How to Turn on Skis


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Planning a ski trip? For beginner skiers, proper turning is the most important skill to learn. Turning not only sends you in the direction you want to go, but it also controls your speed. Controlling speed is what learning to ski is all about. Most new skiers start by making turns in a snow plow, or gliding wedge. This works well on very gentle slopes with flat surfaces, but to advance to steeper terrain and, eventually, moguls, you must learn proper turning, which is much more effective at controlling speed than the wedge turn.

If you're a beginner looking to hone your skills on the slopes, follow this guide for a complete breakdown on everything you need to know to turn on skis.

Getting an Edge

Proper turns are traditionally called parallel turns because your skis are parallel to each other at the end of each turn. This is the ideal position for edging, the basic action of scraping the edges of your skis against the snow. Edging is what slows you down. The more your skis are perpendicular to the slope the more they edge, and the more they control your speed.

A good way to get the feel of edging with parallel turns is to practice making "hockey stops." Make a sharp turn to the right or left (whichever is more comfortable), bring your skis parallel to each other (they don't have to touch, and actually shouldn't touch when you're turning) and edge them hard into the snow until you come to a complete stop. This is similar to the action at the end of each turn, except instead of stopping you keep some momentum to pop into the next turn. Hockey stops are good practice because you have to commit to bringing your skis parallel to each other; this can be a challenging transition from making a wedge, which is the opposite of the parallel position. But once you get the feel, you'll realize why parallel works so much better.

Basic Turning Technique

To turn to the left, slightly drop your right shoulder toward the tip of your right ski, while increasing the pressure of your right ski boot on your right ski. Hold that position as you are moving down, and your skis will gently round out a turn to the left.

To turn to the right, gently drop the left shoulder toward the tip of the left ski, increasing the pressure on the left ski and your skis will turn to the right.

This may seem counterintuitive — that you learn toward your right ski to make a left turn, and vice versa — but try the technique at home, without your skis on, and it will make more sense. Another thing to keep in mind is that most of your weight (and consequently the majority of the edging) is on the downhill ski, the ski that's lower on the slope as you complete the turn. When you make a left turn, the right ski is the downhill ski. With a right turn, the left ski is the downhill ski. 

Using Poles When Turning

Children learning to ski typically don't use poles until they've mastered basic turning technique, but adults often use them sooner. If you're using poles when learning to turn, it's important not to let them hinder your progress. Poles are primarily used to help you maintain rhythm; they are not used for balance or support. You absolutely do not need poles to make a turn. One way to use poles effectively is to initiate each turn with a firm pole plant, stabbing one pole into the snow just as you begin a turn. If you're making a left turn, plant the left pole, then begin shifting your weight toward your right ski. At the end of the left turn, plant the right pole and shift your weight to the left ski to make a right turn. 

More Skiing Tips

  • The snow plow is the starting point for any new skier. It gives you good control and a solid platform for advancement.
  • If you don’t ski often or this is your first time, you’ll want to rent your gear, and you can do so close to home or at the mountain.
  • If you're a beginner skier, make sure to have the proper gear with you: skis, boots, and poles.
  • It's cold out there, so bundle up! Skiers will need a helmet, goggles, balaclava, a few top layers as needed (e.g. thermal underwear, fleece, long-sleeve moisture wicking tops, T-shirts), your outer jacket, gloves or mittens, a bottom inner layer (e.g. thermal underwear or leggings), your outer pants, and ski socks.