How to Safely Ski Down a Slope That Has a Horizontal Angle? Fall Line

by Anthony Schwabe | Updated On: August 4th, 2022
ski down slope

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No matter your level of skiing, the fall line is something we all must adhere to. It’s the way the slope slants to an angle one way more than the other.

When navigating down a slope with a horizontal angle it’s important that you pick your route taking the fall line into account. More advanced skiers can ski straight down the fall line, making small sharp turns across it, whilst those with less experience traverse across the slope and make bigger, slower sweeping turns.

Understanding the Fall Line

The fall line is the way that gravity pulls the ball in one direction. The ball won’t just travel in a straight line, it will pull to the left or the right. The same could be said when you ski.

Sometimes it’s easier to turn one way than the other. This is because one way will be towards the fall line with gravity, and the other will be against it.

The beauty of fall lines is that they are never constant and can change depending on the run you are skiing on. One run could see the fall line fall to the left, and on your next run it can fall right. The fall line is what keeps a skier honest!

Beaver skiing
Photo by Snow Snow licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Why Turning On Skis One Way Might Be Easier?

All across a mountain, there are differing fall lines. When mapping out a ski resort, runs and pistes will be built across fall lines.

As fall lines will differ depending on what part of the mountain you are on – there will be many instances where you will find it easier to turn in certain directions over others. 

mountain snow

Picture the scene. You are on a ski run and for some reason turning to your left feels a lot faster and scarier than turning to your right.

This is because when we turn our skis to the left, our skis will point downwards into the fall line. The fall line on this particular slope wants to take us downhill but in a leftward direction. 

It Will Naturally Speed Us Up

While skiing on the same run, when we turn to the right and away from the fall line, gravity slows us down, and we will go slower. As we have already indicated, the fall line will differ from run to run.

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The next run you ski may see that turning to the right makes you quicker while turning to the left slows you down. This is because the fall line on this imaginary slope is now towards the right, meaning any turn to the right speeds you up. 

Skiing the Fall Line

Powder Snow Down Slope

The fall line is the vertical line that takes us down a slope in the quickest fashion. If you hear the term ‘skiing down the fall line’, what this means is that a skier is generally going straight downhill whilst making small turns on either side.

The turns are essential for balance but also speed control.

Advanced Skiers

Advanced skiers are often the type of skiers that would look to ski the fall line. The advanced skier would need to make quick sharp adjustments with their turns and body to ensure they stayed in control. 

These skiers would naturally be skiing across the fall line. They would have their skis pointed downwards towards the direction of the fall line for the majority of their run.

This adventurous skiing style is more commonly found on red and black level runs.  If this style of skiing fills you with dread, there are other easier ways to advance down the hill but still, respect the fall line.

Beginners Skiers

For beginners, sticking to the wider and open pistes you would find on the green, and blue runs allows for more extensive, sweeping turns. Skiing in this fashion is great as it allows you to pick spots for your turn while managing the effects of a fall line in a manageable way. 

It should enable you to see the natural paths of the fall lines, allowing you to see the best way to get down the slope

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Committing to the Fall Line

ski fall line

No matter your level of skill and ability, the fall line can make fools of us all. We have all been there when traversing a particularly steep slope.

Our speed starts to ramp up, and we are left with a dilemma as we know we have to make a turn eventually but are scared of going too fast! The fall line is providing us with this speed, and we are being pulled by gravity.

It’s essential that when you decide to make that turn, you stick to it. If you don’t, that’s often when we choose to bail out and fall.  Strong and committed turns will help you get down the slope safely. 

Never be afraid to take your time, always stop with your skis in a perpendicular direction to the direction of the slope. This will stop you from sliding or losing balance.

Stopping perpendicularly will see you stop across the fall line and it’s a vital technique for any beginner to master.  When stopped this will allow you the opportunity to assess where you will make your next turns.

Do what’s comfortable for you and stop as many times as you need. Remember it’s not a race!

Monitoring Your Speed 

As we have stated, when you point your skis downhill, you will start moving toward the fall line.  If you feel you are moving too fast, it’s essential to monitor what your skis are doing.

For more advanced skiers, picking up speed and going fast is a great thing to do. These skiers will have their skis pointed down the mountain as much as possible.

For others, this feeling isn’t what they signed up for and that’s fine! If you are moving too fast you must spend as little time as possible with your skis pointed downhill.

ski down a slope

Instead, look to point your skis to either side of the piste. This will help keep your speed in check, but will take you longer to reach the bottom.  Shorter turns repeatedly across the fall line will also help you keep a manageable speed.

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Remember if you feel out of control and are picking up too much speed it’s because your skis will be pointing in a downhill direction.

Flip those skis out towards the sides and this will lead you to stop. Commit to those turns so that your ski fronts are pointing in a perpendicular direction.

Learn To Side Slip

A great skill to learn is ‘side slipping’ Side slipping is when you stop with your skis pointing horizontally across the mountain. By keeping your skis straight in a perpendicular motion you should be able to start sliding horizontally down the mountain in a straight line.

This is a great way to govern your speed and all you need to do to stop moving is lean and dig on your ski edges back up the mountain. By doing this and pointing your body back up the slope,  you will come to an immediate halt and be able to assess your next route down the slope in a controlled and safe fashion.

ski down slope

In Conclusion 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to fall lines is that they will differ from run to run. They can even flow in different directions on one run.

We should always be aware of fall lines and the direction of travel they want to take us. The fall line is where we will pick up speed, and there are two ways we can handle this.

Short Sharp Turns (Not For Beginners)

Firstly if you are an accomplished skier, keeping your skis pointing downhill will result in faster runs. When making shorter, sharper turns – turn across the fall line as this will keep your overall speed in check.

Commit to The Turn

For beginner skiers. Commit to those turns. There will be a point when you will have to point both your skis and body towards the fall line. 

Bring your skis all the way around until your ski tips and body are facing a sideways direction. This will slow you down and allow you to pick your next turning point.

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