Beginner Skiing Progression – Situational Stem Turns


Situational Stem Turns can be used as part of a progression for novice skiers to move towards parallel turns, or used as a tactic for new parallel skiers to mange steeper terrain.

What To Do?

Use a “wedge” / “stem” / “snowplow” / “pizza” to assist with the transition between turns. Then aim to bring the skis parallel by the end of the turn. As confidence builds try to bring the ski parallel higher in the arc.  

Skis parallel at turn completion across fall line

Skis parallel mid-turn in falline

Why Bother?

Turn transitions are scary for new skiers! A parallel turn requires the skiers mass to “topple” or essentially free fall into the new turn so the skier can change from one set of edges to the other. The stem temporarily broadens the skier’s base of support and eliminates the need for the mass to topple into the new turn.  

Forces build up towards the end of the turn making it easier for the skier to balance on the outside ski and move inside ski parallel.

Tactical Considerations:

A traverse can be used in the beginning to allowSpeed is your friend! We’ve minimized the terrain to increase confidence and reduce the need for speed control, but now you’ll want to go as fast as that terrain allows. Although counter intuitive, speed often makes life easier on skis by increasing the forces to balance against. As you increase speed it actually becomes harder to maintain a wedge and the skis will naturally want to go parallel. Don’t fight it!


  • Situational stem turns can be useful if you get in slightly over your head, however it’s always best to seek terrain within your ability level.
    • A narrow corridor is typically safest.
    • Traversing to bring ski parallel is only appropriate on a very quiet run with plenty of width to allow traffic to avoid the traversing skier.
    • Always look up hill before you go!

Trouble Shooting:

Focus on shifting balance towards the outside (downhill) ski should ease pressure on the inside (uphill) ski and allow the inside ski to be twisted parallel. Fore/aft balance issues could also limit the skiers ability to to pivot the sis on the snow

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