When people are learning how to ski, the focus is usually based around turning. However, learning how to traverse on skis is an overlooked skill that holds equal importance.
Traversing is an integral part of your skiing; aiding speed control, safety, balance and even turn technique.
In this article: We are going to explain what traversing is when skiing, how to traverse on skis and give you an insight into the importance of traversing.
Basically: We’re going to talk about traversing.
What Is Traversing In Skiing?
To put it in the simplest terms: Traversing is skiing across the slope.
Any time you are sliding horizontally across the ski slope (instead of down); you are traversing.
Traversing can be used on any gradient or type of terrain. However, it’s more commonly used on steeper ski slopes.
When Is Traversing Used In Skiing?
Traversing is a skill that is needed every day on the slopes. Even if you haven’t learned the correct terminology (or technique), it’s likely that you are already able to traverse.
Here, we will list the most common situations when traversing is used in skiing.
With almost every type of ski turn, you will also be traversing.
In this instance, traversing is the time spent travelling horizontally across the slope between your turns.
The length of your traverse will change, dependant on how much of the slope you are using. However, no matter how short, you will still be traversing.
Traversing is integral to being able to control your speed when skiing.
When you are traversing, you are skiing across the slope (instead of down). While you are skiing across the slope (traversing!), your speed will reduce.Any time your skis are not sliding down the hill, your speed will reduce. Click To Tweet
Learning how to traverse on skis is a key mountain skill, especially if you want to effectively control your speed.
When You Need To Cross The Slope
In skiing, you don’t always want to go directly down the mountain!
Traversing allows you to use the mountain to its full potential. It gives you the ability to travel confidently from one side of the slope to the other.
How To Traverse On Skis
Traversing on skis is a skill that sounds simple. However, just like every aspect of skiing, it’s a skill that requires technical know-how to master.
Here, we will run through a step-by-step guide on how to complete a basic ski slope traverse.
For the benefit of this ‘ski-through’: We will start on the left side of the slope and traverse across to the right side of the slope.
- Step 1. Start with your skis facing across the ski slope, in the direction you wish to travel. Tilt your skis up the mountain (in this situation, to the right), allowing the skis to be on their edges.
- Step 2. Balance as much weight as possible on your left ski and allow your upper body to tilt towards the left ski.Knees, shoulders and hips should all be facing where you want to go.
- Step 3. Start sliding across the slope by pointing the skis slightly more downhill (diagonally). This will give you momentum. Alternatively, this can also be done by slightly flattening the skis; reducing the edge angle will allow you to start sliding.
- Step 4. As you slide across, control the speed by pointing the skis slightly down the slope to speed up, or up the slope to slow down.
Hint: Flattening your skis will cause you to gain speed. Tilting your skis into the slope will help you slow down.
- Step 5. Once you have reached the point where you want to stop, turn slightly back up the slope. Increasing your edge angle and/or increasing the pressure on your left ski will both work to help you turn into the hill and stop.
Key Point: In the above scenario, the left ski is the downhill ski. If you were travelling across the slope from right to left; the right ski would then be the downhill ski.
Key Points When Traversing
Correct Edge Angle
Using the correct amount of edge angle is crucial to traversing with control. The amount of edge angle used should directly correspond to the slope steepness.
Key Point: When you are traversing, your skis should be angled up the mountain to gain edge grip.
The steeper the slope, the higher the edge angle required to maintain grip. Alternatively, too much edge angle can result in a carved turn back up the hill, causing you to stop.
Practice is necessary to get the ‘feeling’ required to use the right amount of edge angle at the right time.
Appropriate Balance On The Downhill Ski
Traversing on skis requires you to balance the majority of your weight on the ski furthest down the slope. This allows you to achieve grip and balance.
When the slope is shallow, your weight only needs to be slightly applied onto the downhill ski. However, the steeper the terrain, the more weight you need to add to the downhill ski.
Posture And Stance
The correct posture (stance) is key during ski traversing, as it allows you to maintain balance and apply the appropriate pressure to the downhill ski.
Maintain a body position that is tilted towards the downhill ski to maintain balance.
Keep your body facing in the direction of travel (across the slope) and continue to look where you are heading.
Hint: If you’re still having problems with your posture, we have a guide the explains how to lean forward when skiing.
Control Your Speed
When you traverse on skis, the best way to control your speed is by adjusting your edge angle.
