A Parallel ski turn transition

Inside Leg Extension (ILE) is a specific type of turn transition. A turn transition is the method by which one turn is brought to a conclusion, and a new turn is begun. It is NOT the turn itself,,, it's a connector of separate turns. There are many types of turn transitions. Each has specific attributes and shortcomings, and serve specific skiing situations. This is why good skiing involves learning a number of them.

As a transition choice, Inside Leg Extension (ILE) carries some valuable benefits. While it can be used for pivot entry turns, where a big twist of the skis is used to quickly redirect them down the hill for the start of a turn, it provides it's biggest rewards during arc to arc turns (carved turns with no redirecting during the transition), and smoothly connected steered turns. And surprisingly, it also works very well on the steeps, and in steep powder, as it provides a smoother alternative to aggressive hippidy hoppidy (big extensions and pivots) skiing in that arena.

The sensation ILE provides is of an extremely connected to the snow feeling through the entirety of the transition, and into the start of the new turn. That temporary light feeling under the skis common in other transitions disappears (some call that disconnect the "float"), and it's replaced with a feeling of being locked onto the snow. This continuous connection with the snow provides a very acute feel (in the feet) for the initiation of the new turn, and an enhanced ability to fine control the quality and nature of that initiation. Great arc to arc turns are born in the quality of their initiation, and ILE allows one to really fine tune that quality.

OK, I'm going to describe ILE in two parts. Part 1 will be a KISS explanation of how it's done. I'll attempt to avoid overloading people with details unnecessary to go out on the hill and give it a go. Part 2 will be more details about why it works. Some learners need that info to better digest and apply a technique.


I'm going to describe from the perspective of connecting carved turns, but steered turns will follow similar directive. Imagine you've just carved a nice turn, and you're approaching a point where you'd like to bring it to an end. The majority of your weight is on your outside (downhill) ski/foot. Somehow you need to tip your skis off the uphill edges they're on, and back to flat so the turn you're making will stop, then tip them to the other side to begin a new turn. Try this: Without moving your pelvis left or right, softly push down on your old inside (uphill) foot. Because that foot is still tipped from the prior turn, you will be actually pushing down on the little toe edge of that ski.

It's very important to NOT move your hips uphill as you push down on your uphill foot. As you push down you will feel pressure shift from your old outside (downhill) foot to your old inside (uphill) foot. Immediately you will feel your old inside ski, the one you're pressing down on, begin to roll and flatten, and your body begin to move downhill. The harder you push down on that old inside foot, the faster you will tip into the new turn. It takes very little push down on the uphill foot to get the process going. In fact, it can be so slight as to be almost unnoticeable to observers. Feel the pressure under your uphill foot. If you feel it transferring there very gradually, you're on your way to a good turn transition.

As you tip down hill, continue to subtly extend your uphill (new outside) leg, and drive your new inside (downhill) hip forward. The continued extension of the uphill (new outside) leg will keep pressure solidly on that new outside ski as it tips onto its downhill (big toe) edge, and the inside hip drive will get you properly forward and countered for the start of the new turn. The inside hip drive while tipping into the new turn is a very important part of the forumula. The continuous outside ski pressure is what's needed to bend the new outside ski to start the new turn. Try to control your rate of tipping so that you very progressively roll onto your new big toe edge. Control it such that you can feel in your foot each small increment of additional edge angle as it occurs. As this turn initiation process is taking place, maintain good balance on your new outside ski. Keep gradually tipping to a higher edge angle till you eventually get to the angle you need to produce the shape turn you want.

If you're steering your turns,,, the same push down on uphill foot procedure is done. But when your skis have rolled down to flat on the snow, and the body has tipped downhill to the point it's directly over the skis, begin your leg steering (see Getting Off the Intermediate Plateau,,, Turn Shape). From that point follow the procedure for a leg steered turn.

Here's a good video of what they look like. Focus on the extension of the old inside (uphill) leg to begin the transition. Pay particular to Guay and Nyberg. Their execution is superb.


