Different Types Of Ski Turns

What Are The 8 Different Types Of Ski Turns?

Last Updated on August 11, 2021 by James

Skiing is a complex sport. It’s performed across many types of terrain, using a wide range of equipment and a variety of different techniques.

In order to be a proficient skier, you need to acquire many different skills. This is especially evident when it comes to turning, where many techniques are required to navigate ever-changing ski terrain.

This article is designed to help you gain an understanding of the different types of ski turns. Attaining this knowledge will allow you to gain an understanding of the technique required for different situations.

Why Do Skiers Turn?

Turns are paramount within skiing for two key reasons:

  • Speed Control. If you are skiing downhill, you need to turn your skis across the slope to control your speed.
  • Changing Direction. Turning helps you to move in your chosen direction.

Turning is essential to controlling your skis. Without turning, you will not be able to ski.

Skiers performing different types of ski turns
Turning is a vital part of skiing

Why Are There Different Types Of Ski Turns?

Skiing is a broad and varied sport. There are a variety of factors that explain why a variety of turning methods are used on the mountain.

  • Terrain. The type of turn you use will often depend on the gradient and condition of the slope.
  • Ability. If you are new to skiing, you will be limited to the most basic type of ski turn. However, accomplished skiers will be able to perform a wider variety of turns
  • Equipment. The equipment you use can dictate the type of turns you can perform. Most skis are optimized towards a specific type of skiing, sometimes making certain turning techniques impossible.

Each of these factors will determine the type of ski turns that are required. In order to become a good all-round skier; you should look to improve your ability, learn how to ski multiple terrain types and master the use of different ski equipment.

Ski turning is an essential part of all these disciplines. If you can master a variety of turning techniques, you will have the skills required to tackle every slope on the mountain.

In order to attack the whole mountain, you need to master a variety of turn types

What Are The Different Types Of Ski Turns?

#1 Snow Plough Turn

Snow plough turns are the most basic way to control speed and change direction on skis. This is the first type of turn you will learn, so it’s strongly associated with beginners.

Snow plough turns are performed with the skis in an inverted ‘V’ or ‘wedge’ (pizza) position. This means the tips of the skis will be together and the tails will be wide apart, creating a ‘snow plough’ stance.

In this position, your skis will naturally be on their inside edges, creating pressure that results in speed reduction. It’s also easy to push the skis into a wider ‘snow plough’, causing you to stop.

Once ability improves, turning can be achieved by shifting weight onto the ‘outside ski’. This means that you will need to balance on the left ski to turn right, or the right ski to turn left.

Skier performing a snow plough turn
Snow plough is the first type of ski turn you will learn

#2 Plough Parallel/Stem Christie Turn

Plough parallel, also known as ‘stem christie’, is a technique learned directly after snow plough turns. It’s known as ‘plough parallel’ because it bridges the gap between snow plough and parallel turns.

The first part of the turn is completed in the snow plough position. This gives you the stability and required to make turn initiation easy.

Once you are progressing around the turn, the skis can then be steered into a parallel position. The skis should only be ‘matched’ once the skier feels balanced.

Usually, beginners will match the skis at the end of the turn. However, once ability improves, they will be able to bring the skis parallel earlier.

Skier using a stem christie turn
Plough parallel is used as a stepping stone to parallel skiing

#3 Parallel Turn

If you imagine someone skiing, you are probably picturing them performing parallel turns. This is the turn type you will see most frequently once you move away from the beginner slopes.

Parallel turns involve keeping your skis side-by-side around the full turning circle. This means that your skis will be ‘parallel’ to one another at all times.

Parallel turns are usually performed by balancing weight on your ‘outside’ ski. This means that if you turn right, the majority of your weight will be on the left ski (and vice versa).

Skier performing a parallel turn
When people think of skiing, they’re usually thinking about parallel skiing

The pressure applied by your bodyweight will allow the outside ski (the ski furthest down the slope) to perform the turn, while your inside ski follows its path. During the turn, you should expect your edges to grip to the snow

During a parallel turn, rotation can also be used to produce some ‘skid’. Beginners who are less confident will often use skidded parallel turns, since they are still gaining the skills required to grip the ski edges.

Parallel turns are often viewed as the benchmark for ski ability. If you want to progress from basic and beginner slopes, you will need to learn how to parallel turn.

