How To Turn On Skis

Once you pick out all your gear and hit the slopes, turning is one of the first skills you will learn as a beginner skier. Turning is key for you to have an epic day on the mountain.

Turning is your way of steering down the mountain in all different types of terrain. Before you venture to the peak, you should learn some basic skills to set yourself up for long term success.

Here’s my guide for beginner skiers on how to learn turning quickly and efficiently, while having a blast at the same time!

Lower Body Position

Since turns are done mainly with your lower body, let’s talk about stance. A great stance will help you ski in control, manage your speed, and allow you to get on your ski edges to make turns.

You should start with your feet at shoulder width apart. Being too narrow will not be good for control and could allow your skis to overlap resulting in some undesired falls.

If you go too wide, you’ll also have less control as your skills progress. Aligning your feet at shoulder width helps your entire body stay in perfect alignment which will keep you wanting to get back on the chair lift and make more turns.

You should have a slight bend in your ankles, knees, and hips. When it comes to these joints, “Straight Sucks!” When you don’t have any bend, you’re not allowing your muscles to work in your favor and turns will become a lot harder and control will suffer in the process.

Try to align your feet in the center of your boot. You don’t want to be too far forward with your shins against the front of your boots. The same idea applies for your calves against the back of your boots.

You’ll want to find your balance directly in the center of your body and slightly bend into that position.

This will set your lower half up for impressive turns while cutting down on your chances of forming bad habits.

Upper Body Position

Even though turning takes place from using your legs, your lower body position shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind. The skiers who can complete any type of turn on the mountain have mastered control of their whole body at every point throughout the turn.

Controlling your entire body while turning will help you manage your speed and make your turns look easy to anyone watching.

Amateur skiers will often forget about the upper body so if you learn the importance of it early, you’ll set yourself up to dominate tough terrain for years to come.

Your shoulders and head are the two things that you should pay attention to on your upper half as a beginner.

Make sure to keep your shoulders relaxed with a ninety-degree bend in your elbows. Keep your hand forward and if you’re using poles, place them in the snow at the top of your boots on the outside of your skis. 

For a beginner, I highly recommend initially learning to turn without poles because poles typically create bad long-term habits for skiers. If you’re going to learn with poles, make sure you keep them in the front of your body to avoid using them incorrectly.

Your head position is also very important for you to make great turns on the slopes.

Think of your body as a steering wheel. Your head is what gives your body the ability to see what’s going on in your path. If you drop your head on the slopes, you’re giving yourself two issues.

When your head drops, you won’t be able to see what’s going on in front of you and this could lead to a bad collision. You’re also going to want to have your head up in order to maintain a great body posture.

If you drop your head, your body will want to slouch as well because your brain is telling your body that’s where I want to go. This will cause extra strain which will only lead to more injuries and bad habits.

I recommend placing your eyes directly on your target destination. This will allow you to focus on where you want to go and see any obstacles in your way. If you keep your head up, you’ll have a lot more fun on the mountain and master turning in no time.

Pizza and French Fry Position  

These two positions are the first things ski instructors teach skiers during a lesson. This is the first thing you should understand as a beginner who is looking to start turning.

The Pizza Position is when you make a wedge with your skis. To do this you’ll push out on your boot heals and bend your knees slightly inward to slow down or stop. The harder you push to get on your inside edges, the quicker you will come to a stop.

The French Fry Position is the fancy term for keeping your skis parallel. This position will stay with you even when you’re no longer a beginner and have the desire to tackle tougher terrain. On the other hand, the Pizza Position will be utilized minimally after you become somewhat comfortable controlling your skis.

Practice going from a French Fry to a Pizza Position on flat ground. When you feel comfortable doing this, it’s time to move up to the bunny slope to practice turning.

Wedge Turn  

Before you’re able to make turns while keeping your skis straight, the wedge turn will be your best friend. The wedge turn allows you to stay in control and really gauge your own speed.

You control your speed and turns by utilizing your ski edges. Ski edges are critical for turns on tough terrain so this will be your first introduction to seeing their importance on the slopes.

The snowplough turn may not look like other skiers turns coming from the peak, but everyone started with this technique when they were a beginner. 

To snowplough turn, start in your pizza position by digging in with the inside edges of your skis. Don’t dig too much that you’re completely stopped, but apply enough pressure where you’re moving at a relatively slow pace.

