Here you are, on your first ski trip. You are standing in a local ski shop, ready to be fitted with rented ski equipment, and then a question you had not considered is asked. Will you be doing downhill skiing or cross country?
You stare at the salesman blankly. What does he mean? Which type of skiing will you be doing? Did you even know there were different types? You just wanted to try it out. You can picture yourself skiing along and looking great doing it. Why cant this guy just understand that?
Before this happens to you, understand that there are different types of skiing, and different equipment is needed for those different types. The two most common types of skiing are downhill skiing and cross country skiing. As a beginner, you can do either one, but you will need to take a beginners ski lesson to learn how to control your skis first.
No matter which type of skiing that you prefer, you need to know how to ski downhill. This is important because that is the only type of skiing you do in downhill skiing, and it is an element of cross country skiing as well. Downhill skiing involves skiing down groomed slopes, in most cases. Cross country skiing involves skiing downhill and uphill, as well as skiing across flat terrain.
If speed and thrills is what you seek, downhill skiing is for you. If you just want to be out in the snow, on skis, and enjoy the beauty around you at a slower speed cross country skiing may be more suitable for you. However, some cross country skiing can be challenging as well.
Now that you understand the difference between downhill skiing and cross country skiing, you are ready to rent or purchase your equipment. If you will be downhill skiing, the entire boot is attached to the ski. If you will be cross country skiing, the binding needs to be at the toe of the boot, and the boot is attached to the ski at the toe, and only at the toe.
Cross country skiing is typically cheaper than downhill skiing, since you usually do not need a lift ticket to get to the top of a slope. You will also find that cross country skiing can be done in more places than downhill skiing. Downhill skiing requires some type of transportation to the top of a mountain or a slope. Usually, a resort is needed. Cross country skiing, on the other hand, can be done anywhere that there is snow.
Overall, cross country skiing is safer than downhill skiing, if this is a concern that you have. You are at less risk for injuries when cross country skiing. But, if you are touring, meaning that you are going a long distance, you do run the risk of succumbing to the elements. If you are cross country skiing, try to stick to marked and mapped trails that are patrolled for the sake of safety.