Downhill is the type of skiing most people are familiar with, especially if they don't know much about skiing. Downhill skiing is easy to understand since it is exactly what it sounds like. It's skiing that takes place on a hill and takes the skier from top to the bottom. Most downhill skiing takes place at organized ski resorts and mountains, where skiers use lifts to get to the top of the hill. Skiers use bindings to strap a stiff boot into the ski, which will stay in place for the duration of the ski run.
You may also hear backcountry skiing referred to as off-piste skiing. This is the type of skiing you would do out in the snowy wilderness, whether across a snowy field, down a mountainside, or both. Backcountry skiing features many more varied types of terrain than downhill skiing and because skiers may not always be sure what kind of terrain to expect, their equipment needs to be much more varied. Most backcountry skiers favor a type of binding that leaves the heel free, allowing more leg mobility. This feature allows them to climb easier and ski both uphill and downhill, as well as across flat surfaces.
Telemark skiing is possible through the use of specialized boots bindings that hold your foot in place on the ski while still leaving your heel free to lift when necessary to achieve the knee-bend. Most people choose to pair these accessories with backcountry skis, although this isn’t a requirement. With telemark skiing, you keep your heels unlocked at all times. This forces you to use a different technique when you want to run in your skis, where you use a lunging motion that places the forward leg into a distinctive bent position.
Cross-Country skiing is called Nordic skiing in some circles. Cross-country skiing can be done either in the backcountry or in designated cross-country skiing areas, but the terrain is usually entirely flat or gentle and rolling. Here, skiers concentrate more on traveling long distances and less on skiing up and down mountains. For cross-country skiing, you’ll wear skis with a uniquely long and skinny shape, as well as flexible boots that bind to the skis while leaving your heels free to lift.
Freestyle skiing is not as immediately understandable since the name is a bit more confusing. Freestyle skiing is a type of downhill skiing, but it's also much more than that. It typically involves incorporating a variety of stunts, jumps, acrobatic flips. Freestyle skiers generally use downhill ski resorts, although they won't use the same runs that ordinary downhill skiers will. They will use specially designed runs that are equipped with the type of terrain necessary to perform the jumps and stunts they do.
This is not a separate skiing discipline and is instead a term that describes skiing that’s been adapted for someone with a disability. This may be cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, or anything in between, but it will usually be specified by the sub-discipline. In this way, adaptive alpine skiing is not a new special technique you can learn but is rather an innovative way to help someone with a disability enjoy the same sport we all love.