6 Common Signs of a Bad Skier? How To Ski Better

by Kenny Jarvis | Updated: September 19th, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

Many people discover the basics of skiing but only a few struggle to achieve mastery. So, what does a master look like on the slopes? And what does a skiing disaster look like? Well, we thought we’d take a look.

A great skier will appear relaxed but in control, while quickly adapting to the changing terrain and being aware of other skiers. A poor skier, meanwhile, will be oblivious to others, wreckless in his moves & being led by his skies.

skier relaxing

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It's obvious these differences matter? So, if you want to be a great skier then it’s good to know what you should be changing for the better. Let’s explore these reasons in a little more detail.

Signs of a Good Skier

Orange Jacket Skier

Quicker to Get to the Bottom

When you become good at something, you can do it quicker than the rest. In just the same way as a great racing driver will put in the quickest lap, a good skier always arrives faster at the bottom of the trail than the rest of their skier friends.

Smooth turns, great control, and strong knowledge of the basics of skiing all help to make you a better skier. The best skier in the group will often find themselves at the bottom, waiting for everyone else. While getting to the bottom first shouldn’t be the goal of casual skiing (remember it's all about having fun!), a great skier will naturally make better progress down a run.

They are in Good Shape

Skier standing up

If you have been exercising for months to get in shape for the skiing season, and all your workouts have paid off, then you should feel great! Being in a good shape not only makes you enjoy your skiing more but it helps to prevent injuries as well.

Skiing can be a strenuous workout, depending on how hard you ski and for how long. As your body tires, usually at the end of the day, your skiing becomes sloppier, and you find it hard to keep the same level of control.

For an expert skier, however, this isn't a problem. During their years of practice, they will have developed an incredibly strong muscle core and efficient lungs to cope with all of skiing's challenges. They can still ski effectively with much less chance of accidents due to tiredness.

They Look After Their Gear

Whether it's a tennis player with a racquet, a soccer player with their cleats or a golfer with their clubs, the right gear matters. Not only is the quality of gear important, but so is keeping it in the best condition. A good skier will never have rusty edges and their skis will always be waxed.


It's more likely that a great skier will have their own gear too. It's not some fashion statement, but more, when you buy your own kit, you can ensure it is ideally suited to you. This ensures the highest level of performance.

Are Comfortable on Black Slopes

There is no doubt that skiing can be intimidating for those new to the sport. If someone is on top of a black slope and not phased, then they must either be a great skier or crazy!

A great skier will most likely still have a little anxiety on a black run but will be confident going down it and maintain great control over their skis. Many expert skiers will enjoy the thrill of going beyond simple black slopes and go on to tackle double black diamond runs or off-piste terrain.

ski down slope

Ski Lifts Aren’t a Struggle

Often, people new to skiing have the same two fears about ski lifts. Firstly, they fear of falling off the lift. Secondly, they have a fear of embarrassing themselves getting on or off the lift! An experienced skier will approach the ski lift with no apprehension at all and be able to ski away from the lift safely and with good timing. For a good skier, ski lifts are never a struggle.

ski lift chair

They’ll Know all the Jargon

Like any other sport, skiers and snowboarders have developed their own vocabulary. A skier or snowboarder might get confusing looks from their friends who have never skied or snowboarded before.

From fall line and bombing, to ripper and avy, a skier uses this slang comfortably among fellow skiers. These words aren't just for show, either. This ski lingo helps you to understand different types of situations and conditions you might be encountering.

Signs of a Bad Skier

1. Leaning Back Stance and Turning with the Upper Body

Almost every beginner tends to lean too far back and tries to turn using upper body weight. Often, leaning too far back is rooted in fear of the slope gradient, or a fear they will quickly go out of control going too fast. The natural response to these fears is to lean back.

Turning with your shoulders is another sign of a bad skier. It uses a lot of energy to turn with your shoulders and it disrupts your balance. A good skier will pivot with their whole body and learn how to efficiently distribute their weight.

