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So you’re planning to go skiing and want to know how to stop yourself from uncontrollably hurtling down the mountain. Learning to stop is a key skill that every skier needs to learn first.
There are three main ways to stop on skies. In order of effectiveness and difficulty, they are the pizza, the wedged turn stop, and the parallel hockey stop.
1. The Snowplough or Pizza Stop
The most famous of stops, the snowplough (Also known as: Pizza stop) is a technique that every new skier needs to learn.
It’s the best way for you to stop on the slope if it’s your first time skiing. The snowplough involves making a triangle shape (or pizza slice) with your skis.
By pushing out your skis at an angle to form a triangle, you create friction against the snow and slow your momentum.
Instead of moving forward, the snowplough angle allows you to control your speed and if you apply enough force -- come to a complete stop.
How to snowplough stop?
The easiest way to try the snowplough for the first time is on the flat part of a baby slope. Hold out your poles and get a friend to pull you forward. Once you start to slide, begin to practice your snowplough as explained below:
- Push the backs of the skis out to make a pizza shape. This will give you some resistance and the feeling of slowing down.
- Gently push out the back of the skis further until you come to a complete stop.
- To improve your plough, gently push into the inside edge of each ski to increase the friction and the rate at which you slow down.
Important snowplough tips
- Don’t use your ski poles to try stop.
- Keep your upper body relaxed and gently go into the plough until you build up confidence.
- Keep practicing on baby slopes before moving to steeper ground.
2. Wedged turn stop
Another way to stop as a new skier is to make a snowplough turn. By turning to the side you stop faster and can avoid objects directly in front of you.
Follow the same instructions as for the normal snowplough but this time, put more pressure on one leg than the other.
How to stop using a snowplough turn.
- Start to slide and the go into a snowplough.
- Push more weight into one ski and turn it to the side.
- Push into your right ski to go left or your left ski to go right.
- As you gently turn to the side your aim is to stop with your skis facing towards the side of the mountain.
- As you come to a stop keep more weight on the inner edge of your skis so you don’t slide down the slope whilst stopped in the stance.
Snowplough turn tips
- You’ll find one direction easier than the other.
- Keep your torso relaxed and turn your foot gently.
- Keep practicing.
3. Parallel or Hockey Stop
This is for more advanced skiers who are able to parallel turn. A parallel turn is the basic building block that everything in skiing builds upon.
It’s the foundational move of the skier and it allows you to change direction and stop at speed.
The parallel stop is the fastest & most effective way to avoid obstacles or collisions at speeds and is only recommend for skiers who are ready to progress beyond the snowplough and are comfortable turning at speed.
How to stop using a parallel stop.
- 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 you 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)
If you’re interested in learning more about the hockey stop, I wrote a whole article explaining exactly how to execute one + everything else you need to know, it’s called: How to Hockey Stop On Skis Like a Pro
Why stopping is the first thing you should learn.
Without knowing how to stop, you can quickly become a runaway train. Learning to snowplough should be the top of your list, without mastering this basic maneuver, you won’t be able to progress much further without endangering yourself or others on the slope.
It’s tricky at first, so be prepared for a couple of falls, but it won’t take long before you’re snowploughing like a champ and progressing towards, the snowplough turn stop.
The hockey stop can wait or a bit later, and you need to get better at turning your wedged turns into more of a parallel turn before you should attempt to hockey stop.
That is unless you’ve got some experience doing it on skates, then you’ll be it up much faster
Don’t use your poles to stop.
Many new skiers, often try to use their poles to stop themselves and its a mistake. The poles can easily become bent and you can hurt yourself quite easily if you rely solely on your poles for stopping.
Poles are great for stability and for pushing off on your skis with, but if you’re going over 1-2mph, then planting your pole in the snow to stop yourself is not a good idea.
snowplough first and then plant your poles second for that extra stability.
Bonus: Ride out the turn
If you’re going too fast to snowplough and you need to stop but you haven’t yet got a hang of the other methods, then you can deploy what’s known as the ‘ride out the turn’ method.
It’s pretty simple, but a useful tip for new skiers who are losing control or need to avoid an obstacle.
Place your weight more on one ski and initiate a turn, instead of linking the turn, keep skiing and ride across and uphill to slow yourself to a stop.
The uphill gradient will slow you down much faster than a snowplough on the downhill. Turn into the hill and use the uphill to dissipate your momentum.
Don’t end up facing uphill as you will slide backward, try to aim for a parallel stance and to stop completely -- put the weight on your inner edges. This will prevent you from sliding sideways.
There you have it, you now understand all the key ways to top on the mountain. You’re prepared and ready to go. Safe skiing and enjoy the ride.
It only gets more fun from here.