Old school technique emphasizes steering, in which tips are pressured and steered into the turn and pronounced up or down unweighting is used to initiate the turn. Sometimes referred to as “an elegant, feet-together style.”
Modern technique, such as you’d see on the World Cup and sometimes referred to as “cross under” technique (animation below‑Extension/retraction), is managed primarily by tipping and bending (counter-flexing) the ski, which then creates a curved arc in the snow that defines the turn. Some ski steering may be required at times—for example in a ‘stivot’ or to shorten the turn radius mid-turn—but is not the fundamental turn-maker.
Put another way, modern technique depends on 4-edge skiing; traditional technique emphasizes big-toe edge skiing.
The edge cuts a clean arc through the surface, with little or no lateral movement of the edge across the snow—think World Cup GS. (more about carving here)
Ski tip and tail follow on the same track, but using a lower edge angle which allows some lateral movement across the snow. Effective in deep snow, on steep slopes, in bumps or crud. Facilitates speed management (control) as opposed to maximizing speed, which is what carving does. This turn allows free riders to shed speed in difficult conditions. AKA “rocker technique” and known as well as “butter”, “skarve” or “slarve”.
Low-control turn in which tails accelerate down the hill faster than do tips and do not follow in the same track. Usually begins with a wedge turn entry; skis are not parallel but are in a converging-tips configuration. The skier often leans back and/or uphill, with most weight on the tails of the uphill ski rather than beneath the arch of the downhill foot. The downhill ski takes off, tail first.
Essential to edge control. A feathered edge is one that is reduced progressively from hard edge to softer edge. The ability to feather an edge is one hallmark of an expert skier. (more on edge angles)
High level hybrid turn used primarily in GS on steep, turny course sections in which the athlete steers into the top of the turn on a softened edge, sacrificing some speed to modify the line, and then transitions to a carve at or shortly after the fall line, accelerating through the rest of the turn.
Shortening and lengthening legs at various phases of the turn—keeps upper body quiet, centered and balanced. A.K.A “upper/lower body separation.”
Along with arm and hand use, extension/retraction is among the fundamental skills in skiing. Lack of dynamic e/r renders carving (especially on ice), bumps, deep snow and steeps more difficult than is necessary; a cardinal characteristic of expert skiing.
Upper and lower body operate independently; skier’s center of mass is over the center of the turn. The “ice” turn.
Little obvious lower/upper body separation, although some is present; strong configuration in high-speed long radius turns.
Our ability level definitions, which are not the same as PSIA’s) are here
Classic (PSIA) ability level definitions
- first timers
- can make wedge (snowplow) turns in each direction on gentle terrain—may have taken a beginning lesson . . . or not
- more confident, can make linked wedge turns on gentle terrain
- tentative intermediates who can link turns but ski cautiously—speed control is primary—may be able to perform low level parallel turn—may have taken several lessons
- more accomplished intermediates who are more assured on blue trails, ski mostly parallel but may revert to a wedge to start turns or stop—cautious on slightly steeper or icy blues
- make confident parallel turns on intermediate trails but tend to avoid more advanced runs—goal for most is to improve and learn to ski more difficult terrain
- ski well on blues, can “get down” most blacks—sometimes venture off-piste—seeking to become adept on all terrain and in all conditions—many committed recreational skiers, especially those who take destination trips
- strong technique on all terrain and in all conditions—in fact, often described as “strong” skiers—can handle moguls and make carved turns—many first year instructors or habitual ski camp attendees
- seek terrain challenges, possess efficient technique—many instructors, patrollers—most often working professionals
- national team members, many professional free ride athletes & ski film stars, some demo team members, most high-end ski coaches—rare, the best skiers