How to Carve Skiing

Experienced skiers know that there are efficient and non-efficient ways to move down the mountain. The more you become a part of the slope you’re skiing down rather than resisting it, the easier the sport becomes.

While there are many subtle technique tips that can help you achieve better overall form, one of the keys to advancing is learning how to carve when you’re turning.

How to Carve Skiing

What is Carve Turning?

Carve turning is one of the most effective and efficient ways to ski down a slope. If you’ve ever watched an experienced skier move effortlessly across a mountain, making equal turns at high speeds, they are utilizing the carve style of turning.

You can recognize the look of carving by the classic S shape of a skier’s turns. These S turns can be broad, narrow, or anything in between.

A carved turn means that you’re using the outside edge of your skis to maintain control at all times. You don’t skid, wedge, or traverse when you’re carve turning.

Instead, you keep your skis parallel and maintain a constant turning technique that allows you to remain in control of your skis no matter how fast you go or what terrain you cover.

With carve turning, your skis will literally tip from edge to edge as you move. As you dig the outside edge of your skis into the snow during a turn, the power generated by your feet and legs will lift the opposite edge off of the snow.

This is another telltale sign of carve turning that you can watch for if you’re trying to learn the technique.

How to Carve on Skis

One of the first things to think about when learning how to carve is your ski edges are going to slightly change direction before you actually start to turn. This initiates the carve turn and allows for very efficient use of movement.

Your skis are going to move the rest of your body when you carve rather than your body forcing your skis into a turn. That is incredibly important when it comes to saving energy.

The shift from using your skis to initiate the turn is easy to describe but it does take some getting used to on the slopes.

Keep in mind that it might take a while for you to get used to this new technique before you can take it to the next level. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t pick it up right away. With enough practice, you will get there.

1. Your Body Controls Your Edges

The first tip mentioned above is that your edges will begin to initiate a carve turn before you actually start to turn on the snow. To achieve this edge control, you need to focus on what your body’s doing.

To change your edges, gently roll your lower body in the direction of the upcoming turn before you actually make the turn.

Start by focusing the rolling movement into your hips, knees, and ankles. That will create enough force to allow you to dig your edges into the snow.

Your upper body will naturally move in the opposite direction of where your lower body rolls. That’s what you’re going for, even though it might seem weird when you’re reading this.

If you don’t roll your lower body to dig your edges in before making the turn you will most likely skid turn instead of carve turn.

That will happen from time to time while you’re getting the hang of it. However, you will improve as you continue to practice.

2. Technique Tips

One easy way to get a feel for the edge control is to ski without poles and place your hands on your knees.

That technique, though a bit unorthodox, is a great way to learn the initial feel of carve turning. If you have ever taken an intermediate-level ski lesson, your instructor probably ran you through the drill.

When you’re starting your carve turn, place your hands on your knees. As you begin your turn, push your knees in the direction of the upcoming shift.

That will exaggerate the feel, but in a way that gives you the edge control necessary to begin carving. It will also force you to achieve the tipping of your skis with both feet, which is crucial to perfecting the carve turn.

3. Putting It All Together

As you learn the body control needed to carve ski, you will be able to recognize the difference between a good carve turn and a skid turn. Though you may start out doing both, you will be able to hit both as you need.

When first starting out, try skiing without poles with your hands on your knees, as described above.

Once you feel comfortable with the proper edge control and ski tipping that results in a good carve turn, pick your poles back up and try to ski more regularly.

Keep a focus on rolling into your turns while also keeping your knees bent and fully engaged.

Final Thoughts

As you get the hang of carve turning, you will be able to hit many turns in a row. That is a good goal to aim for because one good carve turn does not actually mean you have a hang of the entire process. You need to be able to make the turns over and over again.

The better you get with this technique, the more you will realize that it’s an easier way to ski. Carve skiing is an efficient turning style because you use far less energy to make your turns than you do with other turning techniques.

Beginners skiers are often worn out after a few runs because they are, in a way, constantly resisting the force of gravity pulling them downhill.