It's all about management of turn forces and balance. When you make a turn, you have to deal with 2 primary forces,,, gravity and momentum. Gravity pushes you down, momentum pushes you toward the outside of the turn. Those two forces combine to produce what acts as a single "resultant force", which pushes you towards the snow at an angle somewhere between straight down (gravity) and straight to the outside of the turn (momentum), that exact angle dependant on amount of momentum present in each individual turn.

It's that resultant force we need to cope with to maintain balance as we ski. If we line up our Center of Mass (CM) in such a manner that the resultant force acting on our CM is directed right at our outside foot, that is where our balance will reside. If we move our Center of Mass (CM) laterally further inside our feet, our balance point moves closer to our inside foot. If we move our CM too far toward the inside of the turn, our balance point moves inside of our inside foot and we fall down. If we move our CM too far toward the outside of the turn, our balance point moves outside of our outside foot and we topple over. Make sense? As long as we keep our CM located laterally such that the resultant force acting on it lines up somewhere at or between our feet, we remain in some form of balance and upright. As soon as it moves outside that base of support, we become out of balance and fall down.

OK, so here's how ILE works. When we're turning while balanced on the outside foot the resultant force is directed at that outside foot. When we push down on the inside foot, we're removing our outside foot from our base of support. We have nothing to balance on, so we topple over. That toppling rolls us off our uphill edges, and brings our prior turn to an end.

This only works if we don't move our CM uphill. If we move the CM uphill we move our balance point toward the inside foot, so balance is not lost, because we still have that foot to balance on. We simply continue turning, balanced on that uphill foot. To make the topple happen, the CM can't move uphill.

How hard you push on the uphill foot controls how fast you topple into the new turn. It does so by controlling how fast and much pressure transfers. The more pressure that's transferred to the uphill foot, the faster you topple, because the more outside foot support you've taken away. This is a good control mechanism to use to manage how fast you want to transition into your new turn. For learning, start out pushing softly, and transitioning slowly. Get the feel of it, develop the fine control of the initiation, then later try speeding it up as desired.

The inside hip drive is an integral part of ILE. As you push down on the old inside (uphill) foot, and your Center of Mass (CM) begins to automatically move downhill, drive your new inside (downhill) hip forward. This move does a few very important things. First, it pronates the outside foot. Pronating that foot directs pressure to the big toe side of the foot, exactly where you want the pressure to be to best engage the turning edge of that ski. Second, it moves weight from the heel of the new outside (uphill) foot, to the front. Again, right where we want it for the start of the new turn. Third, it eliminates the counter of the prior turn, and establishes the counter needed in the new turn.

The basis of this inside hip drive is something called gait mechanics. Basically what we are doing when we make this inside hip drive is mimicking what we do when we walk. When we walk we stride out to take a step and land on the heel of our lead foot (let's call it the stance foot). As we land, the stance foot naturally rolls into a supinated (pressure on little toe side) position. While in that position, the pelvis is countered away from the stance foot, and the rearward foot we are striding off (soon to be the swing foot) is pronated. At this point in the process we are in a position that simulates our position at the end of a turn: pelvis countered, outside foot pronated, inside foot somewhat leading and supinated.

As we continue with the step sequence, we move our swing foot forward, our weight moves forward on the stance foot, and the pelvis loses it's counter. As the weight moves forward on the stance foot, that foot begins to roll away from supinated and toward a more neutral state of lateral pressure. This position now simulates a skier at neutral during a turn transition, when the skis are flat on the snow, and the pelvis has rotated back to square with the skis.

To complete the step sequence, the step continues. The swing foot moves ahead of the stance foot. The weight on the stance foot moves to the front. The pelvis counters away from the swing foot and towards the stance foot. The countering of the pelvis, and the movement of weight to the front of the stance foot causes that foot to leave roll from neutral into a state of pronation. This point in the walking sequence simulates a skiers position at the beginning of a turn, where the new outside foot is pronated and fore pressured, and the pelvis is countered. .

So this is what the inside hip drive does,,, it uses the principles of gait mechanics to produce the forward pressure, pronation, and counter we need to produce a high quality turn initiation.

By Rick Schnellmann

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