How to Carve Better Turns While Skiing
Skiing is one of the lifelong sports that people can do into their 80’s or even beyond. One of the great joys of skiing is smoothly gliding down a mountain in a beautiful location. Linking smooth turns together and truly feeling the flow is when skiing starts to really feel like magic. Sometimes that feeling evades us or just plain seems like it isn’t achievable. Other times we might think that we are carving, but we’re really skidding the turns and they aren’t as fluid as we really truly want them to be. Here are some tips and tricks on how to lay an edge over and arc some beautiful turns.
Posture is everything
Skiing is a sport and arcing smooth beautiful turns is an athletic pursuit. A lot of sports have a similar posture. Think of tennis, basketball, golf, or weight lifting. Having knees shoulder width apart, weight on the balls of your feet, elbows in front of spine, and eyes on the horizon. The same is true for skiing. Keeping our weight stacked over the balls of our feet is harder while skiing because our bodies want to be vertical, but getting our weight over the balls of our feet on an inclined plane can feel super unnatural and may feel like we are about to fall over forwards. The nice part about skis and boots is that they prevent that. A great way to think about good posture in the moment is to try and push our knees into the tips of our skis while keeping our belly button over our toes and our hands out front like we are carrying a tray of cookies.
Back to blues and greens
The fundamentals are best practiced and honed on more beginner trails. Learning a new skill often means doing things we don’t intend to, and the consequences are far more benign on gentle slopes than steep slopes. Picking a wide groomed run that has a gentle and consistent pitch is going to be important to learning how to make smooth, clean arcs. Plus it might be a part of the mountain that you haven’t really had a good look at in a while!
Carving turns is almost entirely a technical pursuit. Moving our bodies slowly, deliberately, and smoothly is important to making sure that we do it correctly. This may mean that we pick up more speed than we anticipated because we have spent more time focusing on our bodies moving the right way and therefore more time moving downhill. Deliberately moving from one turn to the next is key to making smooth arcs.
It starts with the eyes…
Looking where we want to go is the basis of everything we do in motion, be it riding a bike, driving a car, running, or skiing. Looking as far ahead and keeping eyes on the horizon is key to linking smooth turns. Planning where the railroad tracks will be on the mountain 10 seconds ahead of time is the only way to actually make it happen. Looking far ahead will give time and awareness to avoid people and obstacles in a smooth fluid manner. By being able to plan ahead of time, our bodies can move in a deliberate manner to achieve what our brains truly want.
…Then the toes up to the hips
Engaging body parts in a smooth, methodical fashion will help to make the turn happen in a smooth methodical fashion. Once the eyes and brain have identified where to make it happen, roll the toes into the turn, starting with the pinky toe of the uphill foot followed by the toe of the downhill foot. Next roll the ankles into the turn, followed by the knees and the hips. Toes, ankles, knees, hips in that order should produce a pleasant, deliberate, thoughtful turn, even if it’s not a smooth arc. Keeping the motion below the waist makes for an extraordinarily pleasant experience.
Commit to the downhill foot
Only one ski at a time is really needed to carve smooth clean arcs. Water skiers are the perfect example of this as well as snowboarding. One plank, one edge, one smooth clean arc. After rolling the big toe of the downhill foot into the turn, commit to the turn and increase pressure on it until it feels possible to pick up the uphill foot. This may feel like being locked into the turn, but that is what a smooth, efficient turn feels like. Another benefit of committing to the downhill foot is that it bends the downhill ski more, which can then act like a spring into the next turn.
This could be the end of the turn, or the start of the next turn. Either way, with the same hand as the downhill foot, reach forward and touch the tip of your pole into the snow. This brings the hands and elbows forward and provides a sense of timing for the toes to roll into their next turn. It can be done without poles by reaching the hand forward just before initiating the next turn. Every turn tries to push a skier into “the back seat” or an un-athletic position and doing some regular checking up and maintaining the athletic stance is critical to continuing smooth clean arcs the whole way down the mountain.
Skiing is fun. Don’t forget to smile huge during every single turn!
If you need more time to work on perfecting your carving turns, reach out!
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