Feb/March 2004

short turns

In my last issue, I hinted that long turns, big long-radius turns were the very heart and soul of skiing, and I suggested that you would make more technical progress, especially early in the season, by focusing on long turns. Enjoying that special partnership with your skis, in which you just allow the skis to find and follow their own natural turning radius — a big one . But that's only part of the story. Short turns are a must: part of the complete skier's everyday bag of tricks and techniques. So what is the secret to mastering today's modern short turn?

Short turns are fun, and of course, they are essential. But strange to say, when most skiers make short turns, they tend to make a mess. What gives here?

I think most skiers are guilty of overacting when they try to make short turns, overdoing it — in every sense. There is a tendency to twist too hard, turn too hard, too fast, too suddenly. For many skiers short turns mean: Let's get this crisis over with, fast. And as a result, the average short turn is almost all "initiation" and shows little or no follow-through or steering phase. Let me propose another way of thinking about short turns.

I like to imagine that, in a sense, there are no short turns. What if all turns were long turns — or at least, what if all turns started like long turns, with smooth efficient weight shift to the outside ski: that outside ski rolling progressively over to a new edge, bending and peeling off into a patient and progressive arc... And then? Then imagine that what we call "short-radius" ski turns are really just long-radius turns that have been shortened, and speeded up, especially in the last half of their arc. This vision is quite different than over-twisting to get the dang things around, fast. The kind of short turns I am imagining (and the ones performed by expert skiers) start with a progressive, almost slow-motion arcing, rather than a sudden twisting across the fall line. And then the skis — responding to continuous and increasing turning pressures inside your boots — speed up, turning faster and shorter to finish in a tighter arc.

In this sense, I want to suggest that you turn your turns inside out. Instead of putting very much emphasis (psychological or physical) on starting these turns, just let them start. Let gravity pull your ski tips back down the hill and then, as you move forward and down the hill to balance over these turning skis, start to apply more turning power, more turning action, as your skis come out of the fall line.

Well and good, but what does one do, precisely, to make a turning ski turn faster? Simple: a combination of increased edging, increased forward pressure (to make the wide tips bite in) and finally, a gentle, smooth, persistent turning, steering or guiding action of the feet inside the boots, will do the trick. There is no magic formula for a given radius short turn. More edging equals more carving. But the increased turning, steering, guiding action of the feet and lower leg that I am talking about needs to be progressive, smooth and continuous. Don't rush it. Short turns are not hurried or frantic turns. They may indeed be short, but they should still be smooth round arcs, not tight corners.

And the very first step is rethinking, re-imagining what a short turn can be. Try it.

 Feb/March 2004
photos at top:
shortening the turn, from a video sequence
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© Lito Tejada-Flores unless otherwise credited.