How often have you tried to ski or snowboard, only to get frustrated because you don’t know where to start? If you’re looking for a fun way to spend some time outdoors, then skiing might be perfect for you.
Whether you want to try out downhill skiing or simply enjoy cross country skiing, learning how to ski is easier than you think.
All you really need is a pair of skis and boots, along with a helmet and gloves. The rest will come with patience and practice.
Parallel skiing can seem intimidating at first, but this guide will teach you everything you need to know about parallel skiing. After reading this guide you will be cutting across the slopes like a pro.
WHAT IS PARALLEL SKIING?
So what exactly is parallel skiing you may be asking? Well, parallel skiing refers to a parallel turn. This type of turn is much more elegant looking than a snowplow, and it is a skill that most skiers strive to learn and master.
To complete a parallel ski your skis stay aligned, parallel from each other, during the entire turn until you are facing in the new direction you wish to travel in.
Parallel turns can take some time to master, but in this guide, we detail technique, how to master this move, and also offer advice on how to rectify the most common problems that people have when learning this suave move.
REASONS WHY PARALLEL SKIING IS EASIER
Before we get into the nitty-gritty let’s take a look at all the reasons why you should persevere and get familiar with this ski move. Below we list the three main benefits skiers of all levels find by adapting parallel turns into their skiing in place of snowplows.
Enables You To Make Quicker Turns
The technique used in parallel skiing creates less friction between the skis and the terrain, making for a smoother and quicker transition from one direction to another.
Takes Less Energy Than Snowplows
Snowplows can be very tiring. You need to maintain pressure and balance and maintain your position at all times. Learning to ski can be difficult enough and constantly snowplowing can leave you feeling more fatigued after a day on the slopes.
Once You Have It Mastered It Becomes Effortless
Muscle memory takes over once you have mastered parallel turns meaning you do not need to be overly aware of your surroundings or keep your body tense.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE LEARNING TO PARALLEL SKI
There are three basic things that you should have covered before beginning to learn how to parallel turn. These are explained below, being comfortable and confident with the below will put you in a great position to learn how to parallel turn.
Be Comfortable On Skis
Take time to get to grips with your skis. Be confident putting them on and off as well as setting off on them. Taking time to get to know the basics will help you on the slopes.
Skiing Green Beginner Slopes
You should be confident going down green beginner slopes at the very least. If you are still skiing on nursery slopes it may be best to wait until you feel more confident and your skills have developed before adding a difficult move into the mix.
Patience is key with skiing, take your time and go at your own pace. Suddenly everything will just click, and then you will be in a position to add more skills to your skiing repertoire.
The snowplow can be difficult to master and can also be very tiring. If you are comfortable performing snowplows, not to turn and stop, then you will be in a fantastic position to begin to learn how to parallel ski.
You may still sometimes revert to using snowplows, so this skill should not be forgotten about when you start learning how to parallel ski.
The wedged turn is another technique for turning on the slopes. It is a halfway mark between the snowplow and parallel turns, so it is a great move to master before progressing to parallel turns.
In a wedged turn only one ski is pointed at an angle and the skis do not come together fully until you have completed the turn.
Wedged turns are often forgotten about, but they are a great way to naturally progress to parallel skiing.
If you are comfortable on your skis, confident skiing down green slopes, and have mastered the snowplow and the wedged turn then you are ready to learn the steps that will teach you how to parallel ski in no time.
HOW TO PARALLEL SKI
Before we begin to explain a step-by-step guide on how to parallel ski, let’s first go through what you will need. You will need:
- Skis: skis that are the correct size for you are necessary. Make sure your skis are strong enough to support you while you learn this new skiing skill
- Ski Boots: make sure your ski boots fit and are connected correctly to your skis to avoid you from falling or one of your skis from coming loose
- Ski Poles: While it is your choice whether you want to use poles or not during parallel turns you will still need a pair for general use. We have an entire section coming up in this piece that talks all about using ski poles when parallel turning
- A Helmet: When you are first learning parallel turns it is likely that you will have a few falls. Wearing a helmet is a great way of protecting yourself from injury during any bigger falls you may have
- Ski Goggles: Ski goggles are a great way of protecting you from the elements when you are out on the slopes. When you are learning how to parallel turn you will want to keep the focus on the task at hand. Wearing goggles you will protect your eyes from any snow flying in or bugs that could distract you when you are learning how to do parallel turns
Now that you know exactly what equipment you need let’s dive into how to parallel ski!
