Turning is one of those fundamental skills that every skier needs to learn. There are different levels of turning that you can progress through, and you’ll get better at each of them the more time you spend in the snow.
I’m a lifelong skier with a strong passion for the sport. I always enjoy helping other skiers get better, and I’ve been able to show many people how to turn on skis over the years.
This post will show you how to turn on skis. While there’s no substitute for on-snow experience, understanding how to turn effectively and reading about it before you get on the slopes can really help out.
Time to get started.
It takes time to get the hang of any new skiing skill. If you are just learning how to ski, taking a lesson with a qualified instructor will help you out much more than simply reading a post on how to turn.
But it’s still a good idea to understand the concepts and techniques involved in the different turning styles. Once you get the hang of turning, you won’t even think about it. But as you learn, you’ll want to keep all the tips and tricks mentioned here in mind.
The Anatomy of a Ski Turn
I’m going to show you several different turning methods in this post. They are all slightly different and follow a natural progression of skiing abilities from beginner to advanced. But they all have the same basic anatomy, which is good to know.
Essentially, there are three different parts of a ski turn, regardless of what type of turn you are doing. These three parts are:
- turning into the fall line,
- turning out of the fall line,
- transitioning to the next turn.
The fall line is the point of a turn where your skis are head straight downhill. It occurs during every turn and is how gravity affects your body as you twist down the snow.
Turning into the fall line is the moment when you initiate a ski turn. This is the first step of any ski turn.
Turning out of the fall line happens when you start to initiate another turn, and it takes a bit more effort because you don’t have gravity on your side and need to use muscles and body movement.
The transition period is simply the time between two turns when you are not actively engaged in the turning process.
How to Turn On Skis
Ok, let’s get to the good stuff. This section will show you all of the most common methods for turning, with step-by-step instructions for how to complete each effectively.
Method 1: Snowplow Turns
Snowplow turns are the most basic way to turn on skis and the first method to learn if you are just getting started. As their name implies, these turns happen when you are in a snowplow, which is one of the first skills every skier learns.
Snowplow turns are the easiest turns to make and help you learn how to stay balanced and engaged while you transition across the snow.
To make snowplow turns, follow these steps:
- Start by standing on your skis and point downhill to get momentum. If it’s your first time, this is best done on a gentle beginner’s slope, like the bunny hill or learner’s area at the ski resort.
- After you gain a little momentum, lean slightly into the inside edge of the ski on the opposite side of the direction you want to turn. So if you want to turn right, you will dig the inner edge of your left ski first. It’s the opposite if you want to go left.
- Keep your skis in a snowplow shape while you start to turn to maintain a slow speed and stay in control.
- Once you complete the turn, you can straighten your skis out or make less of a wedge shape with them to gain momentum again.
- Repeat step 2 for the other side to turn in the other direction. Shift your weight into the inner edge of your left ski to turn right or your right ski if you want to learn left.
*Tip: You can adjust the amount of speed you have and how quickly you turn by opening or closing the size of the snowplow/wedge shape you are in.
Method 2: Stem Turns
Once you have the hang of snowplow turning, you can move on to the next level, which is making stem turns. These are still a beginner method of turning, but they are a little more complicated and require more speed.
Stem turns are basically a hybrid of snowplow turns and parallel turns and are a natural progression to help you become a better skier.
To make stem turns, follow these steps:
- Start by straightening your skis to generate enough momentum to start sliding downhill. You can still stay in a slight snowplow here, but you want a little more speed than when strictly doing a snowplow turn.
- When you are ready to turn, slow down and gain control by making a snowplow shape with your skis. Do this gradually, so you don’t lose control or stop too fast.
- The turning process is the same here, and you’ll want to shift your weight to the inner edge of the ski on the opposite side of the direction you want to turn. So if you want to turn right, focus your weight on the inner edge of your left ski. Switch on the other side.
- This step is the more challenging part compared to snowplow turns. After your turn, you want to straighten your skis into a parallel position to gain more speed and momentum. Try to keep your knees together and avoid the pizza wedge.
- Ski with your skis parallel as you transition across the mountain. You can keep your speed or slow down based on how much you point your skis downhill.
- When you are ready to initiate another turn, begin to make a snowplow shape again to slow down and get into control.
- Repeat step 3 to turn in the other direction. Shift your weight into the inner edge of the outside ski – the ski opposite the direction you want to turn in.
*Tip: You will pick up speed when you get out of the snowplow shape. It’s essential to learn how to transition between wedged skis and parallel skis, but you always want to try and remain in control. Point your skis directly across the mountain if you are still a beginner.
Method 3: Parallel Turns
Parallel turns are a more advanced turn and one that you’ll often see on the slopes when watching intermediate and experienced skiers. These turns don’t use the snowplow at all, so you need to be comfortable without it.
Good parallel turning technique can take a while to master, but it feels amazing once you have the hang of it. I encourage every new skier to make these turns their goal as soon as possible. You can get them down in a single season if you spend the time and take some lessons.
To make parallel ski turns, follow these steps:
- If you are just learning how to parallel ski for the first time, make sure that you are on an easy run that isn’t too steep. This will allow you to feel things out and avoid getting too much speed, and potentially wipe out.
- Point your skis downhill to gain momentum. You don’t necessarily need to point them directly downhill, but choose an angle you are comfortable with that gives you enough speed to start moving.
- As you start heading downhill, keep your skis parallel to one another with your knees bent slightly and your poles and arms engaged out in front of you. You want to remain in an athletic stance the entire time.
- When you are ready to turn, you will again want to shift your weight into the ski opposite of the direction you want to turn. But instead of letting your skis go into a wedge shape, the goal is to keep them close together.
- Plant your pole over the fall line, keeping your body balanced, and your knees bent. Then dig that inner edge and swing your weight to initiate the turn. Remember that parallel turns happen more quickly than beginner turns, so be ready and focused.
- If you have done the turn correctly, your skis will already be parallel as you go through the transition point of the turn. Keep them as straight as possible until you are ready for the next turn.
- When it’s time to turn again, shift the weight in the opposite direction to turn the other way. Keep your skis close together for the most effective parallel turns.
*Tips: There’s a pretty good chance that you won’t be able to keep your skis completely parallel when you are first learning how to parallel ski. That’s totally fine! If you have to use a snowplow still, just work on using it less and less over time.
You’ll use the edges of both skis during a parallel turn more than you will when doing snowplow or stem turns. This will give you more control and allow you to make turns more quickly. It will take some time to figure this out, so be patient.
I highly recommend taking a ski lesson if you have never tried any of these turning methods before. Not only is that a safer idea, but you’ll get advice from an experienced skier who knows how to show you the proper technique.
Ski lessons can be expensive, but even if you only take one, you’ll gain a lot of knowledge and technique that you really can’t learn by reading or watching videos. There is no substitute for actually being out on the snow.
In addition to showing you proper technique, a good ski instructor will also help build your confidence. This is a crucial aspect of becoming a better skier, and another reason why you should really consider taking ski lessons.
Turning is a fundamental aspect of the sport that every skier needs to master. If you take your time to learn proper techniques and work through the turning methods I’ve shown you here, you’ll be able to pick things up quickly and effectively.
Be patient if you don’t get the hang of things right away because it can take some time. The more practice you put into it, the better you will become. And once you have a solid foundation, you can work on becoming an expert skier!