How To Ski Down A Narrow Slope

by Simon Knott | Updated On: June 17th, 2022
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Everyone enjoys belting down a wide-open groomed run on a sunny day but sometimes you want more of a challenge. So, how do you ski down a narrow slope without falling off the edge?          

Negotiating a narrow slope requires control, which is gained from different skiing techniques, including the snowplow, hockey stops, edge control, and side slipping.

Key tips to control your skiing and successfully navigate a narrow slope:

1. Maintain a Skiers Stance

expert
Photo by Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

To negotiate more difficult runs with narrow sections you must ensure you adopt the best posture. This will help you to keep control and at the same time enable you to execute maneuvers more efficiently.

Sometimes when you confront a difficult section of a run it’s easy for your anxiety to momentarily get the better of you. There’s a temptation to lean back, instead of keeping your body weight centered over the skis.

However, with your weight now distributed only over the back of the skis the front of the skis are light and have little ability to turn effectively. So, lean slightly forward to keep your weight centered, with your arms out in front of you at a right angle.

Zermatt’s terrain has 21 percent dedicated to “blue” intermediate runs and 62 percent as “red” advanced slopes. Looking at the trail map, you can see that the Breuil-Cervinia area is more dedicated to intermediate skiers and the beginner slopes are closer to Zermatt.

Keep Good Core And Leg Strength

There’s no escaping it skiing is a physically demanding pastime. It’s essential to start preparing well before you go on vacation. You don’t have to become an Olympic athlete, but you do need to improve stamina and particularly strengthen the muscles in your legs and core.

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Improving stamina is easy with cycling, running, and any cardiovascular equipment at the gym. Improving core strength is easily achieved over time with floor exercises using a Swiss ball.

Having better leg and core strength will enable you to stay in better control as you negotiate your way down a run.

2. Dummy Runs On Wide Slopes

green jacket

Before you even start tackling narrow runs for real use a wide-open easy run to practice. Try to choose a run that is quieter, so there are fewer distractions, and imagine a strip on the left-hand side of the run that is the width of a narrow section.

Ski down the strip keeping inside the boundaries, so that you can practice the quick turning rhythm you need to negotiate the narrowness. The first few times you’ll go beyond the boundary but just keep practicing to stay inside the strip.

Counting turns is a good mental rhythm for turning. As you get better, move on to steeper and steeper runs to develop your technique.

Rediscover the Snowplow

Pine Mountain
Photo by Oregon Department of Transportation licensed under CC BY 2.0

Everyone remembers their first hours on the snow trying to master the snowplow. The concentration is palpable, as you inch around your first corners. Not long after, when you discover different cornering techniques, the snowplow becomes pretty much redundant.

This is a shame because it is a particularly useful technique for negotiating narrow sections of the run. You need very little width to make a snowplow turn and it’s easy to maintain good control as the terrain changes.

To start a snowplow roll your weight onto the inside edges of the skis and push out with your heels at the same time. Once again practice this on quiet runs and gradually increase the steepness.

Learn to understand how the inner ski edges bite into the snow giving you control.

When you’ve mastered this practice turns. To turn to the left, apply weight to the inside front edge of the right ski and vice versa for a right turn. Again, practice turns going faster and on steeper runs.

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3. Keep Control Of Your Edges

Hard Edges

Essentially the edges of your skis do all the work in skiing. Whatever the situation or maneuver you find yourself in you must adopt the best edge angle to make progress while feeling under control.

In a narrow run, there often isn’t enough space to make a skidded or parallel turn. So, you need to be inventive and turn to alternative maneuvers to negotiate the narrow section.

Hockey Stop

The hockey stop is a quick and sudden way to lose speed going down a narrow run without using much space. Sometimes if you momentarily lose control and gain too much speed it’s best to use the hockey stop to regain control.

They are tricky to master well, there’s lots of coordination and edge angle to achieve. Essentially, you quickly turn your skis perpendicular to the direction of travel and roll onto the inside edges hard to give a strong braking force.

With practice, you can gradually lessen the angle of the edges as you slow down to make a smooth and controlled stop.

Downhill skiing
Photo by Ruth Hartnup 2017 licensed under CC BY 2.0

Side Slipping

Side slipping is a very useful technique, particularly in narrow, icy run sections. The skis are positioned perpendicular to the fall line and then very gradually the uphill edges of the skis are lifted to start the skis sliding downhill sideways across the snow surface. The angle of the uphill skis can be constantly varied to control the speed of descent.

While not complicated side slipping does take some practice to use in a fluid and controlled manner. Practice on the side of a steeper groomed run, where you have plenty of space to make mistakes. Practice both directions, not just on your dominant side.

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Graduating to Narrow Runs

Once you’ve had a chance to practice all the techniques for negotiating narrow runs it’s time to transfer these skills to the real thing. However, to reduce the stress of this new environment, choose your times carefully.

Trying a new narrow run during lunchtime or at the very end of the day is bound to be quieter than mid-morning.

4. Choose An Easy Narrow Run

expert skier

It’s impossible to gauge the narrowness of a particular run from the trail map. So, while you are still learning ask around, maybe from an instructor, to find an easier narrow run you can practice.

Once you’ve discovered the best run to start on, wait until other skiers clear and then start off with your snowplow. Gauge the steepness and the terrain as you progress through the narrow section.

Constantly assess the situation and ask yourself if you could be using a different technique for this section.

snowplow
Photo by Oregon Department of Transportation licensed under CC BY 2.0

Snowplowing isn’t the most elegant way of cornering but get over that and understand it is just a good technique for negotiating narrow runs. As your technique improves and you feel more comfortable on narrow sections you can mix and match the skills you have to find the easiest route down.

For example, you might find it impossible to snowplow if you arrive at an icy and steep gully. Then transfer to side slipping to traverse this section. Similarly, if your snowplow runs away with you jump around and make a hockey stop to get yourself out of trouble.

Once you are confident swapping between your different techniques to negotiate a narrow run give yourself more of a challenge on more difficult narrow sections. Some narrow sections will be just wide enough that you can make a series of very short turns, which you almost jump around.

Key Skills You Will Need

To navigate a narrow slope, learn the following and you’ll be able to confidently ride down almost any narrow slope found at ski resorts.

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