When you are ready to traverse, you can slightly decrease your edge angle (flatten the ski). Often this will be enough for you to start sliding across.
When you want to reduce your speed or stop, you should create more edge angle (tilt the skis into the slope). This will cause you to carve turn slightly up the slope and slow down.
When it comes to speed control using edge angle, the movements are very subtle. This is definitely a case of ‘practice makes perfect’.
Common Traversing Mistakes
Hugging The Slope
‘Hugging’ the slope refers to the mistake of leaning too far towards the slope. This is a common mistake among beginners, who are shying away from the downhill.
If you hug the slope, you will not be able to balance on your skis and will likely keep stopping by turning into the slope.
Put Simply: Keep your balance tilted towards your downhill ski to maintain balance and control.
Too Much Weight On The Uphill Ski
When you are traversing, your weight should always be predominantly on the downhill ski. This is increasingly important on steep terrain, allowing you to grip to the slope.
If you have too much weight on your uphill ski, it will want to turn down the slope. Once this happens, it’s common to see the skier loose control as they ski diagonally across (instead of horizontally).
Put Simply: Keep the majority of your weight on the downhill ski.
Poor Edge Control
Using your edges is vital to controlling speed and line when you traverse on skis.
Flattening your skis too much will cause you to carry too much speed as you traverse. Too much edge angle will stop you from moving at all.
You should practice using differing amounts of edge to improve your ability to traverse with confidence.
Drills To Improve Your Traversing
Lifting Your Uphill Ski
Lifting up your uphill ski while traversing works to improve your balance. With your uphill ski lifted, you will be forced to balance on your downhill ski.
If you are a beginner, you will at first find it difficult to lift up your ski. However, after progressing through practice, you should be able to ski an entire traverse on only one ski.
This is a drill that will significantly help your traversing balance and weight distribution.
Bunny Hopping On Your Edges
‘Bunny Hopping’ is an exercise drill that involves jumping down the hill while you are traversing.
Start by facing across the hill and begin to traverse across. Then, jump down the hill (you will be jumping sideways, still facing across the slope) – ‘bunny hop’. You should land cleanly on your ski edges and continue traversing.
Complete multiple jumps as you traverse across. The focus here should be landing cleanly on your edges and smoothly continuing to slide across.
‘Shuffling’ your feet during a traverse is a great way to gain a centred and balanced position over the skis.
As you traverse across the hill, shuffle your feet/skis backwards and forwards. Make sure both skis move equal lengths while you are shuffling.
Keep your focus on maintaining a solid balance position over the centre of the skis, keeping your hips over the top of your feet.
‘Traverse skiing’ is a term that is often used to describe a method of skiing that involves a long traverse between each turn.
Usually, the skier will use the whole width of a ski slope, performing each turn when they reach the edge of the slope.
Why Should I Use Traverse Skiing?
Traverse skiing is commonly used amongst skiers who are experiencing difficulty when skiing a slope, usually due to its steepness.
Performing a long traverse between turns can make a challenging ski slope more manageable:
- The traverse will help you to control the speed you have picked up during the turn.
- The long traverse allows you mentally and physically prepare for the next turn.
- During the traverse, you can plan the most suitable place to perform the next turn.
Traverse skiing is certainly a useful tool when you are learning to ski challenging terrain.
It’s natural to traverse more between turns when first learning to ski steeper slopes. When confidence and ability increases, you will likely find the amount of time you spend traverse skiing will naturally decrease.
If you really want to focus on improving your steep slope skiing, I have written a complete article about ‘how to ski steep slopes’ here.
Safety When Traverse Skiing
Since traverse skiing often involves using the full width of the slope, awareness of the mountain environment is a must.
Remember: You are crossing the slope, while others are skiing down.
Every time you want to traverse, you must look up the slope to check that you are not skiing into somebody’s path. If you are skiing across, it’s your responsibility to make sure the route is clear for you to traverse safely.
If the ski slope is busy, traverse skiing may not be possible. Please take this into account and ski with safety.
Learning how to traverse on skis is one of the most important skiing skills.
The benefits of learning how to traverse correctly are many, making it a worthwhile skill to master.
Although often overlooked, traversing is a technical skill that holds higher importance than you might think.
What’s your top traversing tips? Do you have any stories of the difficulties involved with traversing on skis? Leave a comment and let us know!
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.