Demystifying the various types of skis

There are so many ways to enjoy the winter! Snow lovers can count on a wide variety of trails at Sépaq destinations, awaiting all types of skiers who have one passion in common: snow!

Want to learn more about what equipment you need for some really great skiing? Let an expert tell you all about the types of skis on the market.

© Sépaq

Cross-country skiing

This sport does not really need an introduction. Whether you're a fan of the classic technique with a traditional thrust, or a lover of skate skiing, a technique close to ice skating, Sépaq offers you nearly 450 km of mechanically maintained marked trails. Beginner, intermediate, or expert skiers… there’s something for everyone at our seven cross-country ski centres, located at the Mont-Mégantic, Mont-Orford, Mont-Saint-Bruno, Mont-Tremblant, and Oka national parks, as well as at Camp Mercier and at Station touristique Duchesnay.


Skishoeing bridges the gap between cross-country skis and snowshoes. Skishoes were inspired from the skis worn by hunters in the Altai mountains, and we owe the North American version thereof to Quebecer François Sylvain and the American Nils Larsen. The skishoe is designed to facilitate gliding on a flat terrain and enhance off-track downhill control.

Skishoes are much shorter and wider than cross-country skis, making them ideal for floating on top of powder snow! They are fitted with climbing skins, which facilitate moving through thick snow in woods and controlled downhill skiing. Skishoes are perfect for beginners: you can simply strap in using your hiking boots with the hok bindings that are similar to those of snowshoes. Two ratchet strap buckles bound to a plate at the front base of the ski hold the boot, leaving the heel free to make walking easier.

Skishoes are therefore a versatile piece of equipment mostly used off-track. Very easy to handle, this gear is perfect for beginners. Skishoeing can be enjoyed at Aiguebelle, Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie, Jacques-Cartier and Gapésie national parks, as well as at Duchesnay and Auberge de Montagne des Chic-Chocs.

Réserve faunique des Laurentides
Réserve faunique des Laurentides Francis Bouchard | © Sépaq
Réserve faunique des Laurentides
Réserve faunique des Laurentides Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq
Parc national de la Gaspésie
Parc national de la Gaspésie Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq

Backcountry skiing

Involving skiing on circuits that are marked but not groomed, this activity is particularly appreciated by skiers who are explorers at heart and by those who like to go farther in the backcountry. Backcountry skis are cross-country skis designed for trekking on marked trails, but not for downhill skiing. They are a tad wider and include metal edges for an enhanced grip on ice. Boots and bindings are similar to those used with cross-country skis.

A dozen national parks feature over 585 km of trails to make your dreams come true. Papineau-Labelle Wildlife Reserve also offers much-appreciated backcountry trails.

Off-trail skiing

Sometimes called out-of-bounds skiing, off-trail skiing is similar to alpine skiing in that it consists in uphill climbing and skiing in very thick snow. The skis are therefore wide, designed to float on the snow, much like water skis. The main feature that distinguishes this type of skis is that the bindings can keep the toe clipped, leaving the heel free for climbing and can be clipped back again like alpine skis.

This sport has been gaining popularity in Québec over the last 10 years. Within the Sépaq network, it can be enjoyed at Auberge de Montagne des Chic-Chocs, at the Chics-Chocs and Matane wildlife reserves, and at the Gaspésie and Jacques-Cartier national parks.

Telemark skiing

Telemark is very similar to off-trail skiing, the difference being that telemark bindings leave the heel free at all times. This freedom of the telemark boots and bindings allow for that smooth “telemark turn.” Telemark is very versatile and designed to cover long distances and to go downhill at the same time. These skis offer good control on the powder snow of off-trail slopes, when going over bumps, and when ascending if used with climbing skins.

Be Informed

Sign up for Sépaq emails to be the first to find out about our promotions, news and special offers.

Sign Up