Lets Do The Twist

Phil Smith, Director of Snoworks Ski Courses talks about one of the lesser known skills of skiing, twisting.
Photo: Mike, Lee and Emma, Snoworks instructors, discussing the finer points of twisting, over a coffee of course. Photographed by Polly Baldwin Dynamic Pictures, Ski Equipment – Salomon, socks and 1st layer – Falke.

It still amazes me how many skiers have never heard of twisting skis. The ability to twist your skis is akin to using the handlebars on your bike, the steering wheel on your car, the rudder on a boat. Without it you’re like a ship without a rudder.

The concept or twisting skis only began to come about in teaching in the early 80’s. Before then few instructors talked about it. As a kid it was John Sheddon in his book ‘Skillful Skiing’ that first brought my attention to the term. Of course everyone had been doing it since that first hunter put on skis to travel across the frozen lands of Norway. Somewhere along the line in the early days of modern skiing the concept of twisting was forgotten then rediscovered again. Now it’s firmly implanted in every ski teaching syllabus throughout the world albeit using far more sophisticated terms than ‘Twisting’ such as ‘Rotary Control’ or ‘Control of Rotation’. Across the water, the term ‘Pivoting’ is used far more and the greatest GS skier known to mankind Ted Ligety even invented his own word for it, ‘Stivoting’ – a blend of skidding and pivoting.

There are many ways to twist your skis and some better than others. Most beginners learn to twist their skis very quickly and it works a treat, just throw your shoulders around and voila, that is until Hans comes along tells you not to do it and sends you packing with one of those remedial exercises that all ski classes seem to do, holding your poles in front of you and keeping your shoulders facing down the hill. Of course once your shoulders are firmly glued down the fall line there’s no chance of twisting your skis. That is unless you magically find out that your legs and feet can twist the skis and low and behold you develop some form of rotary control without even knowing it, hey presto.

The problem is most skiers end up believing they need to face their shoulders downhill and this sole skill will be the gateway to skiing nirvana. Mmm I’m afraid not. It’s NOT your ability to keep your shoulders facing downhill that’s important, it’s the ability to twist your skis using your legs and feet.

Onto the mechanics, exactly how much twist do you have available with your legs? Well that depends on you and whether you have rubber legs, or legs like they’ve been set in concrete. OK some stretching and loosening up required. To work it out sit in a chair with your legs straight and rotate your feet inwards and outwards and this will give you the amount or rotation you have available at the hip joints then bend your legs 90 degrees at the knees and rotate inwards and outwards and you can see how much rotation you have below ze knees.

That’s it! It may be small but as the saying goes ‘it’s not the size that matters it’s how you use it’. Now you can go skiing knowing how to twist your skis using your legs and feet. Some practicing may be required and there are literally hundreds of exercises you can do, but just knowing about it in the first place will help. Here’s where I get lots of emails and comments about carving, ski design, side cuts etc and what’s all this rubbish about twisting when you have modern skis. So why twist your skis? Well that’s the same as saying why twist your handlebars on a bike. The faster you go on a bike on say a cycle track, the less you need your handlebars. But stick someone on a mountainbike and send them down a tricky trail through the forest and you’re going to want those handlebars, believe me. It’s the same in skiing. Get onto a wide open piste, hit the throttle and go for some speed and there wont be much twisting going on. But get into some bumps, steep narrow gullies or awkward tight places and you’re going to be glad you knew about twisting.

If there was a Twisting competition I could twist for Britain.

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