We all love taking a run down the mountain feeling the wind rush past our body. For me, this is when I feel most alive on the slopes, but the secret to a great day doesn’t just come from skiing. Stopping is key to a fun and safe day on the mountain because we need it to stay in control.
For a beginner skier, stopping is one of the first techniques you need to learn to have an epic day on the mountain. When you gain control over your skis and feel confident in your stopping ability, I guarantee your skiing will improve!
My stopping technique has evolved over the years, but I’ve learned three techniques in my twenty years of shredding: The pizza stop or wedge stop, the snowplough turn, and the hockey stop.
Let’s start with the pizza stop because who doesn’t love pizza!
The Pizza Stop or Wedge Stop
The pizza stop or wedge stop mean exactly the same thing so don’t get confused. I like to refer to it as the pizza stop because that’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I see someone using it on the slopes.
If you’re new to skiing the pizza stop is the first technique you should learn. To do the pizza stop, picture a triangular slice of pizza. You will form a triangle with your skis by digging your inside ski edges into the snow.
The more pressure you apply to the snow with your edges, the slower you will go. This stopping technique is great for beginners because it gives you a lot of control over the speed of your skis.
The Pizza Stop Technique
- Apply pressure to the inside part of your heels which will begin to push your skis out in a pizza shape.
- Continue to push your skis into the pizza shape. As your ski tails move farther apart, the more you will slow down.
- As you widen your ski tails, you will move on to your inside edges for more friction and faster stopping.
When learning the pizza stop, be aware of your ski tips. Make sure you don’t have them touch because if they get crossed your stop could turn into a fall and that’s the last thing any skier desires. Start slow on level ground and the pizza stop will become a no brainer as you advance to more technical trails.
Use the pizza stop when you’re learning the ropes on the bunny slope or trying to slow down on flatter and tighter terrain. This is a great way for a gradual stop when you see a busy area coming up in your path.
The Snowplough Turn
The snowplough turn is the next step up from the pizza turn. You’ll start with the same technique, but ultimately make a turn for a faster stop! Once you get comfortable with the regular pizza stop, add this into your style and you’ll be stopping like a pro in no time.
The Snowplough Turn Technique
- Begin by completing the entire pizza stop technique. Once your skis are in the pizza shape, it’s now time to turn!
- To turn, you’ll push hard into the inside of one ski and take pressure off of the other. To turn right, apply pressure to the inside edge of your left ski. To turn left, apply the pressure to the inside edge of your right ski.
- You’ll have a side that feels better, but do your best to get comfortable with both because you never know when you may have to turn the other way!
- The goal is to stop when your skis are going directly across the slope.
- Continue applying pressure to the inside edge of your downhill ski so you don’t slide down the hill because nobody wants to slide when they’re trying to stop!
The main thing to remember with the snowplough turn is to apply the initial pressure with your downhill ski. If you start the turn with your uphill ski, you’ll be sliding down hill and turning up hill at the same time. This won’t make for a pretty or comfortable stop.
I use the snowplough turn when I’m on flatter terrain that is also really busy. If I need to come to a quicker stop the snowplough turn will definitely be my choice over the pizza stop.
The Hockey Stop
As you get better and better, the hockey stop will become your best friend. That’s not to say that you will never pizza stop or snowplough turn again, but I use the hockey stop more than either of the previous two.
If you have ever watched a professional skier or someone shredding on the mountain and a huge cloud of snow fly up as they stopped, they were using the hockey stop technique.
When you’re able to do it correctly, it really makes stopping fun and that’s saying something because stopping means your run is probably coming to an end! Whenever I ski with buddies, we always try to hockey stop and spray each other with the cloud of snow that shoots up from our skis.
Let’s get into the details about how to execute the hockey stop!
The Hockey Stop Technique
- Slightly rise your body posture up to take some ski pressure off the snow. This will set you up for a better stop and people often forget this part of the skill.
- Apply a lot of pressure to your outside ski and begin to turn on your inside edge. By outside ski, I mean the downhill ski once you make the turn.
- Begin to sink and bend your knees while turning both your feet into the mountain.
- Dig your inside ski edges into the snow. The amount of pressure you apply corresponds with how fast you will stop.
- As you come to a stop, slightly move off your inside edges so you don’t fall back into the mountain.
When I was learning the hockey stop, the biggest mistake I made was not digging in with my edges enough to quickly stop. I would softly dig and that made me slide more than desired and I’d often lose my balance. This made for some unnecessary falls so don’t be afraid to edge into the snow.
I hockey stop every opportunity that I get because it’s the quickest way to come to a halt. On steep terrain where you’re moving quickly, the hockey stop will be your best friend. The only time I don’t utilize the hockey stop is if I need to gradually stop on my way to the ski lift.
The technique needed for the hockey stop is learned from the pizza stop and the snowplough turn. Mastering those will really help you when it’s time to progress to the hockey stop.
This is also the most fun way to stop in my opinion, so you’ll want to use it every time you have the opportunity. I always feel like a pro when I come to a quick stop and see a cloud of snow spray right up from my skis!
Always remember that it’s okay to go slow! Don’t be afraid to take time learning this stopping progression. In life, we walk before we run, and the same principle applies on the slopes. Get really good at the basics and the harder techniques will come naturally.