_Carving vs. Slipping in Bumps

A Ski Pro's



from the March 2000 issue



But Lito, my student is complaining, you make those bumps look easy, you’re having such a good time where I’m struggling, but...but you’re… (the voice drops to an accusing stage whisper) …you’re skidding. And I’ve been trying so hard to carve all my turns. How come?…

It’s a long story, but I’ll make it short and sweet. Carving is not merely a sign of efficient expert skiing, a perfect example of precision and performance, it also feels grea, a true kinesthetic pleasure. Carving is a gift, a sublime sensation. But carving isn’t the whole story. If all you can do is carve, you’re like a gifted singer who can only sing in the highest register, hitting beautiful high notes that are the envy of everyone, but barred from expressing yourself across the whole spectrum of music. The whole spectrum of skiing is equally wide. Nowadays, more than ever before, skilled skiers can carve an amazing range of turns, over a wider range of terrain and speed than ever before. Our new skis have given us this gift, have opened the door to almost effortless carving. But.…

The “but” is that our skis are designed to do much more than only carve turns. Modern skis not only carve turns better than skis did a few years ago, they are capable of slipping turns more efficiently than earlier skis ever did. I prefer the term “slipping” to “skidding,” but in this context, “skidding” is not really a dirty word. I am not talking about the awkward twist-and-skid syndrome that plagues so many skiers, where one’s skis wash out, sideways, instead of following a round arc into, and then out of the fall line. No, I mean a smooth patient round turn in which the skis are slipping a bit over the snow, rather than biting in, and bending into the same arc as the radius of the turn.

Occasionally it makes good sense to slip some turns. Consider this: when you carve, your stance foot, the foot your are carving on, must be tense and strong inside your boot, Yet I’m sure there are moments when you want to relax your feet inside your boots, and still make great turns. Bumps are just such a situation. Normally, on smooth slopes, we put our skis on edge, weight the outside ski to bend it, and let that bent edge carve an arc. In short, we carve in order to create clean round turns. But what if the turn is already there, in front of us, in the snow? A bump, or more precisely the round trough that circles the bump is exactly that, a perfect round turn, engraved in the snow, waiting for us. All we need to do is put our skis in the right place at the right moment, and the bump itself will push and guide our feet and skis around that curved trough. In short, carving isn’t really needed to turn around a bump. It would seem almost redundant.

Of course I’m not saying that carving in bumps is a no-no. Quite the contrary; it can be an exciting challenge. But it certainly isn’t necessary. This is one of those situations where, really, all you have to do is trigger a turn, then relax and enjoy the ride - a ride due exclusively to the shape of the mogul and its trough.

Don’t let carving become a religion, or a dogma. It’s a key expert skill, but it isn’t the whole story. Why not become the most versatile skier you possibly can, with far more than just one way of turning down the mountain? _Carving vs. Slipping in Bumps
© Lito Tejada-Flores

In his ongoing SKI PRO'S NOTEBOOK series, Lito seeks to explore, demystify and explain the WHY of modern expert skiing. Not just what to do, but why certain patterns, certain techniques, even certain ideas, are so important....

photo © Linde Waidhofer