9 Turning and Speed Control

Technique is crucial in skiing and is the final factor to ensure proper speed control. Speed control varies greatly by terrain, and techniques that work in flatter terrain will not directly translate to steep terrain. Because of this, it is critical to learn each technique in terrain that does not require it before attempting on a steeper slope.

There are ultimately two ways we can make a ski change direction:

  • Twisting – Twisting or pivoting part or all of your body will physically turn the ski. This gives the turn a skidded feel and the skis will be quick to slow down, but slow to move across the hill.
  • Tipping – Tipping or leaning the skis onto the edge and standing with your weight in the middle will bend the ski and put it on a curved path as if on rails. This gives the turn a carved feel and the skis will move across the hill quickly, but take time to slow down.

Every turn is made using a blend of these skills.

Three Phases of a Turn

1. Into the fall line. From the start of the turn up to the moment you are traveling straight down the hill, all you are really doing is giving in to gravity. This means the top half of the turn should not involve a huge amount of muscular effort. You are very light on your feet, making this the easiest time to twist the skis and set the turn up.

2. Out of the fall line. When you steer the skis back across the hill the other way, you start working against gravity. You will begin to feel heavier as the pressure builds, which makes the skis harder to pivot. Tipping the skis and using your edges effectively at this moment will have the most impact on your direction change.

3. The Transition. The transition is the time between finishing one turn and starting the next. As a beginner, this is a period to reset; to fix any problems you have created in the previous turn so you can initiate the next from a centered stance. As you improve, this period becomes a time in which you use the momentum from the previous turn to initiate the next, allowing one turn to flow into another.

Wedge Turn

Once you have explored gliding in a wedge, you are ready to learn how to make basic turns with the wedge. This is where you learn to control your speed and direction by the shape of your turn.

  1. While gliding in a wedge, use your legs to twist both skis in the direction you want to go. Keep your skis in a wedge shape the entire time.
  2. Put slightly more weight on the outside/downhill ski to turn. To turn right, put more weight on your left foot. To turn left, put more weight on your right foot.
  3. To stop, turn so you’re positioned across the slope.

Tip: While practicing the wedge turns, steer using your legs and feet, not your upper body. Keep the skis relatively flat and maintain the size and shape of the wedge. Keep an athletic stance with weight centered over your feet. Leaning back is the most common mistake skiers make.


Linking Wedge Turns

Once you have practiced wedge turns in each direction, it is time to link those wedge turns. Linking turns is how you ski down the mountain, control your speed, and control where you want to go.

  • Turn in one direction by steering the wedge by twisting your legs and feet and slightly shifting your weight slightly to the outside ski. Keep turning until you are just facing across the hill.
  • Then go back to a neutral stance and glide straight as you transition to the next turn.
  • Steer in the opposite direction by twisting legs and shifting weight slightly to the outside ski.
  • Maintain a consistent wedge size and shape.
  • Glide rather than dig into your edges.
  • Use your lower body to steer your skis and keep your upper body relaxed.
  • Vary the turn shape to control your speed.

Stem/Christie Turns

Stem/Christie turns are the next step to learning parallel turns. Start the turn in a wedge to give you edge and steering. Once you have momentum, slide the inside ski into a parallel position. This will remove any resistance and allow the skis to run cleanly. As your confidence builds, start to creep it up earlier in the arc until only the transition is done in a wedge. Bringing the skis parallel higher up the arc encourages you to find balance on the outside ski earlier in the turn, as well as twisting the skis effectively at the start of the turn. When your skis are parallel out of the fall line, you can work on tipping them on edge more in the second half of the turn.


Parallel Turns

Making parallel turns comes after knowing how to link wedge turns and can use Stem/Christie turns. The next steps in learning parallel turns require shrinking wedge turns and making your skis parallel and practice releasing edges.

Shrinking Wedge Turns

To practice shrinking the wedge, simply take a few runs down any easy slope and focus on reducing how flared out the tails of your skis are. This will make your wedge smaller. A smaller wedge will provide less speed control, though, so you will need to emphasize making round turns to control your speed instead. Once you are able to ski down with your skis in a smaller wedge, it is a good time to practice bringing your skis more parallel to one another. To do so, focus on flattening out the inside/uphill ski and skidding it next to the outside/downhill ski. When you are first trying this, it should be towards the end of the turn. Once comfortable, practice doing it earlier in the turn.

Outlined below is a drill to help you learn to make your skis parallel at the end of the turns.

  • While making a wedge turn across a slope, lift the tail of the inside/uphill ski and gently tap it on the snow a few times.
  • As you turn the other direction, lift and tap the tail of what is now the inside/uphill ski.
  • Lifting and tapping will lighten up the amount of weight you are putting on the inside/uphill ski so that you can bring it in line with the outside/downhill ski.
  • As you get comfortable with lifting and tapping, begin focusing on steering the inside/uphill ski to match the outside/downhill ski.

Releasing Your Edges

Releasing your edges is how you initiate a parallel turn and is key to being able to steer both of your skis down the slope together. To understand what releasing your edges looks like, imagine you are gliding across the slope to your right. With your skis on their edges, you will feel your left big toe (on the outside/downhill ski) and your right pinky toe (on the inside/uphill ski) on the snow. To start turning to the left, you must first release these edges and go toward the bases of your skis. You do this by using your feet and shins to flatten your skis out onto the snow surface. With your skis no longer on their edges, you will be able to turn your skis downhill and then across the slope in the other direction. Proper turns will form smooth arcs like the shape of the letter “S” as you link one turn to the next. Knowing what good parallel turns look like and keeping that image in your mind will help you actually form the turns and work toward linking them together.


Skidded Turns

Skidded turns are when your skis stay relatively flat on the snow when you are coming into a turn transition and you push the ski through the turn. During this turn, you slow down by putting pressure on the ski as you go around the corner. This is commonly used when transitioning to more difficult terrain and when the slopes are icy. By keeping the skis parallel, but also relatively flat, you can steer round turns down the hill while braking all the way. By keeping your hips over your feet and your balance on the outside ski, you can link parallel turns together rhythmically without ever letting them build too much speed or pressure.




When carving, the tail of the ski follows the tip of the ski, displacing minimal snow and making it the fastest, most efficient way to descend the mountain.

  • With both skis pointing down the fall line, initiate carving turns by rolling your knees and ankles so the skis’ edges dig into the snow and steer you across the slope – engaging the left edges to go left and the right edges to go right. It is critical that you really lean into the carve and put your skis on edge, otherwise they will slide or skid.
  • The more force you exert while carving, the more your ski flexes and the better edge you have to turn with. Put simply: the faster you go, the easier it is to carve. Your hips, thighs, knees, and ankles are all valuable in applying as much force as possible to the skis through the ski turn, but you will want to keep your upper body in a more upright position to make turning easier.
  • Finish your carve by rolling your knees and ankles upright, lifting the edges from the snow. Roll your knees and ankles in the opposite direction and transfer your weight to the outside ski, pressuring it to engage its edge.


Side Slipping

Side slipping offers a controlled descent technique, where the skier slides slowly sideways, downhill around the obstacle or section of the mountain before continuing. It involves positioning the skis perpendicular across the fall line with the upper edges of both skis gripping the snow, which stops them from moving downhill. Facing downhill with your chest, you release the edges very gradually by moving both knees downhill. You can control your speed by flexing your knees backward and forwards. Other techniques can be added, which help to negotiate side slipping on steep or icy surfaces. Side slipping is a good confidence skill, involving balance and edge release, that can be applied to many other skiing disciplines.



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Skiing and Snowboarding Copyright © by Dr. Renee Harrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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