The sport of skiing has been around in its current form for over 200 years but dates back far longer. Initially in ancient times skiing was used for transportation from one place to another. Skiing has become one of the most popular winter recreational and competitive sports in the world. Due to the pioneering efforts of Sondre Norheim (often referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Skiing’) skiing was made popular as a fun and leisurely activity around the world.
The different turns and techniques of skiing developed by Norheim went through a series of metamorphosis leading to the advent of advanced skiing techniques that are practiced today. There are various types of skiing namely, alpine skiing, backcountry/off-piste skiing, cross-country skiing, extreme skiing, telemark skiing, speed skiing, ski jumping, ski mountaineering, etc. So whatever type of skiing you want to indulge in you have to gain a sound understanding of the different techniques before you actually hit the slopes.
Some basic skiing techniques include the parallel turn, the carve turn, snow plow and the telemark turn to name a few. Out of these the parallel turn is used mostly by advanced skiers. Which technique to use all depends on the terrain you are skiing in and your personal skiing ability. Most of the time an advanced skier will use most techniques on a single run depending on the particular instance. Some advanced techniques also include:
- Straight downhill running: This technique is basically to go straight down the slope without turning. There are a number of instances where a skier wants or needs to gather speed. This technique is ideal for getting across flat areas or areas with a slight incline. Downhill ski racers try to maintain as much speed as possible using this technique.
- Downhill traverse: The most common technique used for descending over a variety of diverse terrains. To traverse means to glide across the slope at a slight downward angle. When skiing at a resort a traverse is usually necessary to get from the chair lift to the tops of the ski runs. Skiers in the backcountry will traverse to travel over terrain easily and quickly.
- Snowplow: Widely used for slowing down, stopping or controlling forward motion by bringing the tips of your skis together forming a "v" shape. This is the first turn a beginner skier learns since it provides the most stability and control, however, advanced skiers still use the snowplow when needed. With the tips of the skies brought together a beginner skier can turn left and right simply by applying downward pressure to the ski opposite the direction they want to turn, pressure on the left ski to turn right and so on.
- Side slipping: Another braking technique employing a sliding action that is used to descend short pitches that are to difficult to ski the conventional way. A skier stands perpendicular to the slope and slides sideways downhill, sliding down the slope a foot or two at a time. Most of the time this is a technique used by advanced skiers when in the trees or on steep, rocky slopes since it allows them to get through a tricky or dangerous spot with maximum control.
- Step turn: The step turn is used to make a 180 degree turn while standing on the spot. It is particularly useful for making a switchback on a trail while ski touring. A skier simply stand perpendicular to the slope and swings the downhill ski around 180 degrees. The uphill ski is brought around in the same fashion. In spots where the terrain is restricting a convention turn this is ideal.
- Sidestep: used for ascending/climbing short, steep slope in a restricted space amidst logs, stumps and other obstructions. The skier stands perpendicular to the slope and takes a step uphill with the uphill ski and then follows with the downhill ski. This is repeated until the skier climbs to the desired point. This is a very labor intensive method of ascending and is generally only used for climbing short pitches.
- Straight uphill climbing: To ascend gentle and moderate slopes. This technique requires the use of "skins" on the base of the skis to grip the snow and allow the skier to move uphill. Skins are made from synthetic hairs that are placed on to an adhesive backing. The hairs are positioned to point to the back of the ski. This allows the ski to easily glide forward but is prevented from sliding backwards by the skins.
- Hip Plant: The hip plant technique is used a lot by expert skiers to reduce speed quickly. When skiing on extreme slopes the hip plant is the safest way to reduce speed and regain control. A skier simply drops onto their hip and "bounces" back onto their feet. Expert skiers in steep, extreme terrain pioneered this move to loose unwanted speed and maintain control. It should only be used in softer snow to avoid injury.
If you are a beginner the best way to get a thorough understanding of skiing and its numerous techniques is to enroll in a ski school at your local resort. These training schools comprise of a faculty of expert ski instructors who offer valuable information regarding the different techniques of skiing. Professional ski instructors teach you the basic skiing techniques and then move on to the advanced skills as your ability advances. Most instructors can have a beginner making snowplow turns with only a few hours of lessons. There are 5 levels of ski instructor, with a level 5 being the most advanced. A level 5 ski instructor can help fine tune the technique of any skier regardless of their ability. It is often difficult to see problems with your technique but these instructors will point it out in no time.
Ski resorts all over the world have some of the top ski schools where beginners can gain expertise in advanced techniques of skiing. You can learn in a group or can take private lessons where only you and the ski-instructor interact. Ski instructors can also give you an idea about the types of ski equipment and accessories that you will need to get started. Ski instructors are expert skiers and have profound knowledge of skiing in varied snow and terrain conditions.
Before attempting anything advanced it is important to have a good understanding of the basics. This is true in skiing and most other aspects of life. Once you can confidently perform the basics of skiing such as the snow plow or parallel turn then move on to more advanced skiing techniques.