the end of the day to the comfort of your catered ski chalet, tired but invigorated. But before you strap on your downhill skis and head off, it’s worth remembering that there are other forms of skiing which might actually suit you better.
Nordic and Alpine Skiing
The two main types of skiing are Nordic (also known as ‘cross-country’) and Alpine (or ‘downhill’), the major difference between the two is the equipment they use. In Alpine skiing the skier wears a rigid boot which fits into bindings on the ski at both the toe and the heel. In Nordic skiing the boots are more flexible, pivoting in the middle to allow the skier to fully bend their knees and ankles. They are only fixed into the bindings at the toe so that the skier is free to lift their heel.
The increased freedom of movement the Nordic skis allow means these are more suitable for travelling along flat snow trails and uphill areas than their Alpine counterparts. For this reason Nordic skiing tends to involve relatively flat mountain trails with only slight gradients, while Alpine skiing requires the skier to take lifts to the top of a slope in order to gain momentum, with turns used to control speed.
Which Skiing Method is Right for You?
Let’s face it, if you’re a speed-loving adrenalin junkie who can’t wait to leave your catered ski chalet in the morning to hurtle downhill then Alpine skiing is likely to be for you. Equally, if you are a quiet nature lover who enjoys a gentle pace and wants to discover the unexplored trails of the mountains then Nordic is likely to be your discipline. But for those of us who enjoy a bit of both, it might be worth giving both a try on your next ski holiday.
Nordic skis tend to be much cheaper to rent than Alpine so why not try a day on them and explore the Nordic trails at a pace which really allows you to take in the beautiful mountain scenery. The following day, try the Alpine for a bit of speed and see which you prefer.
Telemark Skiing: The Best of Both Worlds
If the decision is just too hard to make then you might want to consider Telemark skiing, a combination of Nordic and Alpine skiing in which a rigid but still flexible boot can be clipped into the bindings at the toe for flat and uphill skiing and then clipped in at the heel for greater control and speed downhill.
For many skiers there is a joy in simply being in the mountains, enjoying the comfort of a catered ski chalet and getting out into the mountain air to glide on beautiful snow-capped slopes. How exactly you choose to do that is entirely up to you.