Do you want to improve your ski technique? Stepping up your game by progressing from a beginner to intermediate opens a world of possibilities. You’ll be able to handle more of the ski slopes and keep up with more experienced skiers. Our handy guide will walk you through the basic steps to becoming an intermediate skier.
Essential tips for beginner skiers
As with most sports, making the move from beginner to intermediate skier is a natural and fairly quick progression the more you practice. However, there are a few things you can do to help your approach and progress with minimal stress and difficulty.
Research your resorts. There are so many to choose from, but as for beginner to intermediate skiers, you should choose a resort that has facilities and lifts the type of slopes you can learn on. When you are just starting, focus on finding places that make it as easy as possible for you and your traveling party, instead of the places with the most prestige and other activities going on.
Learn the different slope difficulties. As a beginner, when it comes to the different coloured ski runs, it’s a case of not running before you can crawl. This means slowly working your way through the slopes, and not overdoing it too early, as overextending yourself can lead to creating sticky situations for yourself and other skiers. For absolute beginner skiers, spend at least a day on the nursery slope. They are usually much shorter runs with minimal slope, so you can get used to how it feels being on skis, without worrying about other more experienced skiers that will naturally be traveling that much faster. Next up is the green slopes, which are primarily flat (usually of a gradient of less than 25%). It’s the perfect time to get confident executing slow turns and while they are still very much beginner slopes, they will also be used by more advanced skiers, so it’s a good place to start developing slope awareness. Once you feel confident with greens, it might be time to move onto the blue slope. An important stepping stone for any skier, it is arguably the most common form of ski slope, and they use all different types of skiing abilities. They’re great for finding your turning rhythm at a cruising speed, whilst continuing your awareness of both other skiers and the sometimes obstacles such as moguls, icier patches and fallen trees. If you want to make a head start of your development for beginner to intermediate skiers, it might be worth making a day trip to a dry slope near you. These are artificial slopes, made by materials that remain stable at room temperature, and allow people to practice skiing in places where snow is not easy to come by.
Feel comfortable and balanced standing up. The feeling of standing clipped into skis is an unusual one for beginners. This may sound obvious, if you don’t feel relaxed when standing up on skis, it’s going to be very difficult when you start moving on skis. It may take some time on your first day to get used to it, but just standing still and trying to feel a good sense of balance (try starting without using your roles, they’ll become important later). You’ll often feel like the weight of the front of your skis means you aren’t in full control. Many people deal with this by either leaning backwards or pushing themselves too far forward. It’s best to be just leaning slightly forward, not so much that you’re bent over, but just so you don’t fall backward. By keeping your legs squarely under your body and over the narrowest spot, and your shoulders pointing down the slope will give you a better technique with more balance. It will let the skis do the work for you.
If you fall over, try your best to get right back up. It’s okay to not be a world-class skier straightaway (and even they fall over sometimes). However, what you want to be able to do as a beginner is trying to get up as quickly as possible (providing you aren’t hurt). Making mistakes is crucial to learning a new skill and staying on the floor for a long time will make the idea of falling over again seem that much worse, so by jumping up straight back up, your confidence will start to grow. It also stops you from getting a wet bum, which is a surefire way to ruin a day’s skiing.
How To Make Parallel Turns In Skiing
A skill that’s crucial to making the move from beginner to intermediate is the Parallel turn. The easier you can execute this move, the easier it will be to both create a good skiing rhythm and control your speed. Here, former Olympic skier, Graham Bell gives a quick rundown of the best way to approach your parallel turns.
What Is An Intermediate Skier?
Intermediate skiers, unlike beginners, use parallel ski turns and have left the snowplow far behind. While this is not a hard and fast rule, it typically takes one to two ski lessons to progress from a total beginner to a comfortable beginner.
How To Go From Snow Plough To Parallel Skiing
Once you’re comfortable with the snow plough, you can begin to think about parallel skiing. When you use a snowplough, you have the brakes on full-time. Taking away this safety precaution can feel scary at first, but there are other ways to control your speed without having to apply the brakes.
Step 1: Using Parallel Skis to Move Across the Slope
To control your speed while parallel skiing, point your skis straight across the hill. The more you point your skis downhill, the faster you’ll go. One insider skiing tip is to point your arms where you want to go as this makes it easy to see where your skis are pointing (without looking down). At this stage, you want to point your arms directly across the slope. You don’t need to worry about going too slow -- it's all about getting the technique right.
As you approach the far side of the slope, make a normal snowplough turn. After you’ve made the turn and are starting to traverse, push your heels together and your toes apart to form a french fry or parallel shape. Practice using parallel skis to move across the trail and then a snowplough to make your turn. Ideally, you want to make the french fry shape as soon as you exit the turn, so you’re only briefly using a snowplough.
Step 2: Ski Tips Intermediate - Mastering the Wedge Christie
Once you’re comfortable with the classic parallel, snow plough technique, you can move onto the next step of making parallel ski turns -- the wedge christie. Also known as a stem christie, this ski technique is a hybrid of the snowplough and parallel turn.
- To begin the turn, make a snow plough shape with one ski. This allows you to change direction.
- Next, bring the other ski parallel to the snow plough ski by swivelling your heel inwards
- You can now complete the turn with both skis parallel
You’ll want to practice the stem christie for at least a few runs. Ideally, you want to make a smooth transition between the snowplough and parallel shape.
Step 3: Achieving Parallel Ski Turns - Abandoning the Snowplough
After you’ve mastered the stem christie, the next and final step is to stop using the snowplough once and for all. To do this, you’ll need to use a different ski technique to change direction.
This time, as you approach the corner, push your heels together like you’re making a hockey stop. Pushing your heels together will bring your skis around to face the opposite direction. However, you want to do this movement slow enough so that you don’t completely stop and can keep your momentum through the corner. We recommend practising on a flatter slope, so you don’t pick up too much speed during the turn.
As you become more comfortable making hockey stop turns, you can make wider turns. Eventually, your turns will make the perfect ‘S’ shape.
Ski Drills: Parallel Skiing Exercises
There are a few fun skiing exercises you can use to improve your fundamental techniques and make the above steps a bit easier.
When making parallel turns, it’s essential for your skis to point in the right direction. Pretend that you’re driving a car and have a steering wheel in your hands. As you move through the corner, you turn the wheel so that it’s pointed in the direction you want to go.
One leg balances
On flat ground, try balancing on only one ski. Parallel turns require you to put almost all your weight on your outside ski and this exercise can help with balance. As you progress, you can try balancing on one ski while slowly moving across the slopes.
On a completely flat ground, practice pushing your heels together to make a hockey stop. You don’t need any speed for this exercise and it’s simply to help you get a feel for the movement required to make parallel turns.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like learning anything new, mastering parallel turning will take some practice. If you’re feeling frustrated trying to learn how to parallel turn on your own, book a ski lesson. Ski lessons aren’t only for beginners and ski instructors can provide the support and guidance you need to progress to the next level. With a bit of help and some practice, you’ll be carving up the red trails in no time