If you’re getting ready for your first ski trip, the one thing you may already know about skiing is that you do not want your skis to go sideways. Because, when they do, you usually end up landing in some unappealing position that only hot compresses and Advil can help you recover from. So, if you’re anything like other skiers, you probably want to prevent that from happening.
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The fastest way to stop skis from going sideways, and regain control, is to come to a complete stop. To do this, it’s recommended to use the wedge method. Once you have mastered that, keeping your skis parallel will require maintaining proper stance and keeping your balance.
Like any sport, skiing takes practice so, don’t expect to glide down the slopes with perfectly parallel skis the first time you go skiing. In fact, most beginner skiers will keep their skis slightly sideways, to begin with, and practice what is sometimes known as “pizza” skiing.
How to Stop Skis from Going Sideways
When you watch experienced skiers, their skis pretty much always stay parallel to one another, giving us beginners the impression that any deviation from this is bad news. But that is not necessarily the case.
There is actually a right and a wrong “sideways” when skiing:
- If your skis go sideways in the wrong direction, you will end up learning how to do the splits, even if you never wanted to.
- If they go sideways in the right direction, you should come to a complete stop.
In other words, if you want to stop uncontrollable skis from going sideways, it’s best to come to a stop to reset your stance. From there, whether your skis go sideways in the wrong direction depends on your “stance” or how you hold your body and direct your skis to control your motion.
Using the “Pizza” Method
When you first learn to ski, you will need to learn how to stop. The wedge method, otherwise known as the snowplow or pizza method, is the quickest way to learn to stop. It is also the quickest way to prevent your skis from going sideways and regain control.
To master this form, you will need to point your toes together and rotate your heels outwards, creating a V shape with your skis. It helps to think of this V shape a though it were a slice of pizza. Your skis should create the point of the pizza in front of you (without touching your skis together), and the crust will be behind you, where your skis form the widest part of the pizza slice.
Once you are actually sliding downhill, point your pizza slice at an angle away from the downhill slope of the mountain and squat down a bit to apply pressure.
This is not just the form used to stop; it also lays the foundation for beginner skiers to actually start moving downhill. So, practice it until your body gets used to the motion, and you have built up some muscle memory. It might seem boring to do this same pizza movement over and over on the flat ground, but it could help spare you extra falls.
Applying the Pizza Method to Forward Motion
Go ahead and forget about skiing with parallel skis, for now. Most beginner skiers will learn how to ski with their skis already pointed slightly inward, making the same wedge shape used to stop.
Basically, when thinking about the shape your skis are making, the wider your slice of pizza, the slower you will go. The narrower your pizza, the faster you go, as demonstrated in this video.
At this point, the pizza shape formed by your skis becomes your skiing stance. But your stance is only part of the solution; there are a few other things to keep in mind when you start to drift downhill on skis.
- Do NOT lean backward: Your body will want to intuitively lean away from the forward motion, but you must resist this urge. It will not help you slow down; more likely, it will cause your skis to go sideways in the wrong direction, and you will fall. That is why leaning backward is one of the most often mentioned rookie mistakes.
- Keep your core tight: Core strength is the key to balancing when skiing. If you can keep your core engaged the entire time you are skiing, it will help you stay upright. To engage your core, think about pulling your belly button into your spine.
- Do not twist your upper body: Your upper body should always face forward while your legs control your ski direction. Keeping your core tight will also help you maintain your upper body’s position.
Applying the Pizza Method to Turning
You can maintain the same pizza stance when turning, too, making it the perfect foundational stance for a beginner.
Turning is all about where you put your weight. With your skis in the V shape, if you put your weight onto your right foot, you will turn to the left. And if you put your weight onto your left foot, you will turn to the right. You should not change your skis’ placement to turn; that could cause them to go sideways.
Using the French Fry Method
Continuing with our food-themed metaphors, “French fries” refers to a parallel ski stance. You should only transition from pizza to French fries when you have mastered skiing in the pizza stance. If you try to transition too soon, you may lack the required muscle control to execute the stance properly, and your skis will be more likely to go sideways, taking on a mind of their own.
There are, however, benefits to skiing in a parallel stance, and being able to “French Fry” ski will be necessary if you want to advance in the sport. So let us walk through the transition process to master the French fry without incident.
Getting to a French Fry Stance from a Pizza Stance
To transition to a French fry skiing stance, begin in a comfortable pizza stance. As you ski downhill, begin to make your pizza slice narrower by turning your heels back in, which will bring your feet, and with them your skis, into a parallel position. If you feel your skis going sideways, return to a comfortable wedge stance until you regain control of your skis.
You will notice that you gain speed while doing this. So, it helps to go back to easy terrain when you first transition to parallel skiing, especially if you had adventured on to more challenging slopes using the pizza stance.
Take it slow; having your skis go sideways in a French fry stance will turn you into a pretzel, which is not a well-loved or particularly useful ski stance.
Turning in the French Fry Stance
Now that you can no longer use the size of your wedge to control your downhill speed, turning becomes your primary way of controlling your speed as you ski down the mountain. If you were to go straight down a mountain without ever turning, you would pick up speed the entire time.
The physics involved in turning using the French fry stance are the same as those you learned in the pizza stance. You will turn in the opposite direction of the foot you put your weight into. To reiterate, if you put your weight on your left foot, you will turn to the right, and vice versa.
The key to turning in a parallel stance is to balance enterally on your supporting leg. For instance, if you would like to turn to the right, you will need to balance on your left foot. There is a tapping exercise you can do to build up your core strength and help you learn to balance.
When turning in a French fry stance, the ability to keep your balance and apply pressure to your supporting foot/ski is what will keep that ski from turning sideways.
Skiing is a ton of fun, but it can take a while to get the hang of it, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall a couple of times when you first take to the slopes.
Keeping control of your skis and preventing them from going sideways boils down to how well you can maintain your stance and your balance. Over time both of these things will come more naturally to you, though, along the way, you will probably discover some muscles that were neglected before your foray into skiing.
Just remember, if you are a new skier, remember to pizza before you try to French fry, and you will probably be just fine.