Parallel turns are all about how you position your body weight and the angle that your skis are at, or facing.
Once you know how to correctly distribute your body weight and angle your skis, parallel skiing will be much easier for you.
Below we take a look at each step and break it down so that anyone can learn how to parallel ski.
The first thing to think about is your stance. You should be facing sideways on the slope and your knees should be bent slightly, this will help you to spread your weight across your downhill ski.
Your torso should be leaning slightly forward with your torso facing down the slope ever so slightly.
This stance will be simple to master once you try it out.
Now the fun part begins! You will now start to begin to turn.
Imagine you are being lifted through your knees, your knees will straighten for a second, and you will bend your knees again, but your hips will be placed over your downhill ski.
Make sure you lean slightly forward to avoid falling. Imagine this movement as an up and over.
Your skis will now be lying flat across the slope, and you will be ready to turn.
As your weight has shifted your skis will begin to turn downhill. Straighten your body placing your weight back in the center of your skis.
You will be moving forward for a number of seconds but don’t be afraid, as long as you stay committed and finish the turn everything will be fine.
Here your focus will be on changing the angle of the edges on your skis while you turn. To make this simpler let’s break this down into four sections.
ONE: First, focus on moving your weight to the outside of your ski. To do this, allow your body to fall slightly towards the inside of the turn. Your torso will act as a counterbalance for your legs.
TWO: The friction is now building under the inner edge of your downhill ski, leaning into the turn to enable your ski to begin to change direction.
THREE: Imagine your knees as balls, gently roll your bent knees into the direction of your turn. Focus on keeping your inside ski in front of your outer ski ever so slightly.
FOUR: Keep your focus on the inside edge of the outer ski and keep leaning into the turn. By doing this you are sure to complete a perfect turn.
You are almost there! Only two more steps to go. Our focus now moves to the uphill ski. You want this ski to follow the path of the downhill or outer ski.
Slowly relax your weight over this ski and tilt the ski so that the edge is slightly digging into the slope.
Both skis should now be slightly raised, digging into the slope, guiding your turn.
Your skis should be sliding effortlessly across the slope.
Don’t rush your turns while you are learning these steps, you can build up the speed of your turns over time when you can better manage and execute a parallel turn.
As you slide the friction will lessen, and you will begin to slow down, almost putting you in the perfect position to begin another turn.
Relax the weight from the inner edges of your skis and enjoy your skis gliding in your new direction.
Return to your initial skier’s stance. This stage is called traversing as you travel across the slope before you begin to turn again.
Well done! You did it. You have now successfully completed your first parallel turn and all that’s left to do is to continue parallel skiing your way down the slope.
Be proud of your achievement but stay focused as you continue to ski down to the bottom of the slope.
Try to make an S shape as you ski down the slope.
Initially, it may look more like a Z, but you will eventually be able to complete smooth turns which will create that lovely S shape.
If you want to make sharper and faster turns focus on putting more pressure on the inside edge of your skis, you can slowly begin to practice this once you are comfortable making a smooth and effortless parallel turn.
Here are the steps in sum:
- Get into your stance
- Execute the up and over movement and skis begin to point downhill
- Move your weight to change the angle of your skis
- Relax your edges
- Get ready for another turn
By following these 6 simple steps you will be able to change your focus between each instruction easily and this will help you to get to grips with the technique required that will be an essential part of mastering parallel turns.
If you are struggling or don’t feel confident teaching yourself this move we would say give it a go and if you really don’t get it, or you are doubting yourself then hire a coach for an hour to get some guidance.
