Over the years, I have taught many people how to carve on skis in a single day including one person who had never seen snow in her life. In recent years, I have perfected this technique to teach ski carving without the dreaded wedge (making a pizza slice shape with your skis). Ski instructors teach the wedge because it is the easiest method to allow people to control their speed when first skiing down a sloped hill. Unfortunately this technique teaches many bad habits that sometimes takes months or years to break. To avoid this, I now use a harness to control a person’s speed and teach carving from the very first run.
To start, we skip the magic carpets (flat escalators used to move skiers up the hill) and go directly to the ski lift. The first few runs are simply getting use to the feeling of sliding, proper posture, leaning and knee position. Your speed is controlled using a harness held by the instructor. You may have seen young kids in these harnesses on beginner slopes doing the wedge. They work for older children and adults too. Since your speed is highly controlled, it removes fear and allows you to solely focus on the movements and positions of your body.
To begin to carve, there are several body positions and movements to learn:
1) Keep your skis waist width apart (6-8 inches)
2) Stand with your knees slightly bent, with your shins against the front of your boot
3) Keep your knees and nose over your toes by leaning forward – yes down the hill
4) When you want to turn, position your skis down hill, lean forward, bring your inside knee forward of your outside knee by 6 inches and bend it more
5) Roll your feet on their balls so your pinky toe on the inside ski and the big toe on the outside ski are trying to touch the snow
Here are extreme examples by expert skiers:
Once you do this, your skis will naturally carve the snow. This will take time to get use to. If you are going towards an obstacle or too fast, fall to your side or forward. Falling backwards is more dangerous because your skis can keep going. You may notice that the inside ski is also tougher to roll. This happened with everyone I know when they began. On easy terrain without your poles, you can give your inside knee a little help by pushing outward on your inner thigh with your hand when you feel your inside ski start to drag on the snow.
Once you get comfortable turning, the first stop is continuing the turn slightly up hill. To stop quicker actively steer with your lower body by pushing your heels out to one side while rolling your skis and staying forward. To visualize this, sit in a chair with your feet off the ground and kick both of your heels to the right and then to your left, simulating a windshield wiper.
To give you confidence that this is possible, watch my 4 year old daughter’s journey and her buzzing down the slopes on the second day. All the adults I have taught learned basic carving in a single day. My wife and daughters went on to do their first easier black diamond in less than 5 days on the slopes. You can do it too. Just remember a great instructor makes all the difference in getting this right from the start.