Differences between freeride, ski touring and ski mountaineering

Alpine skiing is a form of movement on snowy surfaces with the help of skis, which are attached to the skier's legs with bindings, on which he wears special ski boots. It is a winter sport where the skier also uses two poles to push or transfer balance. Skiing can be done by anyone who masters skiing and has the appropriate equipment (children, teenagers and adults).

It is important to understand that skiing on-piste is a must and base to other forms of skiing, which require advanced techniques, different gear, understanding of hazards, other knowledge.

“I am skiing because it presents freedom. If they mark me as a ski mountaineer or a free-rider, half of this freedom is being taken away from me,” Bine Žalohar.

There are three basic groups of a modern skier outside of ski resort boundaries and even between these three groups, styles are transitioning from one to the other. For example: Free touring is a combo of ski touring styled approach with a gear and downhill focus of a free-rider. Bindings that allow walking on skis are tougher and skis are lighter and narrower versions of freeride skis that we are used to.


Freeriding is a style of skiing performed on natural, un-groomed terrain, without a set course, goals or rules. It evolved throughout the sport's formative early years as a contrary response to the highly regimented style of ski competition prevalent at the time. Snowboarders primarily refer to freeriding as backcountry, side-country, or off-piste snowboarding, and sometimes big mountain or extreme riding.

Freeriding incorporates various aspects of snowboarding into a style that adapts to the variations and challenges of natural, off-piste terrain, and eschews man-made features such as jumps, rails, half-pipes, or groomed snow. To master freeriding is to seamlessly merge these aspects of other snowboarding disciplines such as freestyle and alpine snowboarding into an all-around style - giving you the freedom to make the most of whatever terrain comes your way.[according to whom?] Whereas freestyle snowboarding relies on the use of man-made terrains such as jumps, rails, and half-pipes, and alpine snowboarding is done on groomed snow, freeriding utilizes the random flow of natural terrain to perform similar tricks.

  • Advanced skiing knowledge (technique) that require faster skiing on all terrains, jumps, moguls, usually trying to get first tracks in fresh snow
  • Access to terrain, closer to ski lifts, heli-operations, cat-operations
  • Skis ( wider and longer skis 105-125 underfoot ), day pack with avi gear, helmet, stiffer ski boots ( hybrid )
  • Off-piste skiing, slack country, side country
  • Average focus on movement in a hazardous environment ( focus on the downhill, exposure less time )


Ski touring is a form of movement in the mountain world with the help of touring skis. It differs from alpine skiing in that skiing is complemented by cross-country skiing. For many, the most beautiful activity of winter recreation, which can combine mountaineering, demanding alpine descents, or easy wandering through the snowy mountain landscape.

Most of it is movement in a hilly/mountainous world, which is more difficult to access due to the amount of snow. The skis make it easier for us to move through the snowy landscape, both on ascent and descent, and above all, they enable faster and safer movement.

In case an avalanche catches us on our skis, we have a good chance of escaping. If an avalanche catches us on foot, the chances of us escaping are very small. Therefore, mastering alpine skiing and mountaineering knowledge is the basis for safe and enjoyable touring skiing. Various organizations and societies organize touring ski courses where you can upgrade both skiing and knowledge.

The first rule of touring skiing is that we never go on touring skiing alone, especially not on uninhabited and remote terrain in the high mountains, because in case of injury or accident we are left to ourselves.

  • Intermediate skiing knowledge (technique) that requires skiing on all terrains, different snow conditions, great level of fitness.
  • Longer access to the areas that are usually outside of any ski resorts boundaries, longer “man-powered” approaches 
  • Skis ( lighter and shorter skis 75-95 underfoot ), skins, 40-45L backpacks with avi gear, extra food, clothes, bivi equipment, first aid, etc., light helmet, lighter ski touring boots that alow larger range of movement in walk mode, optional crampons, and ice ax
  • Off-piste skiing, backcountry skiing, expeditions
  • Advanced focus on movement in a hazardous environment also in challenging weather conditions.


Ski mountaineering is an upgrade of touring skiing in the high mountains, which takes place on steep slopes (above 45 degrees) or more exposed slopes, where any slip or fall poses a serious danger. The approach requires climbing knowledge in rock, ice, and steep snow in winter conditions. The beginnings of alpine skiing in the high alpine walls date back to the mid-1930s. However, it became noticeable only at the beginning of the seventies and then soon came to life in Slovenia as well. In ski mountaineering, several methods of assessing difficulty are used, which take into account several elements, especially the slope and exposure. We have domesticated the French scale, which has seven basic levels for common problems of skiing adventure (I-VII). It covers all difficulties, from the easiest tours to the most difficult alpine skiing. With difficulties around level III, cross-country skiing without a sharp border turns into alpine skiing. Intermediate skiing knowledge (technique) that requires skiing on all terrains, different snow conditions, great level of fitness.

  • Advanced skiing knowledge (technique) and additional climbing knowledge, rope techniques, handling with technical gear such as crampons, ice axes, harness, slings, carabineers, stopping devices, etc., Great fitness and preparation for the tour is crucial
  •  Access to terrain that is the most remote, exposed and challenging
  • Skis (technical light but stiffer skis 98-105 under foot), skins, backpack suited to the goal with all the necessary equipment for skiing, climbing, rappelling, crevasse rescue, survival, overnight bivouacking, light helmet, stiffer light technical ski boots.
  • Off-piste skiing, backcountry, expeditions, high alpine
  • Expert focus on movement in a hazardous environment in the toughest conditions. Great skiing and mountaineering skills.

Written by Bine Žalohar, Professional freeride skier & Elan team rider