New To Ski

How To Side Slip (or Slide Sideways) on Skis?

by Simon Knott | Updated: October 27th, 2022
Skis sideways

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Occasionally we all take a wrong turn and end up on a run we don’t feel comfortable on. So what’s the best way to get yourself out of trouble and how do you sideslip on skis?

Side slipping offers a controlled descent technique, where the skier slides slowly sideways, downhill around the obstacle before continuing. By transferring your body weight along the skis it’s possible to sideslip but also move forwards or backward at the same time.

What Is Side Slipping?

Sometimes it’s impractical to use normal skiing techniques to negotiate an awkward section of a run. Maybe the run is rutted in the center or there’s an obstacle that makes it impossible to ski around. This is where the skill of side slipping (or sliding sideways) is a very useful technique of skiing knowledge.

Essentially, side slipping involves positioning the skis perpendicular across the fall line with the upper edges of both skis gripping the snow, which stops them from moving downhill. Facing downhill with your chest, you release the edges very gradually by moving both knees downhill.

Use it to Control Your Speed

You can control your speed by flexing your knees backward and forwards. Other techniques can be added, which help to negotiate side slipping on steep or icy surfaces. Side slipping is a good confidence skill, involving balance and edge release, that can be applied to many other skiing disciplines.

When Is Side Slipping Useful?

One of the most practical and useful applications of side slipping is to negotiate a difficult section of a run in a controlled manner without picking up too much speed.

Occasionally on runs or trails, usual skiing techniques aren’t practical, maybe the run is particularly steep or awkward. Side slipping is a simple skill, which allows you to traverse short distances across difficult terrain more easily.

Side Slipping on Ice

Side slipping is often useful to cross steep sections of ice or hardpack snow, offering much more control. Often these surfaces just need to be crossed rather than skied

On Narrow Sections

Sometimes a central section of a narrow run gets deeply rutted making it difficult to ski. Side slipping along the walls on either side of the run is a useful alternative to avoid the problem.

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Challenging Scenarios

Similarly, runs are occasionally obstructed by fallen trees or by a skier being treated by medics. Side slipping around these obstacles is a vital technique. In general, side slipping will get you out of numerous difficult or awkward situations.

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How To Safely Practice Side Slipping

1. Find a reasonably steep section of a run that slopes evenly downhill. Choose somewhere away from other skiers to reduce distractions. Ideally use a section of freshly groomed snow, which will make practicing your technique much easier.

2. Make sure you choose a run that is reasonably steep. If the run isn’t steep enough it will be difficult to make the ski edges release, which will make practicing more difficult.

3. Turn both skis horizontally across the slope. Throughout the exercise keep your skis parallel and keep them the same distance apart as when you ski. If you are right-handed point your skis left and vice versa. You will learn faster on your dominant side.

4. Turn your chest down the fall line or slope but keep your hips along the line of the skis and slightly in towards the hill. Try to keep a relaxed stance, it will help to make the side slip flow. Keep your ski poles lower and just in front of you, where you can use them for balance if needed.

Orange-Jacket-Skier

5. The inner edges of the skis should be gripping the snow to stop the skis from sliding downhill. Gradually move both knees very gently in a downhill direction. This will release the pressure on the inside edge of both skis, allowing them to slide sideways over the snow surface.

6. Practice this release a few times to understand how the edge releases and the ski slides over the snow.

7. To stop the skis sliding move the knees back towards the hill. Practice this stop-start maneuver plenty of times until it feels like a natural movement. In time, it will be a natural movement to release both edges at the same time but in the beginning, you may find one release, and the other doesn’t.

8. Don’t be too concerned with this it will all come right with practice. It’s a very good exercise to get to know how your body weight is centered over the skis and how pressure is applied to the edges.

9. Practice doing a short quick sideslip and then practice a longer slower one to understand how you can control the rate of descent. Also, practice with the skis facing the other way, so that you will be able to sideslip to the left or to the right.

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Coronet Peak
Coronet Peak – Photo by Roderick Eime licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

How To Position Your Body While Side Stepping

If you keep your weight over the center of your skis, you should slide straight downhill. As well as sliding squarely downhill it’s possible to add a forward or backward motion to the technique. This is particularly useful for negotiating awkward sections.

Traverse With Control

As you are side slipping downhill move your upper body forward slightly. You will find that as well as slipping downhill you are also moving forward slightly as well. The reverse is true for moving backward.

With the combination of sideways movement and backward and forward movement, you can traverse pretty much any situation with control.

Take every chance you get to practice side slipping. Like any skiing technique, it gets better with practice, and you will soon find you incorporate using it into your everyday skiing routine without thinking about it.

Center of Gravity

Side slipping is a very useful balance technique, as well as a practical solution to difficult sections of the run. As you ski more you adapt your knowledge of side slipping to feel where your center of balance is on the skis and how the edges can be angled.

Having this awareness is very useful. Everyone hits a patch of ice or hardpacked snow from time to time and having a better experience of weight distribution and edge angles will equip you to deal with situations like this better.

Common Side Slipping Mistakes

1. Being too anxious about releasing the inside edges. Keep practicing on a safe section of the run to build up your confidence.

2. Leaning too much into the hill. You only need to lean slightly downhill to release the inner edges. Practice this until it feels comfortable.

3. Not keeping your chest facing downhill. Your stance should be as if you are skiing. With your chest facing downhill and your lower body facing along with your skis.

4. Jerky side slipping. Practice releasing and stopping gradually on a section of the run until you develop a smooth style.

5. Trying to make too big a movement in one go. Side slipping is much easier to control when you release the edges gradually. Once moving you can adjust the angle of the edges to control your descent.

6. Skis not staying parallel. Keep practicing on a simpler section of the run, where you can concentrate on releasing both edges together, so your skis stay parallel.

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NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I share everything I wish someone had told me when I was learning to ski. My name is Simon & I've been skiing since 2005. This winter, our family is taking a 3-month camper ski trip across the Alps. If you enjoy our articles, please join the free email club. We'd love to have you.
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