Ski Fall

2. They Have Lazy Arms

Imagine trying to run with your arms down by your side. You'd have no balance and you wouldn't be able to go very quickly. In skiing, it's important that your arms aren't just hanging loose by your sides, however, they shouldn't be flailing around, either.

Your arms should be engaged and ready to help with your balance. The ideal position is for them to be slightly in front of you and slightly out to the side. This is especially important if you're using poles. A good skier will use their arms efficiently and ensure they help with balance and control of the poles.

3. Having Short Sight

Advice: In skiing, the term short sight refers to when you just focus on the turn, rather than paying attention to looking ahead as well.

This is usually caused by a confidence issue, where all your concentration is focused on the turn, so that you can't even think about what's coming next. Compare it to driving a car. You need to be aware of what’s just in front of you but also what’s ahead on the road. A good skier is able to juggle both but until you get comfortable making turns, it is hard for a beginner to do.

The downsides of having short sight are obvious. It's harder to see if you are approaching any hazards, and it's also more difficult to avoid other skiers. An expert skier will have good all-round awareness of his surroundings.

ski fall

4. Not Knowing the Basics

Tip: There are some basics of skiing that every skier should know. Anyone who hasn't mastered these basic terms will immediately mark themselves out as a poor skier.

You need to know important information about the mountain, such as fall lines, the color coding of the runs, and how to use ski lifts. As well as the proper ski equipment use, and how you should use your body and limbs during skiing. It seems like an enormous amount of information at first but after a few ski trips, all the terminology will become second nature.

5. Skiing in a ‘Z’ shape

Making a ‘Z’ shape during turns is a common poor skiing habit that you need to break if you have fallen into it. You can look out the rhythm of your skiing, by looking at the shape of the tracks you leave. A poor skier always makes Z-shaped turns because there is no continuity or flow to the turn.

Make the comparison to driving a car again, when you approach a corner you do not turn the wheel with an abrupt movement. Instead, you gradually turn the wheel so the car adapts to the curve. On any run, a good skier will ski down the mountain in smooth curves, not abrupt turns.

6. Never in Control

One of the easy-to-spot signs of a bad skier is that they look like they are on the verge of going out of control or fighting to maintain control. In contrast a good skier will have confidence in what they are doing. This means good control over their speed, their body movements, and their positioning on the slope.

How to Improve Your Skiing Ability?

It doesn't matter how many times you've been skiing it is never too late to improve your ability. Here are some of the ways that can help you become a better skier.

1. Improve Your Balance

One of the most common reasons for poor ability is a lack of balance. Many people find that as they ski down a run, they are constantly struggling to maintain balance during turns. This is usually caused by bad body posture, where you are standing too upright. There are numerous balance exercises, which will help you to develop a better sense of balance.

2. Understand Your Equipment

The better you understand how your skiing equipment works, the easier you will find using it. Taking lessons is a good way to not only develop a better skiing technique but also to learn how your skis operate in different situations. Relaxing on your skis and going with their natural flow will ease the pressure on your muscles, enabling a much more relaxed stance. Get comfortable with the equipment you are using, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Key Takeaway: Your boots are the interface between you and your skis. So, it's vital to have boots that fit you well but also boots that are the right for your ability.

3. Look Ahead

An inexperienced skier will tend to focus on the turn immediately in front of them, rather than also looking ahead to check for other skiers or obstacles. This is like a driver focusing on the corner they are taking, rather than also looking ahead to check if it's clear around the corner. Focusing just on the turn does not prepare you for what might be ahead.

Final Thoughts

It's fairly easy to spot a poor skier from a good one. Poor skiers rarely look relaxed and in control, whereas good skiers are relaxed, aware of their surroundings and ready to make changes to adjust to the changing terrain.

If you think you've got any of the signs of a poor skier, then it's never too late to change. A few group or individual lessons would most likely help you to improve your ability substantially. Remember, every expert skier started off as a novice, so don't get too down if you're struggling.