#4 Skidded Turn

Skidded turns allow you to control speed and change direction simultaneously. During this type of turn, the skis are kept parallel and flat while being steered around the arc.

When performing a skidded turn, the upper body should remain over the top of your feet. This will naturally allow the skis to flatten, while also being a solid and balanced position.

Skidded turns are popular with intermediate skiers who have not yet gained the confidence to use the edge of the ski. Additionally, it can be a useful way to turn on ice, where keeping your upper body over your feet is important.

Skidded type of turn
Skidded turns help you to control your speed

#5 Carved Turn

Carving turns are performed with the skis completely on their edges. The aim of a carving turn is to change direction without reducing speed, leading to them commonly being used on shallower slopes.

The turn will be initiated by rolling your ankles, knees and hips inside the line of the turn. This will naturally put the skis onto their edges, allowing them to cut through the snow.

Modern skis are shaped with a curved edge, known as the ‘sidecut radius’. When this edge is put under pressure, it will naturally steer around a rounded turn shape.

Modern carving skis
Modern skis have curved edges that make carving possible (Image: Викидим CC BY-SA 4.0)

Modern skis are shaped with a curved edge, known as the ‘sidecut radius’. When this edge is put under pressure, it will naturally steer around a rounded turn shape.

Carving is one of the newest types of skiing, with ‘shaped’ skis only being introduced in the 1960’s. Until that point, carving was almost impossible to achieve, with skidded turns proving popular.

The aim of a carved turn is to produce two clean lines in the snow. Following the turn, you should not see any visible ‘snow spray’ or significant loss of speed.

Carving can be challenging to learn, but feels fantastic once mastered. We have a complete guide that will teach you how to carve on skis that is sure to improve your ability.

Skier using a carving turn
If you master carving, you will love skiing

#6 Short Turns

Short turns use a small and quick turning radius. They minimise the amount of time you spend facing down the slope, making them a useful way of controlling speed on steep slopes.

Short turns are performed in a narrow ‘corridor’. This makes them vital when navigating steep narrow chutes or tight couloirs.

To perform a short turn, maximum pressure must be applied to the outside ski. This will bend the ski edge and cause it to grip and turn.

Rotation of the feet can often be used in conjunction with pressure to speed up the turn when necessary. However, this can cause a large amount of skid, which can ultimately change your turn into a ‘pivot’.

Short turns are often performed using a rhythmical tempo. When performed well, it’s one of the best sights on the mountain.

Skier performing short turns
Short turns are commonly used when skiing powder

#7 Jump Turns

Jump turns are commonly used in extremely tight couloirs. They involve ‘hopping’ to release the skis from the snow and turning them while airborne.

Removing the skis from the resistance of the snow allows quick rotation of the skis. Although not used frequently on groomed ski slopes, it’s a skill that can get you out of trouble on challenging terrain.

Certain terrain types will also restrict you from turning the skis. This is commonly an issue with windswept powder snow, which can sometimes develop of thick top ‘crust’ that makes it impossible to turn without jumping the skis.

Although one of the most taxing types of turn, it’s also one of the most important. If you are ever in an off-piste situation that’s too tight for regular turns, jump turns can save your day.

#8 Pivot/Braquage Turns

Pivot turns, also known as ‘braquage’ turns, are most commonly used as a training exercise. They are used to improve edge control, foot rotation and upper/lower body separation.

Pivot turns require you to rotate your skis 180 degrees to face across the slope without changing direction. Your direction of travel will continue in a straight line down the slope, but your feet will rotate the skis from side to side.

The skis should remain completely flat when performing pivot turns. This means that even when your skis are facing across the slope, you will still continue to travel forwards.

This is a skill that can also be used when ‘speed checking’. If you are skiing and want to decelerate without changing direction, you can pivot your feet across the slope to create a brief skid.

If you are interested in learning more about pivot turns, this video from Warren Smith Ski Academy does a great job of explaining the fundamentals:

Summing Up

Skiing is a diverse sport. It has a multitude of different techniques that are required in various situations.

If you want to become a solid all-round skier, you need to become proficient with the different types of turns listed in this article. You will then have the skills required to attack every type of terrain the mountain has to offer.


What’s your favourite type of ski turn? Leave a comment and let us know!