By learning how to carve turn, you can become more in sync with the natural forces on the mountain. This means that it will take far less effort and energy to complete your turns.

Learning how to carve will improve your abilities, but it can also help you enjoy skiing just a little bit more.

Do you know how to carve turn? Do you have any tips or tricks for other skiers? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Eric Thompson

    Hey Christine, I’m doing it getting up on those edges,and making railroad tracks! Wow what a difference from doing skid turns. You maintain most of your speed, and ski in with more control. My friend from Illinois was watching me ski one day when we were up north,at Caberfae. He brought 2 pairs of his all mountain skis. He said to me you’re doing way better than any beginner I’ve seen, but you gotta stop those short choppy skidding all over the hill. We got done with the run. He let me use his Line sick days. At first they felt like too much ski for me. He told me long sweeping turns, and when you turn bump out your opposite hip,and try to roll your ankles. He told me those longer wider all mountain skis will get you in the habit of turning like that because they’re easier to control that way. Not like the skis you have now. Now I’m making long turns tilting my skis, and getting them on edge. Plus 3 lessons from the teacher at my home hill. It’s not hard to learn but you really gotta work on doing it. Having a blast even in the no snow El Nino year.

    • Christine

      Nice work Eric! Keep it up. Awesome to hear about your improvement on the mountain.

  • Eric Thompson

    I started skiing about 5 weeks ago. I took 3 lessons. I started on the bunny hill. Did this for two trips, and then moved up to the bigger hills, and moved away from pizza and french fries after the third trip. I absolutely love skiing even at 57 years old. My instructor says he wants me to learn my edges, but it’s springtime, and the hills are closed, any off season tips? Until winter comes back?

    • Christine

      Hi Eric,

      That’s awesome you seem to have gotten the hang of things on the slope so quickly! It’s never too late to start, right? As far as off-season tips go, there aren’t many ways to replicate using your edges or skiing in general off the snow. Keeping yourself in good shape with some strength and endurance training will help you be ready when the snow starts falling again. Focus on lower body and core exercises. There is always the option of chasing snow somewhere in the southern hemisphere if you don’t want to wait until next winter… Just saying. Congrats again, and I hope that helps!

      • Eric Thompson

        Thanks for the encouragement! I started because my daughter snowboards, and I didn’t even want try that. Skiing just seemed to be easier to learn because of my hockey background. As far as off season stuff my daughter and I ride bicycles in the summer. Will that be enough to keep up the leg strength? Plus I play golf in the summer also, and I walk the golf course and usually go 18 holes when I play. I’m fairly active except when winter comes. Now that I’m skiing that won’t be a problem now. Thank you for the tips they help alot along with the ski lessons. My goal is the 2 black diamond hills at my home hill at the middle of next season. Does it seem to be a lofty goal?

        • Christine

          Hi Eric,

          Cycling can be a good off-season workout to keep your legs and cardio in shape for ski season. But I’d also recommend doing some strength training that works on not just your legs but also your core muscles. Doing that and cycling should keep you at an excellent point for when the season starts. There’s no real way to get in great ski shape besides skiing, but staying as close as possible will help. I’m not sure about golfing, as I’ve never really done it – but I’m sure that walking around helps. I’ve seen some skiers be able to handle blacks after a single season and think it’s a doable goal. But I’d recommend taking a few more lessons and really making sure you are ready for it before attempting. You don’t want to get in a situation where you are way over your head and end up getting injured. Use your best judgment and remember that having fun is more important than proving anything to anyone else or yourself.

  • Dan

    When do you think is an appropriate time to start learning to carve? What skills or milestones should already have been achieved for it to make sense to transition?

    • Christine

      Hi Dan,

      After you have parallel skiing down, you are ready to tackle carving. You need to be able to keep your skis close together in order to carve, so it does take a fair amount of skill. This is typically an intermediate-level skill but something to work on as soon as you are ready to start going down blues. If you are still turning using the pizza wedge or snowplow, you need to work away from that before carving.

      I hope that helps and you are having a good winter so far!