SKI TIPS: Two ways to turn

Whitewater ski team coach Dylan Henderson explains the difference between carving and pivoting.

The pivot: flat ski

The pivot: flat ski

The last column we focused on outside ski pressure and this week we will look at pivoting versus carving.

A great skier is able to ski well in all snow conditions and terrain, requiring changes in technique that are as varied as the incredible mountains that surround us. As an alpine ski coach I am all about preaching the virtues of the perfectly carved turn, but I admit there are situations where we should slide our skis.

Every time we put our ski on edge we are carving, whether in the powder, on a steep run or on a groomer. So, when do we skid our skis?

Skidding, or pivoting, was how us old schoolers steered our skis in the bad old days before the skiing revolution of the late 1990s that brought the invention of shaped skis and the carving technique. Today, the use of the pivot is to control speed when we get going too fast in a tight spot, and when you are skiing the steeps and want to maintain quick turns in the fall line.

I want to make it clear that carving and pivoting are two different technical tools and they should never be combined. When you are pivoting make it a great controlled drift, and when you roll your skis up on edge make sure you carve a fantastic turn leaving perfect pencil line tracks in the snow. No sloppy skidding turns!

The drill that I am going to share with you contains both skills and separates them so that you can get success with each.

Try this on a moderately steep groomer starting on one side of the run and skiing straight down the fall line to get some speed. Now pivot your skis by disengaging the edges with your ankles and throw the skis sideways with your feet until the skis are pointing towards the middle of the run. You should be sliding sideways down the fall line as if coming to a stop but without any snow spray. That’s the pivot!

Without stopping, pivot or steer your skis so that you are pointing straight down the hill again. Now roll your skis on edge with ankles and knees and wait for the skis to begin carving a perfect turn efficiently towards the middle of the run and keep turning until you are approaching the other side of the run. Now repeat by pivoting with skis pointed back towards the middle of the run, then point straight down the fall line, and another perfect carve across the run.

This drill will clean up your carving and loosen up your body separation, but most of all it will remind you not to mix your drifting and turning.

Dylan Henderson is the head coach for the Whitewater Ski Team. He is a certified Development Level Coach with the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation and a Level 1 ski instructor with the Canadian Ski Instructors Association. His goal is to give you something to keep your skiing fresh every other week even if the snow is not. Check us out on Facebook at Whitewater Ski Team.