Published on Tue 05 Mar, 2019
How To Parallel Ski
A Beginner's Guide to Parallel Skiing
So as we learn how to ski, we make different shapes with our feet as we progress and improve. But the ski technique we eventually want to master is how to parallel ski.
As you’ve probably guessed this consists of our two skis remaining parallel or ‘matching’ each other throughout the entire turn. So we are no longer using the big arrow or ‘snowplough’ shape to control our movement and speed.
How do we stop or slow down without snowplough then?
It’s as simple as gravity. We use turn size and shape to control our speed. The more we point downhill the faster we go, and the more we point across the hill the more we slow down.
Parallel ski turning is a big milestone in the learning process. It’s like taking the stabilisers off a bicycle when being taught to ride a bike. But unlike cycling, there’s no need to feel wobbly about speeding ahead.
Matching the skis throughout the turn is a gradual process that you can build up over several steps with an instructor. These break down the progression from snow plough so you can steadily build up confidence and balance.
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Snowplough turns to Plough Parallel
Once you’re happily snow plough turning down a gentle beginner slope, (let’s say a European Green run), then your instructor will introduce the movement of matching your skis into the mix.
You’ll have already settled into the motion of transferring your balance onto the respective outside ski (the ski on the outside of the turn radius) as you turn either left or right. Imagine peddling from foot to foot on a bicycle.
So when it comes to plough parallel skiing, there is only a marginal change in your ski technique.
At this stage you’ll begin to reduce the size of your snowplough shape, making the transition into straight skis a whole lot easier.
Use your smaller snowplough shape to control your speed all the way around the turn. When you feel settled and stable traversing across the slope, then you can gently rotate your feet back together, bringing your skis into a parallel shape about hip width apart.
Before initiating the next turn you revert back to the snow plough shape so that you may confidently change direction to turn back the other way.
And the process continues till you get into a comfortable rhythm with the new technique.
Plough Parallel to Stem Turns
With plough parallel you can begin to try out slightly steeper terrain. But it is advised to progress to stem turns on pistes where the skier feels most at ease.
What we want to introduce is matching those skis into parallel earlier in the turn rather than later.
Stem Turns consist of using a plough shape at the top of the turn shape. Once you’ve initiated the direction change you then bring those skis back together as soon as possible. The aim here is to have skis parallel sooner and sooner around the arc of the turn.
This is where tilting your skis onto their top edges (the uphill edges) becomes more important, We want our ski to grip the hill as we turn directing us forward rather than slipping sideways.
Compare this to the hull of a boat. It’s pointed rather than flat so the boat can carve through the water rather than drift sideways.
There are many exercises and drills for engaging your edges that your instructor guide you through:
A great one is traversing horizontally across the hill with your feet and skis flat on the snows surface. You’ll begin to drift sideways downhill at the same time as skiing forward. But then begin to experiment with edge control by tipping your knees uphill. Your skis will tilt onto those edges and grip into the hill’s side for a smooth controlled line.
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Stem Turns to Plough Parallels
Now we’re binning the snowplough altogether. This is where that transfer of balance onto the outside ski as you initiate the turn becomes crucial.
Instead of beginning the turn with your snowplough shape, your balance should be transferred onto the outside ski, allowing the inside ski to transfer onto the new edge at the same time.
What we no longer want are both skis in snowplough on their inside edges. In parallel skiing, both work together on matching edges (either left or right) with simultaneous edge changes during the turn.
This final step does take time to crack. It requires a bit more speed and practice to fully master. But don’t let that panic you.
There are endless exercises to help with getting those simultaneous edge rolls. Here are a couple that you can work on with your instructor and consolidate on your own.
Balance Transfer: Place your hands on the outside knee around the turn. When you’re safely skiing across the hill again, switch knees to feel that physically transfer of balance onto the new outside before the next turn.
As opposed to stopping with a snow plough shape, hockey stopping is when we stop by parallel turning across the hill. We use the length of our skis to break against the slope.
If you can stop by changing direction across the hill on matching edges then that’s most of the battle. Next is just linking those turns from one side to the next.
So what’s next…
Parallel skiing allows for swifter and more effective movement. The mountain really begins to open up to you.
Not only can you advance onto steeper pistes, but you can also begin to explore bumps, (aka moguls) off piste terrain tree runs, powder and even features in the park. All require the essential technique of skiing parallel.
**Note that different countries call these steps different names. Some call the, plough parallel, and others basic christies and stem christies. They are essentially the same thing so don’t panic if you don’t recognise the jargon. Your instructor will explain all terms and movements clearly.
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