You don’t need to go for an all-day lesson and sometimes by hiring a professional ski instructor for an hour you will be able to get some in-depth knowledge about where you are going wrong and be shown how to adjust your technique.
It is possible to learn how to parallel ski by yourself. All you need is some patience and self-belief.
If you start off doubting yourself then it is going to be more difficult for you to learn but if you go into this with a positive and focused attitude, well then the sky’s the limit.
HOW TO USE YOUR POLES WHEN PARALLEL SKIING
Ski poles can be a hindrance if you do not know how to use them properly.
For the most part, your ski poles are there to assist you with getting moving, propelling you forward, and also help you keep your balance when you are not moving.
When you are turning and changing your direction while skiing down a slope, regardless of whether you are performing a snowplow, wedged turn, or parallel turn, your ski poles will never be a factor in your turn.
Ski poles can cause huge problems on the slope if you do not know how to use them properly on the slopes and there is a certain etiquette expected of skiers when on the slopes.
The etiquette includes a wide array of skiing activities but here we focus on the rules that apply to ski poles while on the slopes.
Don’t Swing Your Poles
If you are trying to get someone’s attention do not swing your ski poles in the air. Try whistling or else ski down to get to them.
By swinging your poles you could potentially hit another skier and cause them to get injured, which could be an expensive accident if your pole hits against their teeth.
Always stay close to your group to avoid a situation where you need to get someone’s attention from a distance.
If you do need to wave your arms, hold your poles in one hand and stretch one arm above your head, and wave. Keep your arm up above your head to avoid hitting others.
Don’t Stick Them In The Snow While Moving
Your poles are not strong enough to stop you in your tracks and so you should never stick your poles to try to stop yourself.
You could potentially break your pole, which would be dangerous for you but also for others on the slopes.
If you have the pole secured around your wrist you could potentially break your wrist or hurt your shoulder from the impact of your body propelling forward while you are holding onto a pole that has been stuck into the snow.
Hold Them Tight While On Ski Lifts
The bottom of your ski poles are very sharp and could cause serious damage if they were to fall from a height onto another skier or person on the mountains.
When traveling on a ski lift ensure you hold onto your poles carefully to avoid this from happening.
Hold your poles together in one hand when getting onto the chair and then place them on your lap, holding them tight until you reach the top of the lift.
Once you get off the ski lift be careful where your poles are pointing as you could hit a lift operator or those around you if you are not holding them by your side, off the ground.
Don’t Throw Them On The Ground
When you are not moving, make sure you do not throw your poles on the ground. They are considered a trip hazard as often they can become covered in the snow and skiers do not see them which often leads to accidents.
If you have removed your skis, attach your poles to your skis using the wrist strap. This will keep everyone safe and prevent your ski poles from going missing.
Using Your Poles When Parallel Skiing
Now that you know the basics of ski pole etiquette let’s talk about what you will do with your ski poles while you are parallel turning.
The simple answer is you don’t. There is a lot to think about when initially learning how to parallel turn, but thankfully your poles do not factor into the equation.
While ski poles aren’t necessary to use during a parallel turn, once you have mastered this move you can make it slightly more complicated by adding in a pole plant.
A pole plant is a way of linking your turns together, making your skiing look even more impressive.
To do a pole plant simply keep your arms in the same position they would normally be when skiing, slightly out and away from the body.
When doing a pole plant you are not doing any reaching movement, so you do not need to worry about losing your balance!
You will always do a pole plant using the downhill pole. If you are turning you would tap the snow with your pole in the direction you want to turn in.
The pole plant acts like a roundabout of sorts, you then move your poles around the space where the pole plant happened.
Timing is very important for pole plants to make sure you don’t trip yourself. Use it as an indicator for each time you are going to turn.
As we already mentioned, pole plants are not an essential part of parallel turns so do what feels right for you.
Make sure you take the time to master parallel turns before adding in pole plants.
