Feb. 11, 1997
Every four years in the Winter Olympics, we see professional athletes
compete in many areas ranging from downhill skiing to high-speed bobsledding.
We see the professionals demonstrate their spectacular abilities, and we try to
emulate them in our own activities. In the Olympics, cross-country and downhill
skiing are two very popular sports, and even non-professionals can get into them.
In this essay I will classify the various types of skiing into three categories
and inform you about each.
The first type of skiing that I will discuss is cross-country skiing.
As its name implies, cross-country skiing consists of horizontal travel across
flat land and relatively few hills. Cross-country skis are not optimized for
speed, but instead for easier long distance travel. This type of skiing is also
the least expensive of the three types and has recently been gaining many new
enthusiasts. A decent quality cross-country ski package would cost around $150.
As for choosing equipment, the skier should pick out poles that are as tall as
his shoulders. (For most people this would mean a 140 cm to 150 cm pole.) Skis
come in three common sizes, 190 cm, 210, cm and 240 cm, and the proper length
depends on the height of the person. To determine the size needed, the person
should hold his hands above his head and choose the ski that most closely
approximates the distance from the base of his palm to the floor.The
following table gives some guidelines as to which ski lengths are proper for
Height:Proper Ski Length ~5’3″190 cm ski ~
5’10″210 cm ski ~6’6″240 cm ski Table 1
The last thing the skier will want to decide on is whether or not he wants to
have wax or non-wax skis. Wax skis are traditional and have the benefit of
being faster for the experienced skier. Non-wax skis are good for new skiers
and those who do not wish to bother with waxing every time they ski. Overall, I
would recommend non-wax skis to anyone getting into skiing mainly due to their
ease-of-use and lower maintenance requirements.
The second major category of this sport is downhill skiing. Downhill
skiing differs from cross-country skiing mostly in where it is performed and in
the equipment used. Downhill skiing is best suited to mountainous areas, but
ski hills have been built in most states for those who live too far from the
mountains. Downhill skis are designed for speed, and their extra strength and
width gives skiers more control at these high speeds. In fact, experienced
downhill skiers can reach velocities of 65 mph before coming to a rest at the
bottom of their hill. The equipment costs are higher for downhill skis than
cross-country skis and a starter package will the skier back at least $300.
Currently, downhill skiing is the most popular form of the sport, but as
mountain ski resorts become more crowded and overused, more people have been
turning to cross-country skiing which can be done anywhere that the snow falls.
The last group of skiers includes those who ski freestyle and perform jumps,
flips, and other acrobatics. Freestyle skiers prefer the bumpiest, steepest,
and most difficult courses and mountains, and they constantly court danger and
injury. The equipment costs for freestyle skiing are higher than the other two
areas mainly due to the specialized skis, poles, and clothes used. Since this
is the most dangerous form of skiing, I do not recommend it to anyone who is not
experienced in the other forms of skiing and has not been skiing for several
In this essay I have informed you on the three major categories of
skiing: cross-country, downhill, and freestyle. You have also been given some
information on each relating to cost, equipment, and danger present. Overall,
skiing has an excellent safety record, and if you follow the steps to learn to
ski in the proper order, you too can enjoy the sport as thousands of others do.