The kick turn – a lost art

By Dan Egan Explore Big Sky Contributor

At my camps and clinics I like to take a quick review of some basic skills. One of them is the “kick turn.” I learned to kick turn in my backyard as a boy, and it was one of the first skills my older brothers drilled into me. Over the years I have used this valuable skill to reverse my direction in a variety of situations.

Unfortunately, many people never learned the kick turn. Your skiing agenda is limited if you don’t have this basic skill. The kick turn allows you to peer over the edge, or around the corner to gather information. It also empowers you to retreat to safer ground, find better snow, and change direction on a dime. This skill is as important as pole planting, edging and stopping.

Kick turns require commitment. Remember: K.I.C.K. your way around with the kick turn.

Kick – Kick your downhill ski up and onto the tail

Inertia – The move is a fluid motion, once you start the kick turn you have to finish it

Commitment – You have to be totally committed to the kick turn or the mountain will reject your effort

Keep – Keep your skis across the hill and stay on your feet, do not lean into the hill or sit. You have to stay on your feet and kick your edges into the snow, then slide down the mountain.

There are three key moves to a good kick turn:

Kick your downhill leg up and forward so the tail of the ski hits the snow by the tip of your uphill ski.

Once the downhill ski is up and vertical, start to rotate your shoulders down the hill and swing your uphill hand down into the fall line, positioning your ski 180 degrees across the hill.

Finish by having your old uphill ski swing instantly with your uphill hand so that it comes 180 degrees across the fall line and becomes the new downhill ski.

You’ll want to practice this move on a slight incline, which will make your movement easier. Become a “switch kicker” by practicing this to the left and right. As you start to progress, increase the incline of your slope and the difficulty of the conditions under your feet. Mastering the kick turn will pay benefits in deep snow, on steep terrain and in the trees, plus it will build your confidence allowing you to go where you want and get there safely.

Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller Ski films and countless others. Today he teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Big Sky, where he’ll be teaching Feb. 26-28, March 5-7 and March 12-14. Find more ski tips from Dan Egan at skiclinics.com/education/skitips.

The art of the kick turn: The first step is to kick your downhill ski up and onto the tail PHOTOS BY DAN EGAN

The art of the kick turn: The first step is to kick your downhill ski up and onto the tail PHOTOS BY DAN EGAN

Move fluidly, once you start the kick turn you have to finish it

Move fluidly, once you start the kick turn you have to finish it

Keep your skis across the hill and stay on your feet

Keep your skis across the hill and stay on your feet