Learning how to stop on skis is the most important mountain skill you will ever learn; especially if you don’t like flying down the slope out of control!
Being able to stop is fundamental to your skiing progression. If you want to work on your ski technique safely, it’s definitely important that you can stop.
In this article, qualified Ski Instructor James will give you the best methods you can use to stop on skis.
Snow Plough Stop
The snow plough stop is the first method of stopping you will learn. It’s the easiest and most effective way to stop when you’re on shallow terrain.
If you’re new to the mountain, you should definitely learn how to snow plough stop on your first day skiing.
Hint: The snow plough stop is also known as a ‘pizza stop’ or ‘wedge stop’; due to the shape made with the skis.
Snow plough stopping consists of pushing your skis out to create a triangle (or ‘arrow’) shape with your skis.
With the skis now in a triangle, friction is created against the snow: Causing a reduction in speed.
The bigger the triangle: The faster you will stop.
How To Snow Plough Stop
- Push the backs of both skis outwards to form a triangle shape with the skis.
- With the skis in a triangle: You start to feel resistance from the skis against the snow, causing you to slow down.
- Continue to increase the size of the triangle, until you come to a complete stop.
Common Snow Plough Mistakes
- Triangle not wide enough. If your snow plough ‘triangle’ is not wide enough, you will not stop as quickly (or at all!).
- Leaning back too much. If you are leaning back too much, it applies pressure on the backs of the skis. This makes it difficult to push them into the snow plough position.
- Trying to stop by using ski poles. If you try to use your poles to stop, it definitely will not work. Make sure you focus on using your skis.
- Using terrain that’s too steep. Start with a super-shallow slope and build up the length/gradient progressively.
- Skis are flat. With a snow plough, it’s the inside edges of the skis that cause stopping friction. Your knees should be pointing slightly inwards, allowing the skis to be on the edges.
Snow Plough Stopping Tips
When you first learn how to snow plough stop, you should make sure you are using very shallow terrain with a suitable flat ‘run-out’.
Ideally, you should use the bottom few meters of a beginner slope. Here, you can use the short slope to gain some momentum before completing your stop on the flat.
Snow plough stopping is an effective method of stopping on shallow terrain (beginner slopes). However, when the slope is steep, it will no longer provide the necessary stopping power needed.
Turning Across The Slope (Snow Plough Turn)
Snow plough turning is an effective way to stop on skis. It combines the friction of a snow plough with turning the skis horizontally across the slope.
Turning causes a reduction in speed by facing the skis across (or even slightly up!) the hill. Also, it allows you to turn around any objects that might be in your way.
Hint: If you can already snow plough stop, you should immediately begin to learn snow plough turning.
How To Snow Plough Turn Across The Slope
For the benefit of this explanation, we are going to be performing a turn to the right.
- Begin by sliding down the slope in a snow plough.
- Think of the triangular snow plough shape as an ‘arrow’. The aim is to point the arrow across the slope. Start by turning both of your feet at the same time, causing the skis to start turning.
- While continuing to turn your feet, lean your body to the left and balance your weight onto the left ski.
- With pressure now applied to your left ski, it will grip to the snow and guide you around the final part of the turn.
- Maintain your balancing pressure on the left ski until you are facing completely across the slope.
- Once facing across the slope, keep leaning towards your left ski until you come to a complete stop.
Hint: In the above scenario, your left ski is your ‘turning’ or ‘outside’ ski. If you were turning to the left, you would be leaning towards and applying pressure to your right ski.
Common Turning Mistakes
- Leaning back too much. Leaning back will stop you from being able to turn your feet across the slope. You should feel pressure underneath the ‘balls of your feet’, allowing you to rotate and turn the skis.
- Not enough weight on the outside ski. You need to make sure you shift as much weight as possible onto the outside ski. If you don’t, you will not turn as quickly – making speed control difficult.
- Trying to use your poles to turn. Your feet and body weight are best at controlling your skis. Just hold your poles naturally; they will not help you to turn.
- Be patient. Make sure you hold onto the turn until you have completely stopped.
Snow Plough Turning Tips
In skiing, many beginners think of turning as a way of changing direction. However, one of its main functions is speed control.
If you are ever in a situation where you need to stop quickly, the best way to do this is by facing the skis across the slope.
Snow plough turning is an effective method of speed control from the beginner slopes to blue slopes. Although much quicker than a straight snow plough stop, this does not mean it’s instant.
You will often traverse sideways across the slope for a number of meters before slowly coming to a stop. Keep this in mind when analysing the size of the slope, making sure you perform your stop safely.
Parallel Stop (Hockey Stop)
The parallel stop (also known as ‘hockey stop’) is the quickest and most effective way to stop on skis. However, it’s also the most difficult.
Hint: In order to learn how to parallel stop, you should already be able to parallel turn.
Parallel stopping involves quickly rotating both skis simultaneously, finishing with your skis pointing across the slope. Once you can achieve a parallel stop, you will be able to produce a quick stop on any gradient of terrain.
If you are not yet confident with your parallel turns, you can read our complete guide on parallel skiing here.
How To Parallel Stop
For the benefit of this explanation, we are going to be performing a stop where we finish facing to the left.
- Start sliding down the slope with your skis parallel.
- Extend your legs upwards. This will release the edges and pressure from the skis, allowing for easier rotation.
- Place the majority of your weight onto your right ski. This will be your ‘downhill’ ski, as we are rotating the skis to the left.
- Quickly turn both your feet simultaneously. During this stage, the skis should be flat to the snow; allowing your feet to ‘rotate’ them until they are facing across the slope.
- While the skis are rotating, begin to push your body downwards, allowing your knees to bend. At this point, you can allow the skis to come onto their inside edges and grip to the snow.
- Move your upper body over the right ski (down the slope) and flatten the skis slightly; allowing you to maintain balance and not fall backwards.
In the above scenario, your right ski is the ‘outside’ or ‘turning’ ski. If you were going to finish facing to the right, your left ski would be the ‘outside’ ski.
Common Parallel Stop Mistakes
- Leaning back too much. Leaning back will put pressure on the back of your skis, making it difficult to turn them across the slope. Keep your weight over the middle of the skis, with pressure on the ‘balls of your feet’.
- Too much weight on the inside ski. Your weight should be predominantly on the outside ‘turning’ ski. If the inside ski is heavy, it will stop you from turning the skis quickly enough.
- Swinging your upper body. When performing a parallel stop, it’s your legs and feet that turn the skis. Twisting/swinging your upper body will not help you stop; it will just make you lose balance.
- Going too slow. Performing a parallel stop is easier when done at speed. Start practicing with a moderate amount of speed and increase the difficulty as you gain confidence.
Parallel Stopping Tips
Parallel stopping is a skill that often takes time and practice to master. However, once learned, it is a stopping technique that will take your ski ability to a new level.
It’s common to find that you will find stopping on one side easier than the other. This is normal and will require a certain amount of practice to overcome.
Our advice is to start learning on your ‘dominant’ side; once comfortable on this side, then focus on your ‘weaker’ side. Using practice and repetition will help you to achieve a confident parallel stop.
Parallel stopping can be used on any terrain and at any speed, making it by far the best way to stop on skis.
Learning how to stop on skis is a fundamental mountain skill. It takes time, effort and patience to master each technique.
Taking your time to thoroughly go through the learning process is important and will set you up for a good skiing ‘career’.
Once you have mastered stopping, you will have the platform needed to build on the rest of your ski technique.
How long did it take you to learn how to stop on skis? Do you have any advice for the beginners who are reading this? Leave a comment and share the knowledge!
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.