The Art of Carving
You may think you’re carving. You ski fast on blue and black groomed terrain, making long turns and kicking up clouds of snow.
But if you look back at your tracks and don’t see trenches that look like a railroad, you’re…a skidder. (Sorry, we know it hurts.)
A carved turn means you’re tipped up on the edges of your skis throughout the entire turn, with your ski pushing you through it. (In a skidded turn, you’re pushing your skis around, with the bases on the snow. By the time you bring your skis up on edge, the turn has already happened.) A carve actually takes far less energy, because your skis are doing the work for you.
The carved turn above is obvious by it's "railroad tracks" left in the snow.
To do this, you need to learn to angle your lower body to get your skis on edge at the very beginning of a turn, while moving your upper body in the opposite direction. When it happens, you’ll know it. (It will feel like an acceleration, not a scrubbing of speed. If you’ve ever slalom waterskied on glassy water, you’ll recognize the feeling.)
We talked to our good friend Patrick Michaels, who’s on the PSIA demo team, for some tips on how to master the art of the carve.
First, let’s talk about your gear and how it works. The sidecut of a ski, or the shape, is designed to carve a clean arc once tipped on edge. The turn radius of your ski will give you information about what kind of turns the ski prefers to make. The smaller the radius, the smaller the turns. (A groomer ski will have a shorter radius than powder ski.) Your edges should be well-tuned.
Your boots are also a critical (arguably the most critical) part of your gear. Tight-fitting boots (they should feel like a firm handshake) enable you to pressure your skis properly. Loose rental boots (aka mush buckets) are virtually impossible to carve in. (See our primer on how to buy boots.)
Drill No. 1:
Stand on your skis while stopped, with your feet hip-distance apart. Practice tipping your ankles, knees and lower body into the hill, getting your skis fully tipped on edge. Meanwhile, angle your upper body downhill. This is the position you need to have while turning.
Tipping your ankles/knees uphill (white skier) helps you feel the edge of the ski. Screenshot from Carv/YouTube.
Drill No. 2:
Ski a run without poles. Put your hands on your knees to push your knees to the inside of the turn. Pushing your knees will help you get your upper body going the opposite way, to the outside of the turn.
Drill No. 3:
Put your poles together and hold them across your shoulders, like a chin-up bar. Now cross your arms over your chest (like an X), keeping a loose grip on your poles. When you make each turn, tip your lower body into the hill, and lean your upper body away from the hill. Your poles will act as an indicator for how much you’re leaning your upper body, and they should tilt to the outside of the turn.
Or just watch Mikaela Shiffrin. That works, too.
Tip: Get a bit of speed. It will be easier to be balanced on a narrow edge.
So, to recap, tip your knees in. Move your shoulders out. Go a little bit faster. Stop and turn around to look at your tracks. If you see parallel lines, you’re doing it right.
Article by Kimberly Beekman. Cover photo courtesy of BLISTER.
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Steamboat, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.