The New York Ski Blog

Improving Your Short Radius Turns

Good skiers know that the best snow late in the day on groomed trails is always right along the edge; however you need solid short radius turns to hang there. If you want to ski in the woods or bumps, it’s the same deal, you need those short turns. We don’t live in the land of the large open bowl, so if you want to be a good skier in the northeast, you need rock solid short turns.

Do this “corridor drill” in the morning when the groomer tracks are still fresh. Find a nice moderate pitch and make short turns staying inside the track of one groomer width. Work on keeping your belly button pointed downhill with your legs turning under a stable upper body accompanied by rhythmic pole touches.

Try to keep both skis turning and working together. You shouldn’t be going any faster than the speed you reach by your third turn. If you are accelerating with each turn, you need to shape your turns more at the end. Look back up at your tracks – did you stay in the lane? What shape were your tracks? You want them rounded like S or C shapes (depending on the pitch), not like a Z.

Once you master this, move onto a steeper pitch and work there. Once you are good at this drill, you can use the sides of trails when it’s icy in the middle much more comfortably. My favorite place to do this is the far skier’s right on the lower half of Mountain Run at Whiteface between the woods and the chair towers. Many times, it’s practically powder there when the middle of the trail is very firm.

To improve your bump and tree skiing, slow this drill down by making the corridor even smaller (about half a cat groomer width) and practice skiing these short turns as slowly as you can. To go slower, you’ll need to skid them more as you would in the bumps and keep your legs (not your upper body) turning.

If you are having trouble with these drills, try taking a clinic with a PSIA Level 3 certified instructor who can help you nail those short turns that are so important to becoming an strong eastern skier.

11 Responses on “Improving Your Short Radius Turns

  1. Matt says:

    I’m trying to figure out why your left turn is not as crisp as your right turn (two bobbles and a slight tendency for tail pushing), I’ve decided it might be a combination of insufficient inside leg steering on that side and a weird movement you make with your right arm as you’re coming through the turn (almost like you’re trying to muscle it around). IMO the arm movement is a byproduct of the inadequate steering.

    Not to say those aren’t solid turns on a good pitch (Skier’s left Mountain Run?), just that one side looks better than the other (every skier has one good side and one bad side).

    I like to do Funnels(where you make large radius turns -> medium radius turns -> small radius turns) to emphasize the change from letting your upper body go with the ski (in long turns) to turning the lower body under a stable upper body (in short turns). Or, as you described, keeping your belly button pointed down the hill.

    Nice skiing!

  2. Coach Z says:

    Matt thanks for the feedback.

    It was L side of MT Run and the conditions were much worse than i made them look. about a half to 1 inch of fresh blown over solid ice. There also a slight double fall line there but they were not my best turns.

    Are you the Matt I skied with at Killington back in Dec? Nice movement analysis. My right leg is not as strong as my left due to a acl in my past.

  3. James says:

    My right turns have always been stronger than my left, but it might be because my left leg is about a quarter of an inch shorter :-\ don’t know if theres any changing that haha..i usually wear a lift in my left shoe but I haven’t tried it in my ski boot yet. not sure if its a good idea..

  4. ml242 says:

    Nobody makes equally strong turns to both directions. Even pro’s (like me) favor a side.

  5. Lefty says:

    Steering? Are you from the 1960s?

  6. Coach Z says:

    James, if you have a leg length difference I highly suggest that you go visit a good boot fitter. I use Richard at Reliable racing in Queensbury. Tell him I sent you.

  7. Matt says:

    Nah, I haven’t been to Killington this year. But I’m a big fan of ski video movement analysis. I think everyone should do some video analysis of their own skiing.

  8. Harvey44 says:

    Without really knowing this drill had a name, I’ve been doing it when skiing with my five-year-old. It makes low angle skiing fun.

    With regard to skiing better on one side vs the other – I always wondered it I was better to my left because of years of counter-clockwise rink skating, or do people skate counter-clockwise because it’s easier for a “rightie?”

  9. Coach Z says:

    This is a great thing to do with your kids – make it a game to not go out of the grooming corridoor.

    Matt’s suggestion of skiing a funnel (big turns to little turns) is also a great task for kids.

  10. jj says:

    Thanks Coach. Your prose is super easy to understand. Skiing the edge of a firm trail has been one of my cheats forever, but I need to take your tips to the next level to improve my bump and tree skiing.

  11. Jason says:

    Hello Coach Z,

    Do you consider the short radius turn to be linked hockey stop or having the feeling of it?

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