Twisting Pushing Edging – Your Skiing Controls

Phil Smith, director of Snoworks Ski Courses chats about the skills of steering. Photo: Lee Townend using his edges.

Have you hit a plateau in your skiing? Do you struggle in some snow conditions but not others, find certain terrain tricky, whilst other terrain easy? Do you have good days and bad days? Do you find any of the following conditions difficult; bumps, ice, narrow paths, steep terrain, deep snow, slush and bad visibility?

If the answer is yes, read on.

Many skiers think they need to improve their perceived ‘technique’ to get better. But there are many skiers with so called ‘poor technique’ who are very capable of skiing everywhere. And vice versa, there are many skiers with so called ‘great technique’ who struggle when the going gets tough.

The perception of improving technique may be a red herring. It’s not technique that needs to improve it’s your ability to move freely and control what you do with your skis in relation to the mountain. Maybe it’s just semantics but not in my experience.

‘Technique can often conjure up a fixed way of doing something. The ability to move freely on your skis however is very different.

With that in mind lets move onto movements and how to use them to control your skis.

There are many things you need to be able to do with your skis to become a competent all-mountain skier but generally we can divide them into three skills. Don’t forget skis are attached to your feet so it’s up to you to control them. There’s no magical formula.

The three main things we can do with our skis are:
Twisting, Pushing and Edging.
In different organisations these may have different terms but we’ve found through experience these terms work the best and skiers can relate to them easily.

YOU can twist your skis, PUSH your skis and EDGE your skis. Each one of these three things is infinitely variable and how each three blend together is also is infinitely variable. That’s a lot of ‘infinitely variable’.

Lets compare each of these ‘Steering Elements’ to another form of transport (your bike) to show how important they are. They are not just important, they are essential.

TWISTING – Your Handlebars
Twisting is equivalent to using the handlebars on your bike. When you twist your handlebars you twist the wheel of the bike. When you twist your legs and feet you twist your skis. Twisting allows you to change the direction your skis point. Twisting is infinitely variable just like twisting the handlebars on your bike. Slow, fast, a little, a lot, vary the twisting.

EDGING – Your Grip
Edging is equivalent to tilting your bike into a turn. Tilt the bike when negotiating a change of direction and your tyres grip the surface. Tilt your ski or skis onto their edges when negotiating a change of direction and your edges grip the snow. Edging is infinitely variable just like tilting your bike. You can edge slow, fast, a little, a lot and vary the edging.

PUSHING – Your Brakes
Pushing is the equivalent of using the brakes on your bike. Push the brake pads against the rim of the wheel using your brakes and you create resistance between the two surfaces and control speed. Push the edges or bases of your skis against the snow using your legs and feet to move and displace snow and you create resistance between the two surfaces and slow down. Pushing is infinitely variable just like the brakes on your bike. You can push slow, fast, a little, a lot and just like the others vary it.

These three steering elements exist in most forms of transport.
Something that twists
Something that grips
Something that controls speed

When you ride your bike you use all three elements in an infinite blend. Nothing is ever the same, everything is changing. Skiing is no different. Everything changes, nothing is ever the same.

Here lies the problem. When people work on ‘technique’ their movement patterns often remain the same. Can you imagine riding a bike where you always twist the handlebars the same amount, tilt the bike the same amount, use the brakes the same amount. Of course not, it would be ridiculous to even think of it but that’s what 1000’s of skiers are doing when developing their technique. Making exactly the same turn, the same movements, the same ‘technique’ all the time. Here lies the problem and the reason why 1000’s of skiers struggle beyond Red runs. Worse still, imagine a bike with no handlebars, you wouldn’t even attempt to ride it. But 1000’s of skiers are doing exactly that, the equivalent of riding a bike with no handlebars having never heard of or experienced ‘Twisting’ their skis. Or worse still, brakes. Many skiers have no idea how to control speed on skis. We often ask those that have never been on our courses how to control speed and they mostly say ‘turn’. Can you imagine controlling speed on your bike by turning the bike. No you need brakes, what we term pushing or snow displacement.

To become a truly skilful skier your goal must be to develop the ability to use all these three skills skilfully.

Let’s take just a few examples in how the blend of these skills need to change depending on the terrain or task.

Skiing in narrow, awkward or steep places you need to be able to twist your skis quickly and effectively. Just like twisting your handlebars in tight awkward spaces on your bike when off-road through a forest negotiating windy narrow tracks.

Skiing at higher speeds you need to be able to use your edges effectively to grip the snow, just like using the tyres on your bike when negotiating bends on a tarmac road.

To control speed you need to be able to push snow sideways what we call displace snow. Just like pushing the brake pads against the rim of the wheel to create resistance.

The terrain and the surface of the snow are constantly changing. Ice, slush, powder, bumps. Your objectives are constantly changing. Slow down, go there, stop here, speed up here. Your goal should therefore be to develop versatility and skill in using these three skills. The terrain, the snow, the task determine the blend of these skills just like riding your bike.

The better you get at using these three skills the better skier you will become. It is really that simple! Twisting, pushing, edging.

At Snoworks we choose to use the three terms TWISTING, PUSHING and EDGING. We have found they work brilliantly in practice. Most skiers relate to them and more importantly can easily use them to develop their skiing more than they ever thought possible. It’s worth bearing in mind different organisations, instructors and coaches may use different terms to explain the same thing. As a skier it’s the actions rather than the terms that you need to understand and these actions are:
Something that twists.
Something that grips.
Something that controls speed.

Twisting, Pushing and Edging are developed on All-Terrain Ski Courses. Book one now.
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