5 Classic carving mistakes | Better ski turns
Whether you’re a park rat, have just started downhill skiing or you’ve been skiing for several years but never really got started with carving, we can promise you: if you learn the technique of edging your planks, a whole new world of wonderfully fast skiing opens up. Ski instructor Jesper shares his thoughts on carving here.
The whole idea behind the ski’s hourglass shape is to be able to turn just by angling the skis. All skis made today have this shape, some more so than others. Carving is really nice because it’s an economical and efficient technique where you use the characteristics of your ski in harmony with the angle of the slope and your body’s movements.
The idea of carving is simply to try to angle, i.e., “edge,” the skis and let them “turn by themselves.” This is not easy, even for an advanced skier, and in this article we will go through five classic mistakes we make when we start carving. We will talk about balance, inner and outer skis, knee and hip edging, body position and much more.
But what is carving, and how does it work?
As we mentioned above, it is more or less standard today that skis are wider at the front in the “nose,” narrower at the “waist” and wider at the back in the “tail.”
It is important to emphasize that some skis are not optimal for carving. The design and purpose of skis varies, just like with cars or even golf clubs. Therefore, it can be more difficult to make cutting turns with skis that are too wide, long, flexible or simply too stiff.
This ski technique involves making a “cutting” turn, just like the name “carving” suggests. This means that you ride most of the turn by edging the skis. In order to turn at all, we need to angle the skis and get the edges to engage the slope. It is precisely this part of skiing that is the challenge!
The size or “radius” of the turn when we carve is largely based on how much we can angle the skis. In addition to this, of course, the shape and size of the skis has a fairly decisive effect on how much we can turn as we ski. A deeper side cut often indicates a shorter turning radius. Then you can of course edge the skis more or less, but the feeling when the skis, with your help, do the job, is absolutely incredible!
The cool thing about a pair of carving skis is that it’s possible to ride the edges both forwards and backwards thanks to the shape. But carving backwards must certainly be considered an advanced technique and is a maneuver that extremely few master.
Mistake number 1 – Choice of slope
Maybe you’re already a total shredder who flies down the steeper slopes without any problems! If you want to master carving, however, you should opt out of the black slopes and the steeper red ones. Choose blue or green instead.
Because when you go carving, you will initially feel quite helpless. The speed will be difficult to control at first. The economics of carving are precisely about not skidding and twisting the ski to slow down, but really angling the ski up more and more in the turn and dropping it in the fall line.
Therefore, start on an easier slope where you have the chance to relax and focus on doing the right thing, and, above all, finding the feeling.
If it goes too fast, we as skiers are often scared, which results in us freezing up and becoming passive. This in turn will inhibit skiing, which makes the turns worse. As you can see in several of the pictures above, lateral movement is a vital ingredient for success, and if you want to dare to do it, you need to practice without being afraid.
Mistake number 2 – Body position
A super common mistake people make when they start carving is that they have the wrong body position, which will make it harder for them to turn. Maybe we’ve copied Hökarängen’s skiing style from the classic Swedish film Snowroller and think that this is how the pros do it! The skiing style from the film is suitable for off-piste / powder skiing where we bring the skis tightly together to get more load-bearing capacity in the deep snow and jump around the turns because it’s difficult to turn the skis in the snow mass. But this is not carving. It isn’t modern off-piste technique either, for that matter, since we now float more on top of the snow with large, wide skis. Back in the day they sank much further into the snow. But back to the slope!
Now we want instead to take a slightly wider stance, mainly to be able to edge the skis more easily, but also to get better balance and find a stronger position. Shoulder width is a good starting position. Slightly wider is also good. Feel that you are standing on the whole foot. The weight should be evenly distributed. You shouldn’t stand on your toes or heels.
Bent knees mean that we lower the center of gravity further, which results in even better balance. At the top of the turn, we also find it easier to start edging the skis with the help of our knees.
Imagine that you have your buddy on your back. Then it’s easier to withstand the weight with straight legs rather than standing bent, so this is something we should strive for as early as possible in the turn, to be able to bend through the ski enough and withstand the g-forces.