CHALLENGES WITH PARALLEL SKIING
There are a number of challenges that affect skiers of any level when they are learning how to parallel ski but particularly beginners.
Below we look at the three most common challenges and ways to overcome and power through so that you can parallel turn your way down the slope expertly in no time.
The biggest challenge for anyone who is learning how to parallel turn is balance. When you are completing a snowplow you have a wider center of gravity and so it is considerably easier to balance yourself.
You feel more secure in your skis as your feet stretch out into that pizza slice position, and you have no fear of your skis crossing over the other causing you to fall.
With parallel turns, you have a smaller space to balance over as your skis are close together.
Keeping your core tight is the best way to keep your balance and try not to be overly concerned about your skis becoming interlocked as most likely they won’t and you will execute the turn perfectly.
Your body movements have a huge effect on your balance so try to stay relaxed with a tight core and keep your focus up and out so that you have a full awareness of your surroundings and this will also make you feel more in control.
Maintaining Body Position & Weight Distribution
The shape of your body when performing a parallel turn can also pose a challenge to new learners.
The position of your body for parallel turns is very static and upright which can take time to adjust to.
Maintaining an optimum body position will help you to get a smooth turn.
Focus on transferring your weight through the body at an angle, also focus on taking the weight off your downhill ski to allow it to tilt, enabling you to turn.
It may seem intimidating trying to remember to hold your body straight but swap your weight between skis as you turn in different directions, but you will get used to the movement, and eventually it will become a very natural thing for you to do.
Always remember to keep your torso upright, this will keep you in control of your turns and your balance while also helping to ensure you keep your body in the best position possible for parallel turns.
There can be a lot going on around you on the slopes and so it is vital that you stay focused on what you are doing.
By losing focus for a moment you could find yourself hurtling down the slope at speed, which can be a danger to others around you while also resulting in potentially awful injuries to your own self.
When people start out learning to ski often they are told to count in their head to help find their flow.
This can be very beneficial when learning how to parallel turn also.
Imagine the movement as a dance, moving your body weight, maintaining your body position, holding your ski poles either lifted by your side or tapping the snow doing pole plants.
Create a checklist in your head to help you remember the order of what you need to do until it becomes as simple as reciting your ABCs.
While skiing is a fantastic and fun sport there are also a lot of focus necessaries, especially when you are starting out.
By staying focused you are also in a position where you can react to situations happening around you, meaning you can protect yourself from any trip hazards, others falling, or racing down the slope.
This is also a great skill to have and largely comes from maintaining focus.
We hope that the above highlights that even though you will of course meet challenges it is important to power through as these challenges are only blips in your learning journey and should not dishearten you or cause you to throw in the towel.
While the above challenges are going to affect a lot of people when starting out with parallel skiing there are also some problems that are common.
Below we take a look at some issues skiers may run into when learning how to parallel turn. We look at the issue and offer solutions that should get you back on track to making a perfect parallel turn.
Issues With Uphill Ski
When learning to ski initially skiers are taught how to turn using a snowplow or wedged turn.
With these turns, your body weight is more evenly distributed and so it can be difficult to learn how to adjust the way your body weight is distributed over your skis for parallel skiing.
When parallel skiing on steep terrain it can take time to adjust to the way your weight should be distributed as naturally you will lean towards the incline to try to prevent yourself from falling, but this will prevent you from being able to complete a parallel turn.
Your focus should be on your downhill ski, try not to get distracted by your uphill ski.
So long as you focus on having your weight on the downhill ski and tilting the edge of your skis your uphill ski should follow suit, and you will be able to complete successful parallel skis in no time.
You may find that you are often lifting one of your skis to make them parallel, but this can cause you to fall over.
Rather than pushing off on a ski, depending on the way you wish to turn, focus on the rolling motion of your knees, gently moving the weight from one ski to the other. This will help to keep your skis parallel naturally.
Make sure your ski boots are tied correctly so that your skis can easily be led by the change in your weight from ski to ski. If your boots are too loose you will struggle to direct your skis using only your body weight.
