Making Rounded Ski Turns

It seems to me that the art of making properly rounded ski turns has been lost by much of the skiing public. Other PSIA Level 3 certs I talked with have confirmed it: they have never spent so much of their teaching time working with clients to make round turns.

I attribute this, at least in part, to the increase in the amount of tip and tail rocker on the skis being used by everyone. Rocker makes it easier to twist skis quickly and the result is that all the turning force comes right at the apex of the turn.

Our self-preservation instincts push us to get around that corner as quickly as possible so the response is to twist to get the started and finished post haste.

For many skiers this also means that most of the edging and pressure occur below at the apex of the turn. I see skiers accelerating into the corner at the fall line, then quickly twisting the skis using the whole hip and upper body, decelerating and then picking up speed again before the next turn.

Just because you can pivot these skis quickly doesn’t mean you should. The change in speed kills your flow and it’s uncomfortable and tiring for most skiers. I’m seeing this, with varying degrees of refinement, on all terrain from novice and to expert. I’m concerned that these quick turning rockered skis may bring people onto terrain above their ability and prevent them from becoming true expert skiers.

To test yourself, ask a friend to make a video of your skiing on their phone. Are you speeding up and slowing down through your turns? Is your speed increasing as you move down the hill?

Examine your video to see if your turns are round and your speed is constant. A true expert should be able to keep their speed the same on any run including a steep double black pitch.

Turn shape should be round with progressive rotation and edging should happen well before the apex of the turn. This will result in a more even buildup of pressure thru the turn and better edge hold throughout the turn.

Pressure should flow from outside (right) ski on a left turn to outside (left) ski on a right turn. The key to this is patience. Don’t rush to the edge and let the skis spend a bit of time flatter at the top of the turn.

Turning force should come from the rotation of the femurs in the hip socket of the pelvis not by turning the hip as a whole. To start, use moderate terrain and ski in the tracks of an experienced instructor. Start with large turns and then tighten up the radius once the feeling is cemented in with mileage.

Once the skier “feels it” a light bulb will go off: it is smoother and takes much less effort. The amount of edge will vary by the skier level and there is nothing wrong with skidding or slarving turns as this helps control speed. Once the turn shape is fixed and rotation is coming from the legs and not the body, you’re ready to refine other fundamentals. The key is getting round and creating flow.

8 comments on “Making Rounded Ski Turns

  1. You know I had a MA done on EpicSki and it created a very long thread…. It even seems the instructors are conflicted with turning today. We have been working hard on our tipping and turning. Thanks for posting this.

  2. “I’m concerned that these quick turning rockered skis may bring people onto terrain above their ability and prevent them from becoming true expert skiers.”

    Good point — I was thinking about this myself last weekend as I skied down Lies the second time. I am basically self-taught, can’t really ski bumps or trees, and often wonder whether I am doing the right thing at the right time. Definitely need to get out there with an instructor.

  3. This is good info, coach, and those videos were helpful too. I think you’re right about the new skis influencing how we turn. This season I finally bought a pair of rockered skis and I’ve been playing around with an old pair if 80s era GS skis as well. The difference is striking.

  4. Great post Coach Z! I am not an instructor, but I still work with kids from my old high school ski club now and then. The one thing I tell people, is always keep your shoulders and upper body pointed straight down the hill, and don’t twist your upper body, only the legs.

    There’s this amazing guy at Plattekill, John T, who taught me a lot of this stuff and that’s when it finally “clicked” for me.

  5. Ethan
    you are right in that you want to have the turning coming from your legs under a quiet upper body
    The shorter the turn the more you need your shoulders perpendicular to the fall line. In bigger turns the body can waver a bit more off that line as long as the hip itself is not turning instead of the femur inside the hip.
    Even in racing round turns are going to be faster than Z turns so try coaching your team to ski round.

  6. I wasted my first 3 years of skiing and though I was pretty good until I took a week of lessons at Killington in 1972. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I’ve have since took several more ski weeks with lessons and was a patroller for 9 years (with a lot more instruction). You’re time and money are never wasted on ski lessons which will give you much more joy in your skiing.

  7. Excellant points coach , i was a big tip em and turn em devotee . I need patient in the turning process and let the turn finish

    This was helpful

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