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Instruction

Are You Carving or Skidding Down the Hill? Here’s How to Tell

Learn to let your skis do the work for you, and you'll master the carve.

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Many skiers don’t know how to exploit one of the best features of a ski: the sidecut. A ski’s sidecut is designed to help you turn, be more efficient with your energy, and ultimately, carve. Carving, believe it or not, is one of the most efficient ways of skiing. Those who haven’t mastered the skill are expending more energy skidding through their turns than skiers who have learned to tip their skis on edge. More on that in a second, but let’s back up and talk carving vs. skidding.

A carved turn means that your skis are on edge throughout the turn and the skis’ tip and tail cut through the same point in the snow, leaving a clean arc in your wake. If you’re not tipping your skis on edge before your skis start turning in the other direction, you’re skidding—not carving. Many skiers who ski fast down blues and blacks think they are carving, but in reality, the majority of them are skidding down the hill. In a true carve, your skis will push you through the turn. Skidding happens when you push your skis through the turn.

Watch: Get more pointers on how to level up in SKI’s How to Break Through online course

If you want to carve, your goal needs to be to change edges before your skis change direction. This requires patience and precise intention. Your lower body (ankles, knees, thighs) needs to actively tip your skis on edge and hold them there throughout the turn. At the same time, your upper body must move in the opposite direction. Ready to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to carving? Here are some pointers to get you on the right track.

Carving

To carve, change edges before changing direction. Roll your ankles and knees while your skis are still pointing across the fall line. You’ll know you’re carving when you leave clean lines in the snow behind you.

Michael Rogan demonstrates changing edge on skis
Photo: Keri Bascetta

Skidding

Skidded turns happen when skis stay flat on the snow during the turn transition and you push the ski through the turn. The turn has already happened before skis start to tip onto their edges.

Michael Rogan demonstrates skidding on snow.
Photo: Keri Bascetta

Carving drills to help you get on edge

Drill 1: Knee angulation

Use your hands to help accentuate your skis tipping onto their edges. When turning to the left, use hands to push on the ride side of your knees to the inside of the turn. The goal here is to feel your feet and skis tipping in the same direction as your knees.

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Drill 2: Upper body angulation

Cross your arms with your poles positioned across your shoulders. When carving, the upper body leans opposite of the lower body. Use your poles as a reference of how the upper body is leaning. The goal is to tilt the poles to the outside of your turn.

Michael Rogan demonstrates a carving drill.
Photo courtesy of Keri Bascetta

Want to learn how to make your turns more versatile? SKI teamed up with the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) to design the online course How to Break Through. Dig in and get in-depth instruction on techniques and tactics that will help you level up.