There are many different ways to ski. Many snow enthusiasts have their own particular flow or flavor that expresses their character when on the slopes. If you have a group of friends that you like to ski with, you probably have noticed each one has their individual style on the mountain. This can come in the form of how they turn, how they jump, or simply their general approach to skiing down a mountain.
One skill that can add a lot of style to your skiing is learning how to ski backwards. That might seem difficult or complicated to a beginner, but it’s actually pretty easy to pick up and learn. It will take time and practice to perfect, but with a little confidence and an easy pitch, you can attempt to go backward on your next ski day. Let’s take a quick look at some tips that will help you learn how.
First Things First
Skiing backwards is not all that different than skiing forwards. In skiing terms, going downhill backwards is also known as skiing switch. This is a term borrowed from snowboarding lingo that’s now widely used on ski slopes. The main difference between normal forwards skiing and more advanced backwards skiing is obviously the way your body faces. The way you turn and maneuver is actually very similar between the two.
When you’re first learning how to ski backwards, you want to make sure your first attempt is on a fairly gentle slope. You don’t want to go backwards for the first time on a really steep run because you can quickly get out of control. Start on an easy green where there aren’t a lot of other skiers. Wide open runs help you turn, stop, and start with ease.
Remember that you‘ll always want to look behind you when skiing backwards. That should go without saying, but it’s really important to note because I’ve seen plenty of skiers forget to look downhill on their first backwards attempt! Choose a shoulder that feels comfortable to look over and turn your head at an angle that will allow you to see everything that might come your way.
The first step when skiing backwards is pointing your skis downhill in the opposite direction from what you’re normally used to. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to spin backwards fairly easily. However, when you first start you might need to point backwards to generate the initial momentum needed to head downhill.
Once you’re moving, you need to follow the basic elements you obey while skiing forwards. Keep your skis as parallel as possible so you don’t cross your tips or have your legs spread far apart. Transfer your weight, swivel your hips to make slow, gentle turns, and lean slightly from edge to edge. Just remember to start slow.
Keep your knees bent with your head turned over your shoulder to look at the hill below you. One ski should naturally be slightly in front of the other when skiing switch. This is a good technique tip for turning and maintaining edge control. By bending your knees, you keep a lower center of gravity, which increases your balance and the ability to control yourself while moving backwards.
You can start with the same basics as normal skiing when you are skiing backwards. You can slow down by making the pizza wedge and also make slow and easy turns with your skis wedged. The V shape of the pizza will always be facing downhill, regardless of your orientation, but the process remains the same. As you get better, you’ll be able to move away from the V-shaped pizza wedge and into backwards parallel skiing.
After you get the basic feel for the skiing switch, you can increase your speed and tackle steeper runs. As you attempt more difficult runs, your form needs to be good to make backwards skiing possible. When you’re first learning, it’s easy to catch an edge or cross your tips. That can then cause you to fall. Though such problems can be discouraging, they tend to fade over time.
As you start to increase your speed, you need to maintain a parallel ski stance in order to stay engaged and in control. For a good look at proper switch skiing technique, check out this video. Notice how the skier has one ski slightly in front of the other with his knees bent, and his head and torso turned to see everything around him. As he turns, he swivels his hips and keeps the skis close together.
The type of skis you use also makes a big difference in backward skiing. While skiing switch is technically possible on any ski type, twin-tip skis are far better suited for the task. That is because the tip and tail both point slightly upwards. That’s an obvious advantage to skiing backwards because even when your skis point in the opposite direction, they will still naturally glide downhill.
Skiing backwards is a pretty easy skill to learn that looks quite impressive on the slopes. It takes time and practice to get really good, but it’s a good way to add an element of style to your overall skiing approach. While not every skier wants to learn how to ski backwards, I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried it before.
Do you know how to ski switch? Do you have any tips for others learning how? Let us know in the comments below!