An introduction to turn shape. (Part 1 – Speed control)

Speed control is usually the first lesson I find myself having to teach. Most skiers have little understanding of efficient speed control when it comes to steeper terrain. In fact there is a large percentage of skiers out there who have very little speed control at all. They put a few turns in until they get too fast then just ride the speed out till the terrain flattens out (you know who you are).

Before one can learn more advanced skills, one needs to be given the proper ‘brakes’ in skiing. If you had to ride a bike or a car that had dodgy brakes, you’d never go faster than a crawling pace. Skiing at a snail pace isn’t very much fun. Well, not for long anyway.I’m a big proponent of ‘knowing what’s wrong to know what’s right’ in the learning process. Kinda like an ‘understand the darkness to be able to recognise the light’ approach. Most skiers aren’t even aware of how they are currently controlling their speed. If you’ve never heard of turn shape or ‘finishing your turn’, you’re probably skidding to slow yourself down at the moment.

Skidding slows you down by creating a frictional resistance between your skis and the snow. Its pretty much how a snowplough stops you at slower speeds. The slower you go and the softer the snow, the better it works. Now think ice. Skidding don’t slow you down too fast in ice boy.There is a time and place for good skidding but most skiers don’t even know how to skid properly. Most just push their legs out against the snow and try to brace against the snow. They are pitting the muscular strength of their legs against the snow and hope they win. Up to an intermediate run in soft conditions, you’ll ‘win’ for a certain period of time, depending on how strong your legs are. And each time you go down the slopes, you pray your legs have enough strength left to slow you down. Amp that up to a black run and firmer snow conditions. I gather your confidence in speed control just dropped a notch or two.

 Z shaped turns - Attempts to skid to control speed.

Z shaped turns – Attempts to skid to control speed.

Most ‘skidders’ will typically ski in Z shaped turns. They spend as little time with their skis pointing down the hill. Their skis are turned across the hill as quickly as possible so they can get their skis into a skidding position asap. If they have the space, they typically spend a long time going across the hill because it gives them more rest time before they have to use all that leg muscle again. During that rest time though, they don’t realise that they are actually accelerating because their skis are still generally pointing down the hill. And if they don’t have the space, they then do as many turns as possible in the shortest distance to increase skidding opportunities. Both are incredibly tiring.

Turn shape, as this blog is so aptly named after, proposes very much the opposite. You’ll spend most of your time going down the hill (in the fall line) and you’ll do fewer turns in any given space. You never pit your strength against the snow head on so you’ll go much further and faster for a whole lot less effort. Once you’ve got the right brakes, you’ll dare to fly.
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