Why Slowing Down is Important
A lot of beginning and intermediate skiers unintentionally fail to slow down while skiing.
Some are of the belief that slowing down means losing control and falling, but slowing down is an important skill you need to master to become a better skier.
As you become more confident and know the rules of skiing, you’ll find yourself riding faster. And that’s great – moving faster is a part of learning how to ski. But it’s vital to slow down when the situation demands it, like while approaching a barrier or a turn.
The key is to focus on slowing down while you’re skiing. To do this, focus on your legs and the position of your upper body. If you’re skiing fast on the slope, focus on how your feet are placed and how your knees are bent. The knees should be slightly bent. To slow down, the knees should straighten slightly.
How to Slow Down While Skiing
If you’re skiing off-trail or in the backcountry, you’ve probably come across some nasty bumps and moguls. I know the feeling of running into a bump full force and flying in the air. The landing is not always graceful. And if you’ve had a hard crash, you probably thought to yourself, “Well, if only I could have slowed down faster.”
If you’re touring or reading a topographic map, you’ll find that those dreaded bumps were actually deep gullies or heavy zigzags. To slow down as fast as possible, you will probably want to stay on the side of the hill to hit that bump at an angle and hopefully ricochet off the slope of the hill instead of flying off the edge.
Alternatively, if you’re skiing down the slopes, try to slow down and avoid that bump by steering to the side and changing your trajectory. This way, you can slow down by using the friction between your skis and the snow, which is better than flying through the air.
Snowplow/Pizza Wedge Method
When you’re skiing lower to medium difficulty terrain, you’ll probably be hitting the lift line a lot and riding the chair up and down more than snowboarding. This is because ski conditions are generally more stable than snowboard conditions and your skis are better suited to groomed terrain.
If you’re on a beginner to intermediate terrain, a lower center of gravity may actually be beneficial, especially in those conditions where you find yourself riding the chair a lot – you’ll be able to ski quickly through transitions and get back to the lift quickly.
When you’re riding up the chair, whether it’s a T-bar, a fixed grip, or even a bubble, it’s easy to pick up speed. If you’re a beginning skier, you’re not going to be able to slow down quickly. Thus, you have to learn how to keep your speed in check and how to slow down when you ride up the chair. First, here are two tips for slowing down:
Traversing is the way to go on downhill skis. You ski in a straight line from your starting point to your finish line. Don’t forget to use your pole
Techniques to navigate your way. Traversing on a groomed trail is a snap after building up some power and rhythm. You’ll need to put in a little more effort while using a deeper turn technique that’s more appropriate to steeper trails than trail groomers.
In general, extra care is required when traversing steeper trails, but any traversing route will work just as long as you are in control. So long as you keep your control and focus on your speed, you should be able to handle almost any descent.
To slow down on a snowboard, you can do a parallel turn that is similar to the hockey stop.
A parallel turn is a snowboard turn where the skier glides parallel to the fall line (the direction the hill goes) and ends up facing the opposite direction.
To do a parallel turn, you want to lower your upper body, keeping your head and eyes ahead of the hill. Make a short tuck and lay about 30% of your weight to your outside ski.
The most common way to finish the turn is to flex your front leg and unweight the back ski while balancing the weight on the other ski.
When you unweight the back ski, pressure will be taken off the tail of the ski reducing its grip. As you gain speed, you want to gradually decrease the distance between your feet and your unweighted inside foot should be on the center of the board.
Once you are parallel to the fall line, continually shift your weight off the outside ski and back onto your center ski.
Let your outside ski glide forward, and then use the center ski to stop.
Putting It All Together
After learning how to prepare for the turn, add lean and weight shift, it’s easy to fall into the trap of turning a bit too fast. Some skiers are inclined to hold the edge angle, add their weight to the inside ski, while rotating and transferring weight to the inside leg all at the same time. That’s like stepping onto the gas pedal while driving! Speeding up at the turn’s entry is not a very efficient use of energy.
The key is to ease off the gas pedal and take it easy while putting all the techniques together.
Turning down the speed allows you to focus on the task of transferring weight and smoothly connecting the turns. Minimize the uphill skiing so that you can maximize your turns and you’ll quickly notice how much easier it feels to steer and control the skis.