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Have an upcoming ski trip and wondering what to expect? In this free guide, I’ll explain absolutely everything you need to know about how to ski -- from putting your skis on to stopping safely to learning how to parallel ski.
This is a massive guide that links out to the best content on NewToSki -- which means it is a pretty long read with videos, so be sure to bookmark it and come back to this page as you’re learning to ski.
1. Learn How to Slide
Sliding forwards is the goal of every skier. It’s the first and most fundamental step in a long line of skills you’ll be learning on your journey towards being a skier.
- With your skis secure on, head to a very short and shallow baby slope with a flat area that allows you to come to a natural stop.
- With your skis hip widths apart, point your skis down the slope and slightly bend your knees.
- Allow gravity to pull your downhill as you stay centered over your skis.
- Allow your skis to come to a natural stop as the slope flattens out.
- Repeat this until you feel more balanced and comfortable sliding over short distances.
Now that you’re learning to slide over short distances and getting to feel how sliding over snow feels -- it’s time to learn how to control your sliding and come to a safe stop.
2. Learn How to Stop Pizza
Learning to stop on skis is the most important part of skiing. Without knowing how to control your speed and come to a standstill, you’ll be putting yourself and others in danger.
Luckily learning how to slow and stop is not that difficult, but it does require lots of practice. The best way for new skiers to stop is to put their skis into a wedge shape known as a pizza or snowplow.
By adopting the pizza stop you push out your skis and dig into your inside edges -- which creates more friction with the snow and reduces your speed. The more you dig into the snow the more friction and the faster you can come to a stop.
By increasing and decreasing the size of your pizza wedge, you can slow down and speed up -- which allows you to control your speed on the beginner’s slopes. This allows you to practice sliding over longer distances and avoid colliding with other skiers on the piste.
- Push the backs of the skis out to make a wedged shape. This will create resistance and slow your speed.
- Gently push out the back of the skis further until you come to a complete stop.
- To slow down faster, push into the inside edge of each ski with more power to increase the friction and the rate at which you slow down.
The snowplough is only effective to a certain steepness of the slope and can lead to fatigue over long distances. It’s best to snowplough on beginner slopes.
Learn more about the pizza stop and other ways to control speed.
3. Learn How to Turn
Once you’ve learned to slide down baby slopes and got to grips with pizza stops, it’s time to build on these skills and take the next step towards becoming a skier.
Why do skiers turn?
Skiers control their descent by continuously turning left and right down the mountain. Turning on skis is an essential skill and the key to skiing all areas of the mountain safely. The right and left turn to allow you to control your speed, explore more of the mountain and safely descent steep trails.
Learning to turn takes lots of practice and determination and it is something you will be continuously working on as you progress from a beginner to an advanced skier.
Learning to turn
To learn to turn, start on a shallow beginner slope (marked green on trail maps) then follow these steps to initiate your first turn.
- Slide downhill and then come into a gentle snowplough.
- Put slightly more weight into the inside edge of one ski -- which will create more friction on one side so you start to turn towards the other direction.
- Release the edges so your skiing across the slope and then repeat with the other leg to turn back on yourself.
As you snowplough, by digging into one edge more than the other you create more friction on this side which will naturally turn your skis and body to face in on direction. By releasing your edges after your turn you can continue straight across the slope.
- To turn left, put more pressure on the inside edge of your right ski.
- To turn right, put more pressure on the inside edge of your left ski.
Keep practicing over a few days until you get used to the feeling of balancing over your skis as you make a turn. Always practice on beginner slopes and be patient with yourself.
At first, you’ll start off turning in one direction, but over time as your confidence and skills grow you will start to link you left and right turns.
This wedged style of turn is the building block towards learning how to parallel ski (the ultimate goal of every new skier) and with time and continued practice you’ll get there! --
4. Learn How to Control Speed
Skiing is all about controlling your speed. Anyone can jump on a pair of skis and fly down the mountain -- but without a reliable technique for slowing down and controlling how fast you’re going you’ll end up in a dangerous scenario.
There are three main ways to control your speed on skis:
- Snowplough or Pizza (beginner move)
- Wedged turns left and right (traversing along the slope)
- Parallel skiing
And here’s how not to slow yourself down:
- ⚠️using your ski poles
- ⚠️reaching out and grabbing someone!
