Downhill and cross-country skis are designed to handle different types of terrain. Downhill skis are designed for simply traveling down the mountain whereas cross-country skis are designed for traveling up, down, and around the mountain. Only the toe of the boot is attached to cross-country skis, which leaves the heel free to assist with uphill travel. On downhill skis, the whole foot is attached to the ski giving the skier more stability during fast, downhill runs. Downhill skiers are primarily interested in speed and skiing in designated resorts. Cross-country skiers are interested in a more relaxed skiing experience and touring through a variety of terrain.
Downhill Ski Design
Downhill skis are built to handle higher speeds and offer more stability than cross-country skis. Downhill skis come in a variety of styles from all-mountain skis to specifically designed powder, freestyle, and backcountry styles. Downhill skis are typically wider, heavier and more shaped than cross-country skis. The downhill ski shape, along with metal edges, is designed to facilitate the turning that is characteristic of downhill skiing. It is nearly impossible to make a downhill ski turn on cross-country skis.
Cross-Country Ski Design
Cross-country skis are narrower, lighter and straighter in design than downhill skis. Choosing cross-country skis is a lot simpler than choosing downhill skis because there are fewer options. The main determinant for selecting cross-country skis is body weight, but ability and the preferred types of terrain can also factor into the decision. Cross-country skis come in a variety of widths; with narrower skis best for skiing groomed trails and wider skis better for a varied terrain including powder and backcountry terrain.
The cost of cross-country ski equipment is significantly lower than downhill ski equipment. According to Backcountry.com the cost of cross-country skis ranges from $80 to $300 whereas downhill skis can cost anywhere from $400 upward to $900 or more. Binding, boots, poles and resort passes for cross-country skiing are also considerably less than downhill skiing versions.