How to Parallel Ski for Beginners

Cori Gramms
Written by
Last update:

Parallel skiing may seem like a difficult technique to master, and some may feel disheartened if they revert to the snowplow position while learning how to do it. This article provides a step-by-step guide to help beginner skiers learn this graceful technique.

Start Slowly

It is not in your best interests to attempt parallel skiing before you've mastered the snowplow motion.

If you have, and you've gained some confidence on the snow, you'll be ready to start parallel skiing – although at first, you won't be doing much skiing.

The first step is to find the ideal location to start your training off. Start on a gentle slope with even terrain and not many skiers around you. This should help you feel less nervous about starting out.

In the beginning, you will probably start with a parallel stance, but, almost instinctively, you revert to the "wedge" stance of snowplow skiing. This is completely normal, and the more you practice, the more you will gradually learn how to bring your skis together in a parallel position.

Snowplow stance vs. parallel skiing position
Snowplow stance vs. parallel skiing position

Start in Your Boots, Then in Your Body

Being uncomfortable with your equipment is usually the biggest hurdle in the learning process. All too often, beginners try to learn how to parallel ski without a feel for the gear.

Before getting on your skis, you need to master your boot technique. Although you will be required to use the rest of your body to parallel ski, being comfortable in your ski boots will form the basis of your stance.

To ace your body position, you need to bend your knees slightly and push your shins against the front of your boots. This may be slightly uncomfortable at first, but it prevents you from sticking your behind too far backward.

When you start to do parallel turns, you will feel pressure against the shin of one leg (where you move your weight) and not the other leg.

Lay Off the Pizza

While cutting back on your pizza intake will benefit your overall health and fitness, this is not what we are referring to.

The "V" shape of the snowplow is the type of wedge you need to avoid. As mentioned above, the more focused you are on your feet and leg position, the easier it will become to transition from the "pizza wedge" to parallel skiing.

As your technique improves, you will find that you start to ski a bit faster and balance sooner when making a turn. This will give you a boost of confidence which will translate into better parallel skiing.

Perfect your Pedaling

We call it "pedaling" because this motion feels almost like pedaling a bicycle.

For parallel turns, you will start to put pressure on one leg earlier than a snowplow turn, and you will be required to shift your weight and pressure from one leg to the other. This should feel somewhat like riding a bicycle. The main difference is that your pressure should be greater on the outer ski while turning.

Another analogy to use is to imagine balancing a pencil on its eraser to ensure that your weight stays evenly distributed between your skis.

It may feel strange at first, but try to keep a slight flex in your knees and hips, so your knees move with your hip.

The reason why it’s important to learn how to shift your weight between your skis is that it’s not something you can easily do at speed. So if you can’t successfully shift your weight between skis, you can’t go parallel skiing.

Connect Your Turns and Go For It

Now that you know how to shift your weight, you can learn how to make parallel turns.

In theory, parallel turns look like regular straight ski turns, only sideways. This means that parallel turns work the same muscle groups as regular turns. Your legs and hips will be doing most of the work to make parallel turns while your back and upper body support you.

Parallel turns allow you to get up and go much faster than regular turns and much faster than you can with snowplow stops.

To clarify any of the above instructions, we recommend that you watch Beginner Ski Lesson #2.3 – Preparing to Ski Parallel.

Final Thoughts

The sport of skiing requires all four of your limbs to help you navigate the snow. Parallel skiing is no different. You might be excited when you first start learning; however, punching through snow, getting your legs pruned up by the skis, and dealing with the sting that comes with falling can discourage beginners quickly.

It’s important to realize that, just like any sport, there is a learning curve with parallel skiing. Try to start slow and allow yourself the time to feel comfortable with the beginning steps before trying out a parallel turn on a steep slope.

It will take time to master this new ski technique, but when you do – through persistence and perseverance – it will elevate your skill level from the pizza slice skier to a confident S-shape expert.