Although Carving is the motivation behind why many skiers learn to ski or, want to improve, most have no idea what distinguishes a carving turn. Its characteristics are a carved turned along the waist of the ski, high edge angle and a leant in body position, in which there are extreme centrifugal forces at work and great momentum arises. Even those who know this definition, have numerous problems in practice in implementing this theoretical knowledge correctly and safely.
Carving requires great skill and a knowledge of one’s own limits. What separates a beginner skier from the perfect carving turn is mostly many hours and days of training, on and off the piste. Con- dition and strength training are just as vital as having overall good athletic fitness.
Ski skills that are required Those who want to learn to carve must firstly consider the general principles of skiing. Only those who can safely navigate their selves on the piste can learn to progress into carving. From the perspective of a ski instructor, and this is something that I am passionate about, I try to convey these basic requirements in the listed order:
1. Middle Position The middle position isn’t only designed to be used while carving, it should always be present while skiing, be it schussing, braking, parallel skiing or ultimately when carving. The middle position is required to keep balanced while skiing. Moreover, it allows the body to be ready to move in all directions as needed, forwards, backwards, to the valley or the mountain. Therefore, the body’s center of gravity must always stay “central” over the skis (neither bent forwards or backwards) and equal pressure over the entire soles of the feet (pressure can neither be exclusively on the forefoot or the heel).
If the skier loses this position (e.g. backseat) and isn’t in a reactive stance, then they will be unable to respond to changes in terrain, such as small bumps, icy patches etc. At slow speeds this is already dangerous, when carving, where you are travelling notably faster and so need to handle situations quicker, this leads to the skiing becoming out of control. This ultimately ends up with the skier falling or leads to other dangerous situations.
Therefore, the middle position must first be mastered before beginning any exercises for carving turns.
2. Outer ski pressure Over the past years it has often been explained that both skis are to be weighted equally, such semi-wisdom has no place in today’s sport. Or as Marcel Hirscher, the most successful skier in history, says so well “the outer ski is the boss”.
Just as by the middle position this knowledge is required for all ski techniques, be it plough turns or carving. The outer ski takes the lead and indicates the direction. Of course, the inner ski still carries some of the weight. From a balance point of view this gives the ride more stability and allows for a better reaction to unanticipated situations. This can, for example, prevent slipping out on an icy patch.
3. Line choice At first glance choosing the right line doesn’t seem overly difficult, however it requires lots of practice and a trained eye. Everyone knows the feeling; when following a professional skier and staying in their chosen line, the turns and carving come much easier than it would alone. Important is the choice of the correct line and the turn radius, this enables uniform and rhythmic turns and so allows for easier speed control. Ideally the line should resemble a giant slalom course.
Very dangerous, but still often seen on pistes, is carving across the whole slope, from piste edge to piste edge. This manner of skiing is generally from amongst those with little experience of carving and have faith in this to control their speed. Drifting at the start of the turn however is generally a better option, and also minimises danger to other piste users. Finally, it is also important to stick to the chosen line and not to arbitrarily change it. The unanticipated direction or radius changes can lead to dangerous situations for other piste users.
4. Equipment Alongside improving your own technique, buying suitable equipment for carving is also an important step. Equipment is continually improved on and adapted to the needs of the skier: At the beginning of the carving era mainly shorter, highly waisted, “aggressive” skis were manufactured. These have the disadvantage that they can be difficult to control. Moreover, you can accumulate such high forces that you “highside”, which I’m sure everyone has at least seen happen if not experienced; at the end of the turn the skier can no longer control the forces and the ski burrows in. Today we suggest the use of longer skis with little waist. Due to the length, the forces spread across the ski enable also those who are not so experienced to control the ski. This reduces the number of mistakes made and so notably increases the enjoyment for the skier.
The choice of the correct ski is often difficult due to the diversity of the numerous ski models. There are allround carving skis for all types of skiing and abilities etc., add to that, the many recreational skiers who which to have the model that their adored pro uses. In any case the most important thing is the professional advice given to find the right ski for the skier. Race skiers have different needs to a skier who wish to comfortably carve their way down the piste. And those who may wish to carve but also often ride in the power snow will need another type of ski again.
Look to the boots Despite the best advice and the optimal skis, the carving turns may still not be as desired. This could simply be because the ski boots don’t fit correctly. It is often the case that skiers place more value on the rest of the material. New items are bought as soon as the latest model is available, in most cases at the start of every season. If the boots however don’t fit and the foot “swims inside”, even the best ski cannot be controlled correctly. An optimally fitting boot is therefore at least as important for the perfect carving turn as the ski itself. If you have managed to find a well-fitting boot they can be worn for multiple seasons.
If you are not so sure how the boot fits, or how it should fit, it is best to get it checked by someone in a ski shop. Alternatively, you can easily check the fit at home by asking the following:
1. The most important question is, “Am I swimming in my ski boot or does it sit well?” Important here is for it to hold the heel well.
2. Decisive for carving turns is, with closed ski boots, how far forward can the knee be pushed so that it is no longer directly over the ankle (Knee forward). With comfortable ski boots, which are in a more “upright” position, it’s more difficult than with sportier boots, which are manufactured with the necessary forward lean.
3. Lastly, the numerous fitting and setting possibilities of the boots need to be checked. If these are chosen correctly and they fit properly, the skier’s position can be noticeably improved.
In summation; carving can seem difficult and theoretical in text- books, but as with any sport, carving turns can be learnt by anyone with enough practice. Once the technique has been mastered, there is no other feeling in the world that can compare to carving in the sunshine down a freshly prepared piste.