High speed control, it all starts with J turns. (Speed control – Part 2)

Part 1 of speed control showed us what’s wrong. Now lets find out how to do what’s right. This topic usually gets a bit techie. Its the nature of the concept unfortunately. Lots of physics and that kinda stuff involved. This is my simplified version of it all.

The shape of a turn manages a skier’s speed on any given slope.

Not the size of the turn nor the frequency of turns. Many skiers come to a lesson with the misconception that the bigger their turns are, the slower they go. Or the other extreme – the more turns they do in a  given space, the better they can control their speed. Big turns actually make you go faster, not slower. And doing lots and lots of turns in a given space is incredibly tiring so you can’t really keep it up for long. Hardly an efficient way of controlling your speed. 
A ‘J turn’ is where it all starts. 
‘What’s right’ – The diagram above illustrates what is known as a J turn, for obvious reasons. The basis of turn shape comes from a single J turn. There are 3 sections to it.
  • If you go down a hill, you accelerate and your speed increases (A).
  • As you GRADUALLY turn across the hill, you’ll decelerate and your speed will start to decrease (B).
  • Keep changing the direction of your skis GRADUALLY to point up the hill and you’ll continue decelerating until you stop. (C)

‘What’s wrong’ – A common error is the L shape turn, a precursor to z shape turns. Skiers try to get their skis across the hill as quick as possible. This reduces a skiers speed at one point only through frictional resistance. He then continues across the hill at whatever speed is left after the skid and actually picks up some speed if the skis are not completely across the hill. 

L shape turn – speed is reduced through skidding at one point only.

It’s not just about getting your skis pointing up the hill as quick as possible either. If that were true, you would stop immediately after doing a 180 degrees turn. The shape to get our skis pointing up the hill is crucial. A good way to think about it is, if 12 o’clock is downhill, you want your skis first to point to 1o’clock, then 2 o’clock, then 3 o’clock and so on. NOT 12 o’clock and then straight to 3 o’clock.
12 o’clock, then 1 o’clock, then 2 o’clock and so on. 

I also found this great resource on YouTube. He talks about turn shape as a means of speed control as well. He shows the difference between Z turns and rounded turns (what he refers to as S shaped turns) on the slopes.
Going straight to rounded turns at slower speeds works well as in the video. However, I’ve found most skiers and even some instructors I’ve trained lack the instinct to go up the hill at higher speeds. I prefer an approach where I try to train that instinct in from the start and find it reaps benefits at later stages. The best thing is, it only takes a few more runs.

After doing a few J turns and feeling comfortable that it will always stop you, try doing J turns at a higher speed. Do that by going straight down the hill for longer before you start turning your skis. You’ll find that you’ll gain more confidence each time. No matter how fast you’re going, you’ll stop with little effort simply by pointing your skis up the hill gradually. You’re merely changing the direction of your skis to form a rounded turn shape. At higher speeds, it will even start to feel like you’re using the speed you’ve built up as momentum to drive you up the hill. 

J turns will bring you to a stop quickly no matter what speed.

And remember, the point here is to J to a COMPLETE STOP. You’re learning that turn shape will stop you regardless of speed or terrain. You must learn to trust in turn shape. No one would trust any sort of brakes (think a car or bike) if they’ve never come to a complete stop with them before. Oh and this might seem obvious but make sure you try J turns to both sides. 

Next post: Watch the J turn evolve into rounded turns.


2 thoughts on “High speed control, it all starts with J turns. (Speed control – Part 2)

  1. Good stuff which will help a lot of skiers who have either been misled by sub standard instruction or have misinterpreted information. Getting people to understand 'clock turns' does make a big difference. The chap on the video is BASI so he will know what he is talking about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s