If you’ve mastered short turns you’re on the way to skiing the whole mountain, off-piste and on, including steeps, gullies and tricky bits, says Mark Jones

Regular keen skiers have got used to carving out long fast turns. With the current design of skis it’s blindingly obvious that they need to be tipped onto their edge and then they will grip and steer beautiful arcs. It is, without question, an awesome sensation which is addictive and is one of the main reasons we get hooked onto this sport.
Inevitably over time this has pushed the previously beloved short turn firmly into second place, and it’s completely understandable – after all, why force the skis when they can do it all for you? Why make something more physical effort when it can be easier?
The reality is that often terrain, conditions or the situation leave you no choice but to be proficient at short turns. How will you deal with that tricky gully? What’s the best way of coping with a narrow steep piste? How will you deal with those crowded pistes? Here are the key skills you need to make a great short turn.

 

1. THE SHORT TURN

The short turn often gets misunderstood. Many skiers launch into this type of turn as if it is an all new complicated dance move, with the mantra of ‘Upper body facing down the hill and just turn the legs’ on repeat.
Ignore the constant nagging in your head and just start the turn the way you normally start in a long turn. That is, get balanced onto the top ski, stand against it and start to steer into the turn. Just make the movements a bit quicker than you would in a long turn.

2. THE MIDDLE

As you start to face down the hill this is when the short turn starts to feel very different to that old friend the long turn. While being balanced over that outside ski it’s time to allow your body to move to the inside of the turn while simultaneously steering the legs and feet into the new direction. The key moves are using the outside ski as a platform which you can balance against, which will give you the confidence to move laterally to the inside of the turn. Steering more predominantly with the feet and the legs does require more physical effort and relies upon your ability to separate movements between the upper and lower body. There are lots of drills which will help you develop this skill and essentially the final goal is to have a stable upper body while both of your legs steer into the new direction while being balanced over that outer ski. These drills will help develop leg steering:

  • Hold your poles in the middle of the pole and hold them up vertically up in front of you as if you are looking through a picture frame. Hold the frame, keep the upper body stable and focus on just turning the legs.
  • Try skidding sideways with both skis at slow speeds. Move both skis flat at the same time and rotate both feet into the new direction and repeat.
  • Leave your poles and practise short turns with your hands folded in front of your body. Focus on maintaining a stable upper body while the legs turn.
ROSS WOODHALL

3. THE END

In a short turn it’s important to reduce vertical movement and stay stable when the skis are released and then move laterally underneath the body. A lower, stable position will allow for a fast transition between the turns, which is not easy – in fact it’s a hard skill to learn because the pressure release can be quick, powerful and harder to manage. However this is what great skiers do and it is a skill that takes time to learn
As you move towards the end of the turn it’s time to release the pressure from the outside ski and allow your body to move across your skis in preparation for the new turn. That release of pressure needs to come quite early through the arc, as soon as you have good direction from the skis when you are coming out of the fall line that’s the time to release.
This crucial move is a difficult moment: if you release everything too suddenly you can be catapulted out of balance. Conversely too slow a release will not allow you to get balanced with the skis on the new edges early enough for the new turn. Getting this release right takes time and repetition: it’s a combination of releasing the old foot and feeling for the new one at the same time. Practise this release phase on easy slopes to get a feel for it before moving onto harder terrain.

 

4. POLE PLANT

In long turns a pole plant is not critical but in short turns it really makes a difference. Making these turns without a pole plant makes it very difficult to make quick changes in direction and consequently very difficult to stay in balance. Contact needs to be made at that moment when you are releasing pressure from one foot to the other, try to keep your arms stable as this will help with balance while making the pole plant.

ROSS WOODHALL

5. TACTICS

It’s a given with learning any new skill that you will need to start on terrain that is easy and build up from there. Try to set a corridor width that you are going to stick to groomed lanes are brilliant for this.
As you practise these shorter turns keep feeling for your speed. Is it constant or are you accelerating? The ultimate goal is to achieve a constant speed throughout the whole descent.
Controlling your speed means making sure that you steer up the arc, while steering effectively with the skis. Common errors at this stage which cause acceleration are not holding onto the turn long enough, relying on the sidecut of the ski, rather than actively steering them through the arc and going for a corridor which is too narrow.
All of this takes time and repetition in the right terrain. However, once mastered the short turn gives you the freedom to be a true all-mountain skier and play with everything the mountain throws at you.
ROSS WOODHALL