Once a Skier has progressed to confident parallel turns, the next big challenge is to learn to carve the turn correctly and efficiently. A properly carved Ski requires less effort to work, and gives higher levels of control and stability…and fun!
I began skiing only about twenty years ago and admittedly I fall into bad habits when I ski. Occasionally when I’m "feeling it" i can hook up some nice turns. For MOST of the last 20 years I have (one by one) gone into each ski season having to ski with my youngest of four daughters. Most of those years my ski days began with skiing with them between my skis. Skiing like that takes a lot out of you AND it also leads to bad habits skiing. Too often you find yourself over-steering with thighs, feet and hips since you’re compensating for the added weight of the younger skier.
Often after skiing with my kids for a couple of hours, I’d go out on the slopes alone and find it difficult to hookup some good turns. My legs would feel like tree trunks and the turns just wouldn’t come.
Enough with the excuses. Here’s some tips to getting the nice carved turn that you’re dreaming of. As with anything else in life, practice, practice, practice! Hey it’s fun anyway so do it!
Carve that baby!
One of the great things about writing for this website is that I have gotten to meet some great skiers…and instructors. Jeb Brown up at Ski Beech is great. So is Jim Cottrell who founded the French Swiss Ski School in Blowing Rock. There are many others but each that I have spoken with have shared something related to, "Achieving a pure carved turn IS achievable for all skiers."
The best tip to get started with the carved turn is TO FEEL IT! To achieve a carved turn, it is wise to make a plan for yourself to first feel the sensation of the ski carving; locked into a smooth arc in the snow. As you start off, slowly allow yourself to move your uphill side hip progressively into the hill. Don’t make it a rushed movement, just smooth and progressive. It will only take a little movement to get the skis to tilt more and carve effectively.
One thing that I would suggest here is to practice your carves on a green trail. Something with enough slope to ski down, but gradual enough to allow you to make the turn properly and not RUSH it due to the steepness of the slope. Your speed will want to increase the more complete the turn becomes and on a black diamond run you’ll be going too fast to feel it. Stick to the Greens and Blues to begin with.
Much like hitting a baseball or a great tennis shot – there IS a sweet spot when you simply FEEL that you made a perfectly carved turn. It’s a great sensation that often provides a moment of weightlessness as you shift alternately from one turn to the next. Some of my personal best carves have been up at Hawksnest. There’s a portion of "The Right Stuff" (off the top) that when you hook up a couple of nice carves you’ll get that strong weightless feeling. It’s part of that fall line and if you hit it right, it’s pretty cool.
Of course carving in deep, natural snow is even better!
So practice making ONE nice carved turn first. If you need you may actually find that breaking down the turn makes it easier to master. For example only ski the first 1/4th of the turn and break out of it. Do it again and again and when you feel comfortable and in control go through 1/2 of the long arc. Then progress through the complete carve.
Once you have the FEEL for the pure carve, try LINKING a couple together. Make this maneuver allowing your hips to move across your feet.
One of my ski instructor buddies who asked to be anonymous wrote me this nice tip about carving.
"When you’re carving, one of the most important things to feel is a positive cross over. The cross over is the part of the turn when your body needs to move across the skis to tilt the skis onto the new edge. It starts at the end of one turn and continues until the skis are tilted onto the new edges to start the new turn." That was well written Len…you should allow me to mention you by name!
He also wrote that there ARE some hip and body techniques that apply but we’ll save those for a more technical article at some point. The main thing to know is to PRACTICE it and FEEL it…and your hip and knee placement and usage will come naturally.
Another tip he shared was to COUNT your way through a carve. With each number 1,2,3 and 4, you should be applying somewhat increased pressure through the lean into and out of the turn.
Common Mistakes and Things to Watch For
Len also said, "Think of your thighs as the power steering of your motion. When you are carving or trying to carve through a turn you should think about how you are actually physically turning your skis. It’s very important to have a good strong positive steering motion through your carved turns. Most of the time, especially in the early stages of your skiing a lot of the focus for turning the skis is foot steering. This is OK to certain degree, but as the speed and dynamics of your turns increase you should start to think about using your thighs as the main steering mechanism. This doesn’t mean ruling out foot steering. It just means that you could start to think of the main core steering coming from the thigh and the fine tuning steer coming from the feet."
In closing…practice is the key. Get out and do it…and you’ll get more from your time on the slopes!