Different methods of reducing speed are better than others. While pizza is the easiest to learn it is also the least effective at speed. The best way to control speed and/or come to a stop is to sharply turn to the left or right in a hockey stop.
|Method of reducing speed on skis||How effective at slowing you down?|
I wrote an entire guide on how to slow down on skis here.
5. Learn How to Ski Parallel
Skiing parallel is how good skiers turn, control their speed, and navigate down the slope. It’s called skiing parallel because the aim is to have your skis pointing in the same direction throughout the turn.
From Wedge to Parallel
A parallel turn is when your skis stay aligned together during the full length of the turn – rather than form a beginner wedge shape.
With our earlier wedged turns, we are evolving from a snowplough where our skis are at a pizza angle, and as we turn our inside ski takes longer to follow through.
Learning to parallel ski takes time, but once mastered it allows us to turn at greater speeds, with more control and less fatigue.
Learn the Fundamentals
Before learning to parallel ski you should be comfortable sliding forward, balancing on your skis, controlling your speed using the pizza technique, and be able to turn left and right using a wedged turn shape.
Once you’re at this level then you can begin to work on your parallel skiing and focus on getting your skis aligned through the full arc of the turn.
Here is a bite-sized walkthrough of how to position yourself through a full parallel turn.
1. Upwards & forwards movement.
Lean upwards and forwards to release the edges of your skis in preparation to start your turn. Ensuring you do this before each turn will make your turns easier, tighter, and more fluid.
2. Skis drop to facing downhill.
Move your weight over to both skis as your skis tip down to facing forwards.
3. Move your weight onto the outside ski.
Friction on the outside ski is what’s turning you.
4. Lean into the turn.
Gently lean into the turn while keeping your torso upright as a counter-balance. This puts more pressure on the outside ski and guides you through your radius.
5. Roll your knees
Make sure to gently roll your knees into the turn. Keep on the inside ski slightly ahead to naturally roll your knees into place.
6. Inside edge of the outside ski.
Focus your mind on the inside edge to create the friction to turn you.
7. The uphill ski.
Keep your weight off this ski and tilt the edge into the slope to allow it to follow through and mirror the dominant ski.
8. Let your skis slide.
Get comfortable with the feel of your skis sliding sideways throughout the turn radius. The more you slide the more it will slow you down. Focus on a smooth S shape turn shape.
9. Relax your edge.
As your turn comes to its natural end, relax the edges of the ski so you can traverse across the slope.
Keep your shoulders turned toward the slope in preparation for your next turn.
Sometimes words can only take you so far. Here is an 8-minute video walkthrough guiding you into your first parallel turn.
For a more detailed walkthrough read my 5,000 guides to skiing parallel.
6. Learn How to Hockey Stop
The hockey stop (also known as the parallel stop) is an advanced method of coming to a complete stop. It involves rotating your skis parallel at speed and digging into your edges to create the maximum amount of friction.
By varying the speed at which you rotate your skis and the pressure you place on the edges, you can stop aggressively or at a more relaxed pace. The best thing about the hockey stop is that you can whip up a cloud of fresh powder.
- Gently stand up just before you go into your stop to loosen up the ski’s contact with the snow.
- Initiate a parallel turn, place your weight (faster and more weight than you would for a turn) on the outside or downhill ski of the turn.
- Turn your feet and legs parallel whilst starting to bend your knees and dig into the snow with the inner edge of both skis and push through your heel.
- The more you dig into the snow, the quicker your stop.
- Release the angle of your skis and flatten them towards on the snow so you don’t fall backward.
- Repeat. (The more you practice, the more you’ll develop muscle memory)
Watch the video below to see how it looks in action.
Read my in-depth guide to the parallel stop here, with a thorough walkthrough and key tips like how to stop better on your weak side.
7. Learn How to Pole Plant
You can ski without poles, but ski poles are incredibly useful tools. Not only do they help propel you forward on the flat and into the precise spot for the chairlift but they also improve your skiing.
At first ski poles can be a nuisance for new skiers, they get in the way and make it hard to focus on your leg movement. In fact the overtime, you’ll soon realize the opposite is true -- rather than being a hindrance, ski poles are great tools to speed up your progression and make you better at turning at speed.
If you use ski poles properly, they help set you up to be in the right body position for each turn, creating rhythm and pace as you link your turns down the mountain.
The timing of a pole plant is critical, get it wrong and it can make your skiing worse not better.
Place your pole into the snow just before you make an edge change and initiate your turn. Think of your pole plant as a signal to your body to move your weight to start your turn.
