Learning how to carve turns on your skis is a key skill that enables you to explore the entire mountain and have more fun while you’re at it. In this REI Expert Advice video, Mac Lyon, of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, explains the three phases of a turn and how to angle your skis in order to carve.
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Carving is one of the best ways to stay in control while skiing all over the mountain. If you're a beginner, or still skidding your turns, learning to use your edges to carve is exhilarating, and opens huge fun on the mountain. To start carving turns, there are two skills to focus on: Rolling your knees and ankles, and keeping your weight forward. Every carved turn has three parts. The start of each turn is the initiation. Most of the actual carving happens in the shaping, and the end of the turn is the finish, where you dial back the power to prepare for the next turn.
In the initiation phase, rolling your knees and ankles starts by pointing your knees down the hill and rolling onto the big toe of your new outside foot as you start to weight that ski and engage its edge in the snow. Through the shaping of the turn, think about driving your knee toward the toe piece of your binding. That force transfers through the cuff of your boot and into your ski, bending it and carving your edges into the snow. The more pressure you put on your boot, the tighter the turn. On steeper terrain, or at faster speeds, you'll find a good carve takes more effort. On low angled slopes it's more relaxed. At the finish of each turn, you release the pressure you've built up by rolling your knees and ankles upright again, and shifting your weight to your new outside ski to prepare for your next initiation.
Keeping your weight forward throughout the whole turn is key to staying balanced and in control. While carving, you kind of feel like you're squatting over a chair. Your knees are bent, and your upper body is straight and slightly forward. Staying forwards means maintaining that position, even as the slope gets steeper. If you lean back, especially on steep runs, when you naturally want you, your skis run away from you, and you end up losing control. In the initiation, start bringing your hips forward and down the hill. As you shape the turn, keep your head and shoulders pointing down the hill in the direction you're skiing. Your lower body is twisting under you, but your upper body stays still and pointed downhill. In the finish of each turn, your upper body is still facing downhill, but your skis and your lower body are pointed across the slope. This is a perfect position for initiating your next turn.
There's a lot to think about when you start carving, but keep practicing. Remember to roll your knees and ankles, and keep your weight forward throughout one turn and into the next. Pretty soon, it becomes a rhythmic dance. As each turn initiates, it gets more powerful in the shaping, and backs off at the finish.