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, find certain terrain tricky? 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 on your skis. Maybe that’s just semantics but I don’t think so.

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

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

There are three things you need do be able to do with your skis. Don’t forget skis are attached to our feet so it’s up to us to control them. Each one of these three things is infinitely variable and how each three blend together is also is infinitely variable.

We call these three things we do with our skis the ‘Steering Elements’.
Twisting, Pushing and Edging.

YOU can twist your skis, push your skis and edge your skis. You can vary how you twist, push and edge. You can learn to control twisting, pushing, edging.

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.

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 legs when negotiating a change of direction and your edges grip the snow. Edging is infinitely variable just like tilting your bike.

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.

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.

It’s worth repeating that statement. 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 developing their technique. Making exactly the same turn all the time. Making the same movement patterns all the time. Here lies the problem and the reason why 1000’s of skiers struggle beyond Red runs.

To become a truly skillful skier your goal must be to develop the ability to move your legs and feet to control your skis. Your goal must be to develop the ability to use these three ‘Steering Elements’ skillfully then all these awkward places that I mentioned at the start of the article will become so much easier.

Let’s take just a few examples in how the blend of the steering elements 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.

Skiing at higher speeds you need to be able to use your edges effectively

Skiing deeper snow or slush you need to be able to move or push the snow sideways.

The terrain and the surface of the snow are constantly changing, ice, slush, powder, bumps. Your objectives are constantly changing. Slow down here, go there, stop here, speed up here so a set technique clearly is not going to work. Your goal should therefore be to develop versatility and skill in using the three steering elements then 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 become. It is really that simple!

At Snoworks we choose to use the three terms TWISTING, PUSHING and EDGING to describe the steering skills. 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.
Click for a full listing of the All-Terrain ski courses coming up


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