Snow Plow To Parallel

How To Go From Snow Plough To Parallel

Last Updated on March 20, 2021 by James

Progressing from snow plough to parallel could be one of the hardest tasks you face during your skiing ‘journey’.

Fortunately, we are here to guide you through the process.

If you ask skiers in the beginning stages of their ski progression: ‘What is your aim?’ You are likely to receive the answer: ‘I want to ski parallel!’

In this article, qualified Ski Instructor James will help give you the tools you need to go from snowplough to parallel turns.

Skier Turning
In This Guide, We Will Give You The Tools You Need To Progress From Plough To Parallel

Why Progress From Snow Plough To Parallel?

Snow plough turns are the first method you are taught when learning how to change direction.

Snow plough allows us to achieve controlled skiing on gentle terrain. However, it does have limitations.

Progressing from snow plough to parallel has a number of key benefits. We will list some of them here:

  • Allows you to complete a smaller turn radius
  • Increases the speed of your turn
  • Helps you to improve balance
  • Allows you to maintain better posture
  • It’s less tiring
  • Helps you gain more performance out of you skis

These benefits ultimately allow you to ski more challenging terrain for longer periods of time. This is key if you want to make the most of your ski trip and use the mountain to its full potential!

If You Want To Make The Most Of The Mountain, Learn How To Ski Parallel!

Prerequisites Before Progressing From Snow Plough To Parallel

A common problem across all ability levels of skiing is people trying to go through the ski ‘levels’ too quickly.

Don’t run before you can walk.

In order to be ready to progress, the minimum requirement is to be able to perform confident/controlled snow plough turns on a blue (or equivalent) terrain slope.

This is a simple ability level test. However, it does not paint the full picture.

If you have already mastered the basics of correct posture, balance and weight distribution: This will also play a vital role in the success you will have at this stage.

How To Go From Snow Plough To Parallel

Progressing from snow plough to parallel is a gradual process that often takes time, patience and practice.

It often takes learners around 1 week of training to move from snow plough to basic parallel skiing. Click To Tweet

The aim is to start by bringing your skis parallel for a small section of the turn. Once this has been accomplished, you can then work towards increasing the amount of turn that you’re able to maintain with parallel skis.

It’s common for anyone starting out to think that it’s possible to go directly from snow plough to parallel skiing. However, there is an additional learning process in between.

Here, we are going to focus on learning ‘plough parallel’ and use it to progress our skiing from snow plough to parallel.

Skiing Down The Slope In A Snow Plough
Plough Parallel Is The Stepping Stone Between Snow Plough And Parallel Skiing

What Is Plough Parallel?

‘Plough parallel’ is the term used for a turn that is half snow plough and half parallel. Hence the name; plough parallel.

Fact: Plough Parallel is also known as ‘wedge parallel’, ‘stem christie’ or ‘wedge christie’.

This middle step between snow plough and parallel will focus on steering the skis into a parallel position during the arc of the turn.

The turn will start with snow plough, with the skis only becoming parallel during the latter stages of the turn. This means that during the turn, you will be going from snow plough to parallel.

Your Skis Should Be Parallel At The End Of The Turn (Photo: Beginner (CC BY 2.0)

How To Plough Parallel Turn (Step-By-Step)

Let’s go through a ‘step-by-step’ walkthrough of a plough parallel turn. For the purposes of this guide, we will assume that you are turning to the right.

  1. Initiate the turn with your skis in the snow plough position. During the turn initiation, you should start extending (stretching) upwards onto your left leg. This applies pressure to the left ski, allowing it to start turning.
  2. As the skis begin to turn down the slope, progressively extend your left leg and bring your weight over the left ski.
  3. Once you are facing down the slope, your left leg should have finished extending upwards and your upper body will be balanced towards the left ski.
  4. Begin to flex downwards onto the left ski as it turns around the second half of the turn. Maintain your balance over the left ski while it takes you around the turn arc.
  5. With your weight fully balanced over the left ski, the right ski should now be ‘light’. This means that it is possible to ‘steer’ or ‘pivot’ the right ski inwards so it’s ‘together’ (or ‘parallel’) with the left ski.
  6. Finish the turn by maintaining balance on your left ski until you’re facing across the slope. The skis should finish the turn completely parallel.
  7. When you’re ready to start the next turn, open the skis into a snow plough and begin step one.