Taking Too Long To Complete The Turn
As you adjust to parallel skiing you will find that it seems like your turn is taking a long time to complete.
As you get more comfortable with this movement you will find that your turns will become quicker.
Another reason why your turns may be slow is a result of traversing along the slope for too long, which results in friction that naturally slows you down.
Try to go from turn to maintain speed. You will need to build up to this over time.
Alternatively, if you find your turns are very fast then try to spend more time traversing. You will need to match your approach to the issues you are having.
Not committing to the turn is the main reason for skiers falling when parallel skiing.
It can be scary to learn new skills and that is why it is important to begin on easier slopes and to build your skills from there. The steeper the gradient of the slope your body will want to lean into the mountain.
To avoid falling try to focus on putting more weight on the front of your skis and lean forward into the turn.
If you lean backward you will fall back down onto the slope. Take time to work on your balance for parallel skiing to help lower the risk of falling, and you will feel more comfortable leaning forward as you will be able to support yourself.
Beginners can feel very nervous when beginning to learn how to parallel ski.
It may take time to learn, but it is essential to remember that you should only go at your own speed.
There is no set length of time you should learn how to parallel ski and so you should do what feels right for you.
Getting used to the weight distribution, balancing yourself and the technique means you have a lot to be thinking about.
Just ensure that you commit to the learning process and your confidence will grow as your skiing ability develops.
HOW TO MASTER PARALLEL SKIING
We have said it before, and we will say it again, practice is key! Here we outline certain exercises and drills that you can do that will help you to master parallel skiing.
There are two things you can do that will help you to get that lovely S shape when parallel skiing. The first thing is to count to four between your turns.
This will help you to get into a rhythm that will make the motions much simpler.
Your movements should be gradual and don’t panic when your skis are facing downhill.
Have confidence in your turns and the count of four will give you a length of time to focus on for each turn.
Another trick to master your rounded turns is to incorporate in pole plants when you feel ready and confident to do so.
The pole plants act as a roundabout directing your attention in the direction you want to travel in. Be sure to not overextend when pole planting as this could affect your balance.
Body Rotation Exercises
The position of your body is key when parallel skiing. Not only will the position of your body impact your balance, but it will also influence how your weight is distributed. Parallel skiing is fueled by your legs.
The rolling motion through your knees directs the skis and helps you to gently move your weight from ski to ski, with no sudden or rushed movements.
Warming up before hitting the slopes to parallel ski can help to loosen your muscles so that you can focus on making your parallel skiing technique very fluid.
You should perform a number of stretches to loosen up your body before completing a body rotation exercise to avoid pulling any muscles.
To complete the body rotation exercise follow the steps below. This exercise will help to train your muscles to recognize the feeling of parallel skiing.
- Stand up straight on a flat piece of ground and place your feet a hip-width apart.
- Lean slowly to the right and place your weight onto your right foot. Hold this position until your obliques begin to tire.
- Repeat the above steps and rotate your shoulders 30 degrees to the right as you lean. You should notice how much more stable your body feels performing this simple rotation.
- Repeat the above steps on the left-hand side.
The focus of this exercise is to get used to the feeling of the optimum body position for parallel skiing. By doing this before getting on the slopes you will be able to get to grips with parallel skiing in no time!
We understand that there is a lot of information in the above guide, here are the key takeaways to keep in mind when you are on the slopes:
Practice Makes Perfect
If you want to progress your skiing skills you need to be making a conscious effort to practice.
The more effort you put into skiing the quicker you will see results and see visible progress in your skills.
If you are going skiing for the first time it is important that you understand that learning how to ski correctly can take time.
You will need to be on the slope for a few days before you have a good understanding of the basics. There is a lot to think about and on each trip you take you will learn a little more about the wonderful world of skiing.
Build From Basics
Take time to get a solid understanding of the basics of skiing. You should focus first on being comfortable moving on the skis.
We recommend that you do this on the nursery slopes and then build your way up to the beginner slopes.
