Turn Shape

Improving your ski parallel turn


Expanding your comfort zone by changing ski turn shape

In ATHLETIC STANCE I talked about stance. We developed the ideal stacked and balanced stance, practised moving in and out of it, and worked on learning to perform in less ideal stances too. With that under our belts, let's move on.

Here I'll talk about turn shape. If you've been reading some of our other online ski instruction articles, you're well aware that this is an obvious shortcoming of the average recreational skier. Specifically, they only have one,,, that being one with a much more aggressive manual turning of the skis at the beginning of the turn than at the end. It's what I refer to as "rushing the turn". It's done via an abrupt tossing of the tails out to the side at the beginning of the turn, quickly redirecting them sharply into the direction of the new turn. Generally, it's a defensive move designed to help the skier avoid having to have their skis pointing down the dreaded falline (straight down hill). It's a habit that's typically acquired at the earliest stages of the learning process, when skills are at their lowest, and fear at it's highest. And the habit often lingers, even as skills continue to improve. Let's break that mould, and expand the turn shape comfort zone.

First thing we need to do in that quest is to learn and adopt an efficient means of turning the skis. There are two basic categories of ways to turn on skis. The first is manual, where we physically twist our skis into a new direction using muscle power. The second is where we simply tip the skis on edge and allow the innate mechanical properties of the skis to do the turning for us,,, what we commonly think of as carving. We are going to focus for now on the first type. Manual turning results in slower speeds, and provides a wider range of turn shapes to the skier. As such it should always be the first category of turns learned, and should be present in the options bag of all skiers, regardless of their level of expertise.

The method of manual turning I'm going to discuss here is called "leg steering". It's really a very simple concept. The muscles of the legs are used to twist the skis in the direction the skier wants to go. How sharply the skier turns is easily controlled by how much twisting power is applied with the leg muscles. No upper body input is needed with this method. In fact, the upper body just rides along rather passively as the legs execute the turn, displaying very little movement activity.

Give it a try right there at home. Stand up on your hard floor or carpet in stocking feet. Feet about hip width apart, and equal weight on each foot. Assume the stacked/balanced stance we learned in ATHLETIC STANCE. Now, slightly tip both your feet up onto their right sides, and then very subtly use the muscles of both your legs to twist your feet to the right. When you've turned about 45 degrees, tip your feet the opposite way (up on their left sides) and slooooowly use your leg muscles to twist back to the left. This is leg steering. Very simple.

Experiment with different amounts of steering power. Notice how the more you put into it, the faster your feet turn. This mechanism provides you with a vast range of turn shapes you can create on the slopes. You can make a turn that encompasses a huge amount of vertical space down the slope, or one that can turn you 180 degrees in the length of a ski. You can even change the rate of turning, mid turn. A turn can start off very gradual, then finish very sharply,,, or vise versa. It provides you with turn shape options well beyond those associated with carving. This is why refining your ability to leg steer is so important. Carving is a nice add on skill that opens up a new frontier of enjoyment in the sport,,, but leg steering will always represent a crucially important foundation skill.

Now take this onto the snow. Find a very gentle pitched, groomed slope. Practice very low powered leg steering first, that produces a very long and gradual turn. Start out making one turn at a time. Do it in a stacked/balanced stance, and ensure that the leg steering power you use is very consistent through the entire turn. Stop after your single turn and self review your performance. The shape of the turn you produce will tell you if you were successful. Look at the track you left. Is the arc of your turn long and consistent, from start to finish? Or did you actually rush the turn, using too much leg power, and make it come around too fast? Is it sharper at the beginning than it is at the end? Were you able to remain in a good stance as you made the turn? Do another turn, refining your performance according to the issues you noticed on your self evaluation.

Make multiple attempts, in each direction, and keep refining your performance until you're completely satisfied you're meeting all the technical objectives,,, then connect some of these refined leg steering turns.

Once those are working well, start to vary your turn shapes. Make some sharper turns by applying stronger leg steering power. Make sure they stay consistent in shape, even though sharper. Make some even longer, more gradual turns. Make some turns that start out gradual, and finish sharp. Make some the opposite of that. Use your imagination and execute some shapes I haven't mentioned. Always ensure you're maintaining your good stance and balance as you do all these variations.

You've just expanded your turn shape comfort zone by a country mile.


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