Telemark, Alpine & Nordic skiing information
(also known as 'Downhill' skiing)
This is the most well-known way of skiing. A shin-high, stiff, plastic boot fixes the position of the foot and ankle. The boot sole is always rigid and flat. This equipment developed from the original way of skiing, on free-heel ski gear, as it helps to keep the skier more within the limits of balance. The rigidity of the ski-boot-leg connection means great support and movement transfer to the ski. The boot attaches at front and back via a binding, to the ski. The skis are shaped skis, as used also for Telemark skiing. Alpine ski poles are needed, with powder baskets for off-piste
Alpine skiing equipment can be used for on or off-piste. However as it is hard walking and not possible to skin up with fixed ankles, alpine skiing gear is usually only used on lift-served skiing.
Alpine Touring or AT equipment
This form of Alpine skiing gear is used if skiing away from lifts and for tours. Alpine Touring or AT equipment allows you to walk and go uphill by releasing the heel of the binding. The boot has a vibram sole but it does not flex. However the ankle can be 'released' to flex for walking and skinning. The cuff is lower than for alpine boots, again for ease when travelling. For climbing up, various binding systems mean the boot can be released at the back, to pivot at the front, then clipped down for descents (to become like an alpine set-up). Very light-weight boots, bindings and skis can be found but there is a balance between lightness and downhill performance. Adjustable ski poles with powder baskets are needed for touring and Freeride.
'Freeride' skiing is about descending off-piste faces (not touring or summits). The 'rides' may be lift-served or requiring a climb on skins. One can 'Freeride' on Alpine skis, Telemark skis or snowboards.
There are Freeride Alpine boots and bindings now. They are similar to AT gear but, as less 'travel' is involved, the boots are higher and stiffer and the gear generally 'beefier' for higher performance.