To turn, apply extra pressure with the inside edge of your downhill ski. By downhill ski I mean the lowest one once you make the turn. If you want to turn right, your downhill ski would be your left one and visa versa.

With the wedge turn, you should really focus on applying pressure to your downhill ski through your boot. The harder you push, the quicker you will be able to get on edge and this knowledge will be very valuable moving forward.

When you’re perpendicular to the hill, your speed will slow because your skis won’t be going downhill. Slowing your speed will help you link turns which is the next step in the learning process.

Linking Turns

Learning to turn is great, but if you’re unable to put multiple turns together it will be very tough to get down a trail. Once you’ve mastered the wedge turn, it’s time to add another turn to it and then repeat this process from top to bottom.

To link turns, your uphill and downhill skis will flip flop positions and responsibilities. As I said before, your downhill ski is the one where you’re applying pressure. The uphill ski should be fairly relaxed.

When you’re looking to add another wedge turn, you should transition your weight from your downhill ski to your uphill ski. When you start applying pressure to the inside of your boot, you will get on your ski edge which will naturally cause your skis to turn.

When you are confident with your ability to slowly turn, try to pick up the pace. To do this, all you have to do is transition your weight between your inside edges a little quicker and your skis will do the rest of the work.

As you get more comfortable with this technique, you won’t feel the need to have to be perpendicular to the mountain to slow down. You’ll be able to control your speed by making quicker turns and actually embrace a slightly faster pace.

When you’re embracing speed, it’s time to move up one level and start to lose the pizza position in your skis.

Parallel Turns

Even though this is a short article, all the techniques leading up to getting your skis parallel take time so don’t be fooled. Learning to turn is a process!

Every amateur is still trying to master parallel techniques because everyone can improve their skills no matter where they are in skiing ability.

If you trust the process early, good things will happen when you get to learning the parallel stage of the turn.

Moving away from the pizza slice will begin at the bottom of your turn. When you’re transitioning your weight from your downhill to your uphill ski, try to straighten your skis when you get to a forty-five-degree angle on the trail.

In order to do this successfully, you’ll need to keep your feet at hip width. This helps your ski edges stay on the same level plane and puts your body in a really comfortable position. When your skis get wider turning becomes a lot more difficult.

It will be more comfortable to widen your feet to slow yourself down. This is the same concept as the pizza position, but do your best to stay parallel for as long as you can because the hope is to ditch the wedge in this stage.

Push yourself to stay parallel as long as you can at the bottom of your turn before transitioning into a pizza slice. Eventually you’ll be able to stay parallel while transitioning into your next turn as you gain more control over your edges.

The technique for the wedge turn is exactly the same as a parallel turn. The movements are smaller and they look more advanced, but the concept of getting on your ski edge is necessary for beginners all the way up to rippers at the Olympic level.

Parallel skiing is a great introduction to carving which is the final technique you’ll move to when learning how to turn. 

Carving Technique

With continued practice, you’ll be able to refine your skiing techniques to a point where you’re ready to carve. When you get really good at edging, carving will come easy.

This is because carving is using your edges to make all your turns on the mountain. The knowledge you will learn on the bunny slope is the foundation of this turn so that’s why it’s important to believe in each step of the process.

Modern skis make carving possible for every level of skier that can control their body on the slopes. Let’s take a look at how you should carve down the mountain.

Carving is an intense version of parallel skiing. Carving is when you dig in with your edges to make turns while flying down the mountain. Carving will help you maintain your speed which will allow you to make fluid turns.

Your skis don’t really slide when you’re carving because of how hard you’re pressuring on the inside edge of your ski. This goes back to the wedge turn. The harder you pushed, the more you turned.

Pressure gets you on your ski edge and reduces the risk of sliding. If you have a good pair of carving skis, all you have to do is initiate the movement with your boots.

To start a carving turn, keep your skis at hip width just like the parallel turn. Your downhill ski is still your best friend and you should apply more pressure to it than your uphill ski.

The majority of your weight should be applied to the middle of your downhill ski and you’ll be carving all day long.

Final Thoughts

I know there is a lot of information in this article and everyone has their own way of teaching beginner skiers how to turn.

Despite this, the most important concept in this article is to take your time while learning and remember that each stage will help you as you advance through the learning stages.

If you keep this in mind, you’ll improve faster and be making expert turns in no time!