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Ski Tips with Dan Egan: Lean forward

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The most used overused saying in ski instruction is, “lean forward and pressure the front of your boots.” Even though this phrase is used by most ski instructors and coaches, many skiers sit back with more pressure over the tails of their skis rather than pressure on the tips of the skis.

First let’s look at the three major sections of a ski.

  1. Tip: front end of the ski to 3 or 4 inches in front of the toe piece.
  2. Mid-section: 3 to 4 inches in front of the toe binding toe piece to 3 to 4 inches behind the heel piece.
  3. Tail: 3 to 4 inches in behind the tail piece to the end of the ski.

When we pressure the tip of the ski, several things are accomplished, it flexes the front section of the ski, and this flexes the tip which initiates the turn. This is critical part of controlling speed.

Dan Egan driving the tips on the steeps. PHOTO BY RUMBLE PRODUCTIONS

If you only pressure the mid-section of a ski without bending the tip, the ski is tends to scoot forward and instantly the pressure hits the tail—pressuring the tail is pure acceleration and the combination of these two things moves your foot in front of your hip. And you lose control.

Skiers who “sit back” generally pivot their skis to turn, by twisting their feet, rather than carve turns. When your hips, hands and shoulders are aft of your feet you have few options for turning. You throw your hips into the turn and/or pivot your feet.

Returning to the “Lean forward” concept, many people bend their knees by first sinking their hip down and pushing the knee forward—in other words they sit. This bends the knees but moves the hip back or aft of center resulting with very little pressure on the tongue of their boots and their hip aft of their feet.

The compensating body motion to counter this stance is shoulder forward, however this makes you bend at the waist and puts the hips further back. When we break at the waist, we lose core strength in our midsection. Once the core is broken the strain is on the lower back and too much strain on the thigh. This is not only inefficient, but also exhausting.

Dan Egan gets forward in the bumps. PHOTO BY RUMBLE PRODUCTIONS

So, what is the solution? It is simple, stand up and move your hips over your feet during the transition of the turn. While reaching forward into the new pole plant with the downhill hand, shift your shoulder forward and down the hill and tighten your core as you tip your skis into the new turn. This will load up the tip of the ski and initiate the new turn with tip pressure and the result will be a carving ski with an even flow of snow from tip to tail.  

Now let’s talk about ski boots. Boots are designed with varying degrees of stiffness, referred to as the flex rating. Boots are constructed with a flex rating ranging from 60 to 140 and on average most boots fall within an 80 to 130.

There is no industry standard between brands, so a 130 flex in one brand could be 120 or less in another.  And the other varying part of a boot designing is cuff angle. Cuff angle is the forward lean of a boot and manufactures have models of ski boots with different forward ankle. The trend lately has been to straighten cuff angles: in this case the knee is not over the toes.

Because of the stiffness of boots, there is only so far the knee can actually move forward.  

So, with this limitation how can we get further forward to create the desired tip pressure required for a turning ski? Simple: we create angles, starting with flexing the ankle and driving it to the inside of the turn. This is complemented by moving the hip forward while angling the knee into the hill.

The result in forward pressure at the top of the turn. As we move through the turn, yes, the hips will sink low, the feet will move forward as the ski accelerates. But by moving forward and standing up in the transition of the turn you can realign your body over your feet for the next turn. And just like that you will be leaning forward.

Dan Egan getting tip pressure in the powder. PHOTO BY DEGAN MEDIA

Extreme Skiing Pioneer, Dan Egan coaches and guides at Big Sky Resort during the winter. His 2022/23 steeps camps at Big Sky Resort run March 1-3, and March 8-10. His book, “Thirty Years in a White Haze” was released 2021 and his newest book, “All-Terrain Skiing II” was released this November and comes with a free app which you can download from Google and Apple App Stores. His books and worldwide ski camps are available at

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