The next skills that will be needed will be turning using a snowplow, learning how to stop doing a snowplow both on the slope and at the bottom of the slope, and finally, you should be comfortable traversing across the slope between your turns.
Being a good beginner puts you in a fantastic position to move onto wedged turns and then onto parallel turns and hockey stops.
The basics are the backbone of everything and if you don’t take time to learn how to ski properly then you will struggle to progress.
Focus on your stance, turning, and traversing to have a solid base for your skiing progression.
Remember your Stance
Having a good stance will automatically make it easier for you to manage your body weight and keep your balance when on your skis. You don’t have to be on skis to practice your stance.
Try it at home to get used to holding your body in a skier’s stance. This will make it easier to adapt this body position when you are on your skis.
You can make checklists of the key pieces of different techniques and movements that will help you to keep your stance and avoid falling.
For parallel skiing, remember to start with the right stance, focus on the up and over motion, commit to the turn as you are moving down the slope, and move your weight on time. Repeat this checklist in your head for perfect form and turns every time.
Seek Help If Needed
If you are going skiing for the first time it is always worthwhile getting a lesson to get a good understanding of the basics. Unless you are going skiing with someone who is a confident skier that has the ability to teach you then spacing time with a professional ski instructor is a necessity.
Hundreds of thousands of people severely injure themselves and others each year on the slope as a result of setting off without any skiing ability, going straight for the more advanced slopes.
Help is always there if you need it but remember that only you can ask for it.
Pay attention to those around you, you can learn a lot by watching other classes going on and watching the technique of the more advanced skiers.
We hope you can put your new knowledge into practice on the slopes sometime soon. Remember patience and practice are key to becoming a stronger skier.
Go at your own pace when learning new skills and don’t forget to set yourself new challenges so that your skiing skills don’t ever reach a stagnant stage.
Skiing has so much more to offer than just gliding down slopes. Try more difficult slopes when you are ready or begging to learn tricks at the snow park.
Push yourself to be the best skier you can be to make your time in the snow even more enjoyable.
Is It Difficult To Learn How To Ski?
Anytime we put ourselves out there to learn something new we can find things challenging at first. Skiing is no different. At first, it can seem extremely difficult as there is a lot to get to grips with.
If you are going on a ski holiday for the first time don’t expect that you will be traversing down black slopes on day one.
Skiing takes time to master and there are a number of basic skills you need to master before you can comfortably make your way down nursery and beginner slopes.
Getting a professional ski instructor is a great way of learning the right technique from the beginning. By teaching yourself you will pick up a lot of bad habits.
Once you have the basics down you can begin to learn more techniques by yourself as you will have a base of knowledge to build up from.
People of any age can learn how to ski, and it is a wonderful to spend a holiday with friends or family.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Parallel Skiing?
Learning how to parallel ski depends on your previous skiing experience.
If you have been skiing before and have a good base of skills to work from then you could learn how to parallel ski within a week of serious practice and effort.
If you are new to skiing it could take a number of weeks before you master or can attempt parallel skiing.
It is essential that you feel confident on the slopes before you attempt to learn how to parallel turn.
Hiring a professional ski instructor is a great way to speed up the learning process as they will be able to guide you through the process and help to improve your overall standard of skiing.
How So I Slow Down When Parallel Skiing?
If you are parallel turning, and you need to slow down a hockey stop is the best way to stop safely.
A hockey stop can take time to master, and it is worthwhile taking to the beginner slopes in order to learn how to execute this move safely before attempting it on a more advanced slope.
What Is The Difference Between Parallel Skiing And Carving?
Carving is an even more advanced technique than parallel skiing, and it takes a very advanced skier to try it.
Carving enables you to turn solely on the very edge of your ski, traveling at a very high speed.
As a skier becomes more confident with parallel skiing their technique will likely blend into carving, meaning they will spend less time traversing and gliding across the slope and more time traveling on the ski edge, moving from turn to turn, essentially carving their way down the slope in a corkscrew-like shape.