Use your arms. They can counteract rotations but act mainly as counterweights, which help more than you think. Just look at a really good skier and see how much they actually use their arms! A good starting position is therefore to stretch your arms forward and out to the side. Imagine the cafeteria lunch tray in your hands; keep it nice and straight so that you don’t drop anything.
Tips! Ask a friend to try to push you over from the side, and you’ll probably put yourself in a perfect carving position without knowing it!
Mistake number 3 – Wanting too much
A classic mistake is to start turning the upper body in anticipation of starting the turn. This means that we go from carving to a skidding turn. Let go of the need for control, and come to terms with the idea that in the beginning you simply have to “follow along.” The size of the turn is largely based on how much you are willing to move sideways. The design and radius of the ski, of course, also has an impact.
If we stand still throughout the turn, the size of the turn will not shrink, but if we move gradually through the entire turn in an effort to angle the ski more and more, we will be able to shorten the turn and also reduce the speed. The focus should be on feeling that the skis are engaged in the snow, and that the weight, even though we lean into the turn, still remains over the outer ski.
Take a few turns, or even just one big turn, and then turn around to see if you can see any clear traces of your ski edges. Are there fine, narrow tracks? Or is it more of a wide stretch after you’ve skidded and turned your planks? Narrow tracks are what we want to see after a clean carving turn.
Find the feeling
By stretching your leg out like Leonardo da Vinci’s The Vitruvian Man as far from the body as possible, and then leaning on the same leg, we can feel how the ski turns by itself. All we need is a little speed. It’s enough with as little as the speed in the anchor lift up! I would like to take the opportunity to say that it is strictly forbidden to go around and turn in and out of the lift track. The cable can jump out of its track and someone can be seriously injured. So stay under the cable and in the lift track.
The classic prank of trying to push your friend out of the lift track shoulder to shoulder is also good. The lowest center of gravity and sharpest angle of the skis should do the trick! Also good for playing with the kids.
Train by standing still, then bend one leg while keeping the other leg straight. Your body weight will rest on the bent knee during the exercise. This changes as soon as you gain some speed.
Then stretch the bent leg, move your weight to the other leg, and bend. Once on skis, we make almost the same movements.
Mistake number 4 – Turning too early
If at the end of a turn we lean in too fast into the next turn, we might not have had time to build up enough support on the outer ski, so that we either fall or ride on the inner ski rather than the outer ski. This means that we will not have the same conditions to get an equally good turn, as the inner ski is placed more under the body and is therefore less angled.
Keep cool and don’t start leaning too early!
The more carving you do, the more you will fine-tune your movements. There is a study that says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert on something. Keep that in mind if you think the first five rides feel hopeless.
Take it easy at first. Our goal is to go on the ski that is furthest from the body, i.e., the outer ski (downhill ski = the ski closest to the valley). Then we turn most and best. If it feels unfair, you can take comfort in the fact that even skiers in the World Cup sometimes go on their inner skis and fall!
Mistake number 5 – Speed
Now we come to the last and most fun part, speed!
To be able to lean into the turn and bend through the skis, we need a little extra speed.
Make sure to gain some speed so that we can build up support from the ground that allows us to lean the body into the turn without losing balance. Just like on a bike, with a little speed we can lean into the curve when we ride, but if we stand still, we fall!
Carving is a skiing technique that generates a lot of speed, and that is why World Cup skiers carve. Mentally prepare for the fact that it will go faster than you are used to, and choose a green or blue run with a gentle slope, as we initially suggested.
The transport runs that used to be the most boring are great for practicing. Get a feel for what it’s like to swing from side to side and edge to edge. Once you’ve found the right feeling, you will appreciate the new slopes even more, and your ski budget, which was previously quite low, may now have been re-prioritized.
DIY tips on carving
Go in a group and observe each other. If you have a phone or camera, film each other and show each other the footage afterwards.
How it feels doesn’t always reflect what it actually looks like… We often lean less than we think. You sometimes have to see this with your own eyes. Simple and very effective.
Try different carving skis to see which ones feel best and suit your body and skiing style. This can be done on ski test weekends around the country’s ski resorts. Or borrow a pair of test skis from the ski shop at whatever destination you visit. One such shop is, for example, Stadium in Sälen. Try it for yourself and get a feel for it. The skis that the salesperson recommends may not necessarily be right for you.