Plough Parallel Drills

Drills are a great way to improve your proficiency in a number of different skills. They work by pushing you to ‘accentuate’ movements that are required in your ski technique.

Progressing from plough to parallel involves a lot of focus around improving balance on your outside ‘turning’ ski. This means that plough parallel drills will mainly look to improve this skill.

Tapping Your Inside Ski

This is a technique that will help you to remove the weight from your inside ski and improve your balance on the outside ski.

When turning, you should ‘tap’ (lift and drop) your inside ski as you go around the arc of the turn. When you tap the ski, aim to bring it inwards at the same time, allowing it to finish the turn in line (parallel) with the outside ski.

Hint: Tapping means taking the weight off the inside ski.

At first, you should just aim to tap the ski around the final portion of the turn. Once you have improved, you can then start to tap the inside ski earlier in the turn.

Skier Lifting The Inside Ski
Tapping Your Inside Ski Will Help To Improve Your Weight Distribution

‘Run’ While Traversing Across The Slope

This plough parallel drill focuses on keeping your skis parallel as you go across the slope. It also helps to keep your weight ‘stacked’ (balanced) on the correct ski.

When you are traversing across the slope (between turns), focus on ‘running’ as you ski across. This involves your feet moving up and down to mimic a running action.

When you do this drill, be sure to keep your skis completely parallel. You will find that the skis come into the parallel position automatically.

Common Mistakes When Going From Snow Plough To Parallel

Leaning Back Too Much

If you want to be able to steer your skis in a parallel position, you need to balance your weight over the middle of the skis. This means you should feel pressure under the ‘balls of your feet’.

If your weight is on your heels, pressure causes the tail of your inside ski to get stuck in the snow. This stops it from rotating to match the path the outside (turning) ski.

This is a common problem for anyone who is just beginning to move from snow plough to parallel.

Skier Leaning Back Too Much
Leaning Back Too Much Is A Common Mistake

Too Much Weight On The Inside Ski

One important difference between snow plough and parallel skiing is weight distribution. When we ski parallel, we need to distribute more weight onto the outside ski.

When weight is balanced on the outside ski, this removes weight from the inside ski. If there is less weight on the inside ski, it will easier to steer it into a parallel position.

Skier Trying To Go From Snow Plough To Parallel
Too Much Weight On The Inside Stops Many Skiers Going From Snow Plough To Parallel (Photo: Skier At Coronet Peak (CC BY 2.0)

Turn Is Too Fast/Short

A common mistake is trying to turn the skis too quickly. This often leads to loss of balance, upper body twisting and loss of control.

When you are first progressing from plough to parallel, start by using a longer turn arc. This will give you the time to focus on improving your technique throughout the turn.

If you are concerned that the speed will be too fast, use a shallower gradient. It’s always better to master your technique on manageable terrain before moving up to anything steeper.

Progressing To A Full Parallel Turn

Once you are able to complete the final part of your turn in parallel, you will then need to work on the first portion of the turn.

In order to advance from plough parallel to full parallel: You will need to progressively transfer your weight onto the outside ski earlier in the turn.

This means that you that you need to continue to build upon the same plough parallel training techniques we have been using so far.

The aim is to remain balanced on the outside ski from the initiation of the turn. This allows the inside ski to be steered around the full turn in parallel.

At this stage, you are now ready to progress from snow plough parallel to full parallel. Click here to read our comprehensive parallel skiing guide and continue your progression.

Snow Plough To Parallel
If You’re Ready To Progress To Full Parallel Skiing, Read Our Parallel Skiing Guide (Photo: Zach Dischner)

Summing Up Snow Plough To Parallel

Making the transition from snow plough to parallel skiing is one of the most difficult learning process’ in skiing. However, it’s definitely worth your time!

It can sometimes be a frustrating process. However, once learned, it’s unlikely that you will ever forget!


What are the experiences and challenges you have faced when progressing from snow plough to parallel skiing? Leave a comment and let us know! Sharing is caring…