The pole plant sequence
A pole plant should be made with one pole at a time leading with the pole that is on the inside of your turn. For most skiers, the pole plant will start as their traversing sideways across the mountain. The pole plant comes just before initiating the turn.
1. Traverse with arms out front but poles trailing
Traverse across the mountain with your arms out in front and your body turned slightly downhill. At this stage, your poles will be about 45 degrees angle to the snow trailing behind you.
2. Bring inside arm forward
Bring your weight evenly over your skis and bring your inside arm forward so the pole is facing the ground vertically or pointing slightly forwards ready for the plant.
3. The plant
At the point where we just start to change our edges to initiate the turn, gently put your downhill and outstretched pole into the snow in front of and out to the side of your downhill ski (but won’t support any weight on it). Aim to plant your pole within the first quarter of your ski.
3. The backward flick
As you pole plant, your speed relative to the static snow will naturally flick the pole backward behind you (expect the flick and don’t resist it). As it does this, shift your weight over your skis (weight over the inside edge of your downhill ski) and turn into your pole plant. Let your flicked pole come off the snow and fall behind you while keeping both arms upfront in preparation for the same sequence repeated with the opposite pole.
Correct pole plant
- Gently flick the pole into the snow at a straight angle.
- Allow the pole to flick off the snow and fall behind you.
- Change edges and turn them into the direction of the pole.
Read my full guide on how to pole plant.
8. Learn How to Fall
Every skier will fall at one time or another. Most falls are harmless fun, but occasionally they can be much more serious.
The best way to avoid injury when skiing is to learn how to fall properly -- by distributing your weight evenly. While every fall is slightly different -- you only have a very small amount of time to react.
Distribute your weight
The best thing you can do is to distribute your weight evenly as you fall. Instead of reaching out with your hands or elbow to stop the fall, straighten your arms and legs as you fall.
Land with the weight on:
- Straight arm by your side.
- Outstretched leg.
Don’t impact in one area
Don’t try to catch your fall on the weight of your:
Protect your head
Protecting your head is really important (another reason to wear a ski helmet). If you’re landing on your back straighten your arms by your side and take the impact with your arms and torso. Keep your head slightly lifted to avoid impact with the ground.
P.S I wrote an entire guide to fall on skis with key tips to minimizing injury.
9. Learn How to Get Up
After you’ve fallen over for the first time, you’ll find getting up to be pretty challenging. Even on shallow slopes, untangling yourself from your skis and getting to standing again can take a while.
Skis still on
If your skis are still on and attached to your boots, then there is a way to get up using poles as supports. This technique involves planting one pole at an angle into the uphill and using it to push yourself upright -- see the video demonstration below.
Skis are off
If your skis have come off during your fall, then getting up can be more or less challenging depending on how steep the slope is.
To recover your skis, you’ll need to walk uphill or downhill in your boots. To walk uphill dig in with your toe and to walk downhill dig firmly into the snow with the heel of your boot.
- Always keep your skis edged into the mountain and facing sideways from the slope.
- Always put on the downhill ski on first.
- When walking uphill, dig in with the toe of your boot first.
- When walking downhill, dig in with the heel of your boot.
- Lean over your skis as you put them on.
- Before clipping into your bindings, clear the snow away and always step into the downhill ski first.
I go into much more depth about each step on my main guide to getting back up on skis.
10. Learn How to Ski Different Conditions
Skiing is a high altitude mountain sport and it’s not always clear blue sunny days. When the clouds roll in and the snow begins to fall learning to ski becomes even more challenging.
Skiing In a Whiteout
A whiteout is when the clouds are so thick that you can’t see beyond a few meters. The snow and the sky merge into one and knowing where you are and how fast your going becomes a challenge.
When skiing in whiteouts your poles become even more important. They act as sensors for the world around you, helping you to feel how steep the slope is and the depth of the snow.
When skiing in a whiteout, you’ll need to ski more slowly and with much more aware of your surroundings. Reacting fast to oncoming obstacles and making sure to stay clearly within the boundaries of the slope.
Key Tips for Staying Safe
- Use piste markers
- Stick together
- Go high, go low or go home (look for better visibility)
- Use flat light goggles -- read reviews
- Keep warm -- see how
- Wear bright colors
Check out my more detailed guide to skiing in a whiteout.
Best Overall Ski Goggles.
If you’re looking at my overall pick for the best ski goggles -- read my in-depth review for this season.