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Learn How to Tip ‘Em and Rip ‘Em With These Carving Drills

Carving isn't a skill that comes overnight, but a little practice can get you there.

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There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know how to carve. Most skiers don’t, in fact, know how to leave two precise arcs in their skis’ wake. And that’s the definition of carving—no if, ands or buts about it.

The good news is, these days anyone can learn to carve. Modern carving and frontside skis are designed to do most of the work for you. You just have to bring a few fundamental skiing skills to the table—and a lot of patience. Carving isn’t a skill that comes overnight.

“To carve, you need to learn how to tip your skis on their edges instead of pushing or turning the ski,” explains Michael Rogan, professional ski instructor and head coach of the PSIA Alpine Team. Pushing your skis through turns result in skidding or sliding. Tipping your skis on edge results in carving.

“It takes your body a while to learn how to balance on your skis’ edges. Begin with small tipping movements. Don’t expect that you will lay down full railroad tracks right away. Keep experimenting and working on getting your skis to work as a tool for you.”

The drills outlined below will help you practice the three fundamentals of carving: edging, balancing against the outside ski, and maintaining a stable upper body while your legs turn independently. Practice these drills on the prescribed terrain this season, and you’ll be arcing in no time.

Side Slipping

  • Goal: Practice rolling ankles and knees for edge control
  • Why: In skiing, all movements should start from the ankles and knees up. If you want your skis to tip on edge, your ankles and knees need to initiate that movement.
  • Practice Terrain: Groomed slope with some pitch (blue runs)
Michael Rogan practices sideslip drill
Photo: Bailey LaRue
  1. Stand with skis pointing across the fall line on a moderate pitch.
  2. Rotate upper body at hips so that head, shoulders, and pole grips face down the fall line.
  3. Gradually roll ankles and knees downhill to flatten skis and slide downhill within in a narrow corridor.
  4. Allow yourself to slide downhill for a second before tipping knees and ankles back uphill to engage skis’ edges to come to a stop.
  5. Repeat flattening skis, sliding, then coming to a stop by rolling ankles and knees to engage edges.
Michael Rogan practices sideslip drill
Photo: Bailey LaRue

Outside Ski

  • Goal: Practice weighting the downhill ski
  • Why: If you try to roll your ankles and knees to engage edges without being balanced against the outside/downhill ski, you will tip over.
  • Practice Terrain: Groomed and even slope with low angle (green run)
Michael Rogan practices one ski drill
Photo: Bailey LaRue

All great turns, carved turns or not, depend on standing balanced against the outside/downhill ski in each turn. To ensure you’re standing on the outside/downhill ski, practice lifting the inside ski throughout your turns. This drill is tricky, so try it at slower speeds and make turns all the way across the fall line to slow yourself down.

Railroad Tracks

  • Goal: Leave clean arcs in the wake of each turn
  • Why: That’s carving
  • Practice Terrain: Groomed, even slope with low angle (green run)
Michael Rogan practices railroad tracks drill
Photo: Bailey LaRue
  1. Push off down the slope with skis pointing down the fall line.
  2. Make sure skis are hip-width apart and ankles and knees are flexed in an athletic stance.
  3. Gradually tip ankles and knees to one side to tip skis onto their edges.
  4. Be patient as skis begin to turn in that direction; let the skis do the turning for you.
  5. Once skis are pointing across the fall line, initiate the next turn by gradually rolling ankles and knees towards the other direction to again tip skis on edges.
  6. Once you’ve made two or three turns, stop and look back at your tracks. You’ll know you’re carving if you see two clean lines in the snow instead of skidded tracks.
Michael Rogan practices railroad tracks drill
Photo: Bailey LaRue

Railroad Tracks with Tuck

  • Goal: Practice turning legs independently of upper body
  • Why: Even more than other types of ski turns, carving turns require a very stable upper body to prevent you from tipping over.
  • Practice Terrain: Groomed, even slope with low angle (green run)

Once you’ve practiced the Railroad Tracks drill and have a feel for carving, perform the same drill in a tuck. This will ensure you’re moving your lower body independently of your upper body, which is key to success in carving.

More Tips from the Pros

If You’re Not Having Fun in Powder, You’re Doing It Wrong
Improve Your Ski Touring Technique 
Short But Sweet: How to Ski Short Turns
Enroll in SKI’s online course, How to Break Through