Turn Phases

Good skiing requires constant movement throughout a turn and based the specific objectives, terrain and conditions, every turn is unique. This of course, makes timing pretty difficult to generalize and it would be impossible to describe every millisecond in time for every situation. That said, breaking the average turn into 3 distinct phases can help you determine the general timing of a new move that you're trying to add to your skiing.

Turn phases can also help with tactical decision making skiing in gates, trees or when adapting to terrain such moguls. Choosing time a specific part of a turn with a terrain feature can make all the difference!

Turn Phases - Release
Turn Phases - Initiation
Turn Phases - Control
  • Phase #1
  • Phase #2
  • Phase #3

The Transition

Release to Transition

Turn Phases - Release

The release, is the beginning of the ‘transition’ or 'edge change' where you start the process of moving from the end of one turn to the beginning of the next. 

You need to release the working ski (usually the downhill one at this point) and topple, letting momentum carry your mass into the new turn. Your base of support is essentially knocked out from under your centre of mass and you're in a bit of a free fall until your new edges engage and create a platform on the other side. 

The transition is the part of turn where the is little to no pressure on the skis and you feel that floating sensation that plays such a big part in the allure of skiing. It is typically paired with a pole plant. 

Common Methods for Transitioning:

The Short Leg Long Leg Classic: Release the downhill ski by bending the downhill leg. This bending of the leg is typically combined with a lateral move to tip the ski and pressure moves from the inside of the arch to the outside of the foot (the pinky toe side). As the mass begins to topple the new outside leg simultaneously begins to extend and pressure moves from the outside of the foot towards the inside of the arch on route to engage the new outside ski. 

Advantages: This is typically your smoothest transition from one set of edges to the next allowing for earlier edge engagement and a rounder turn shape.

Disadvantages: For specific turn shapes, especially off piste, you occasionally need to release the whole ski from the snow in order to transition. This method just releases the edges.

The Over-Steer / Counter Steering: Keep steering the skis across your momentum to the point where they ''trip you up'' or slow your feet down enough that your mass begins to topple. This is a similar concept to counter steering a motorcycle. It still requires the bending/extending of the short leg/long leg method for a smooth transition.

Advantages: Great at higher speeds or on steeper terrain where a completed turn is ideal. It can allow for quite high edge angles early in the arc.

Disadvantages: Can lead to loss of momentum if the situation isn't appropriate and isn't deal at lower speeds.

The Pop - A rapid extension of both legs almost like hopping off the snow to release the skis.

Advantages: Useful in certain situations where the skiers speed is too slow and the snow is too thick and heavy to release the skis by other means. 

Disadvantages: Makes it impossible to engage edges early in the new turn and can make balance challenging often moving the mass back or the wrong direction into the new turn. 

The Retraction: Both legs rapidly flex to release the skis from the snow.

Advantages: Similar idea to a pop for releasing the skis from the snow but allows for a much quicker transition, easier balance and earlier edge engagement than a pop. Very useful when adapting to terrain such as moguls, cruddy snow or on the steeps.

Disadvantages: Can sometimes cause the feet to displace and skip the top part of the turn.

The Pop Retraction: A quick half extension followed by a quick retraction.

Advantages: Can usually be used in place of a full pop when speed, terrain or conditions dictate its use. Excellent for creating a quick steering angle or short turn when speed control is the number one objective. It typically allows for better balance and control entering into the new turn than a full pop. 

Disadvantages: Not ideal for early edge engagement.... but sometimes ya just gotta do it! 

Pressuring the Tails: Moving the ass aft to engage the tails of the ski will often make the ski run straighter and is sometimes paired with the release of the edges to stop the ski from turning.

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