Carving is a technique that has become synonymous with good skiing. If you have already mastered basic turns, it’s a safe bet that you’re going to want to learn how to carve on skis.
Many learners view carving as a technique that can take their skiing to the next level. This is somewhat true, as it requires solid technique and a real knowledge of how to squeeze maximum performance out of your skis.
Ski carving can be a tricky task, so we have created this guide to break down the fundamental skills required. We simplify the technique and give you our top tips, helping you to achieve the carving turns that will propel your skiing to the next level.
P.s. If you are still trying to perfect your basic parallel technique, we have also written a complete guide to parallel skiing.
What Is Ski Carving?
Ski carving is a type of turn where the edges of the skis cut through the snow, taking you around a natural turn arc. When completing a carved turn, the tail of the skis will follow the tip, leaving two clean lines in the snow.
The curved ‘sidecut’ edge of modern skis allows them to complete a natural turn arc. Additionally, carving skis are designed with a camber, meaning that the ski will curve more when placed under pressure during a turn.
Put Simply: Carving is using the shape of the skis to take you around a natural turn.
Why Should I Learn How To Carve On Skis?
- Carving is less tiring. Due to the skis cutting through the snow, friction and resistance is reduced in comparison to skidded turns.
- It’s faster. Friction during the turn is reduced when the skis are on their edges, allowing them to maintain speed.
- It’s more controlled. With your edges sticking to the snow, your skis will provide a solid base to balance against.
- It’s Fun. Getting the skis on their edges and feeling them guide you through a turn is one of the best feelings you can have on skis.
- It’s a useful skill. Being able to carve and maintain your speed is necessary if you want to use the mountain efficiently.
How To Carve On Skis: Step-By-Step
- Start by travelling across the slope with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Initiate the turn by shifting the majority of your weight onto the new outside ski (e.g. if you’re turning left, the outside ski will be your right ski).
- Tilt your knees and ankles inwards, allowing the skis to come onto their edges. At this stage, the skis will begin turning.
- Once you’re facing down the slope, apply pressure to the outside ski by driving your shin into the ski boot.
- Maintain maximum weight and down force on the inside edge of the outside ski, allowing it to grip and guide you around the arc.
- Once the turn is complete, release the pressure from the skis by rolling your knees and ankles back to an upright position.
In order to visualise this explanation, this video by ‘Stomp It Tutorials’ does a good job of explaining the basics.
Detailed Ski Carving Explanation
In this section; we will split the turn into 3 stages, discussing the key points from each phase of the turn.
You will start this phase travelling across the slope. In order to initiate the turn, roll your knees and ankles down the slope, allowing our skis to come onto their inside edges.
At this stage, you should also move your body weight onto the new outside ski. In doing this, you will apply pressure to the inside edge of the outside ski, causing it to start turning.
Your knees and ankles should remain slightly bent throughout this phase. Additionally, you should feel a slight pressure on your shins as the skis start to turn down the slope.
Once the skis start facing down the slope, maximum pressure will need to be applied to the outside ski. When more pressure is applied to the ski, this will cause it to ‘bend’ into the shape required for a rounded turn.
Throughout this phase, you can ‘work’ the outside ski by driving your outside knee forwards. This will pressure your shin into the front of the ski boot, which will in turn pressure the ski.
If you have enough speed, you will also be able to increase the force on the skis by leaning your upper body inside the turn. This will also help you to gain more edge angle, which in turn will improve your edge grip.
Once your skis reach the end of the arc, you have reached the completion phase of the turn. In order to begin releasing pressure from the skis, you can gently extend your legs and allow the skis to come back underneath your body.
You should also roll your knees and ankles upright, allowing the ski edges to be released from the snow.
With the edges and pressure released, you can shift your weight onto the new outside ski to begin the next turn. You are now at the next initiation phase.
Common Ski Carving Mistakes
Rotating the skis
It can be tempting to rotate your feet in order to speed up the turn, especially during the turn initiation. However, this will cause the skis to skid, meaning that you are not carving. Be patient and use pressure rather than rotation to improve your speed through the turn.
This is where the outside ski is tilted more than the inside ski, causing an ‘A’ shape with your legs. This is common if you are trying to come too far inside the turn without having the speed required. Wait until you have the speed required for stability before trying to bring your body inside the skis.
Leaning back at the end of the turn
It’s easy for your upper body to get left behind as your skis pick up pace through the turn completion phase. Keep your shins in contact with the ski boots and pull the skis back under you during the transition to regain control.
This common problem often sees the inside ski turning faster than the outside skis, causing the ski tips to diverge. In this instance, it’s best to remove weight from the inside ski, as this is what’s making it turn too fast.
Skis are too flat
This mistake often leads to a skidded parallel turn, rather than a carving turn. It’s a mistake that is often made out of fear, with not enough commitment shown to lean inside the turn and create a high amount of edge angle.
Ski Carving Drills (Exercises)
- Stamping your feet between turns. This improves your ability to remain stable and flatten the skis during turn transition.
- Carved Turns On One leg. Lift your inside ski throughout each turn, improving your balance and weight distribution.
- Pushing your hip inside the turn. Use your downhill hand to push your hip inside the arc of the turn, increasing ski edge angle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Skiers Carve?
Carving turns have very little resistance from the snow, meaning they are the most efficient way to turn. This means they require little energy and allow you to maintain speed. In addition, carving also allows you to retain control of the skis when turning.
What Is The Difference Between Carving And Parallel Turns?
Parallel turns will allow the back of the skis to skid during the turn. However, when completing carving turns the skis will grip to the snow throughout; leaving two clean lines without any snow spray.
How Do I Learn To Carve Skis?
Once you have mastered basic parallel turns, look to improve them by increasing edge angle and pressure to gain more grip from the skis. Continue to increase the speed as your ability improves, which will in turn allow you to improve the performance you can get from the skis.
How Do I Improve My Ski Carving?
Ski carving is a skill that takes technical skill and bravery. Continue to work on applying maximum pressure to the outside ski, while also creating a high amount of edge angle. Continue to increase the speed and gradient of the terrain over time, which will also help to improve your technique.
Learning how to carve on skis takes time, patience, bravery and dedication. The transition from basic parallel to carved turns can be challenging, but it’s certainly a skill worth mastering.
Ski carving can take your ability on the slopes to a new level. It gives you the tools needed to attack the mountain with an athletic and enduring style.
Although carving isn’t the easiest technique to master, with this guide you have the knowledge required to practice until perfection.Feel the fear and do it anyway. Click To Tweet
What is your experience with learning carving? Your input is appreciated, knowledge is power!
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.