Ski Tips with Dan Egan: Make the first turn best
By Dan Egan EBS COLUMNIST
The conditions this season have been amazing, the mountain is chock-full with snow, making runs that you might have skied by in the past look very inviting. Often the resistance to skiing a new slope, run or glades is the entry. How many times have you thought, “I would like to ski that, but I’m unsure of the entrance and nervous about the first turn.”
And you are right, the first turn of a run sets up the rhythm, confidence, pace and path of any decent. It is the key that unlocks a wide-open powder slope, glades, moguls and chutes. To maximize the benefit of the first turn, focus on your “Angle of Entry” into the arcing turn and you’ll discover how it sets up the rhythm and flow of the rest of the run.
I choose my Angle of Entry into turns based on the pitch of the slope. So on green slopes, my skis ride more direct down the fall line, with blue square trails I aim slightly off the fall line, and black diamonds my skis are halfway between perpendicular and straight down. Up on the big steep faces, depending on the width of the slope, I drop the tips of the skis just from perpendicular to the slope and begin to move into the turn. Seeing these angles will help on several levels, it builds the proper momentum needed to initiate the turn, your body will be moving in the direction of the fall line and more importantly its sets the pace and the path you need to for a successful series of turns.
The mistake many skiers make is traversing into their first turn. This approach does not set up the proper momentum and more importantly requires radical movement into the fall line creating a situation where most skiers over-rotate their skis in an attempt to control speed. This shortens the arc and puts the skier out of balance as they try and redirect their skis 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Remember, like all things, to start on a slope where you are comfortable and build the skill from there.
The Angle of Entry to most turns is in the direction of the fall line. When you move in this direction, you’re in balance. Don’t rush or shorten the arc as you enter the arc of the turn. An arcing ski is a stable ski; shorten the arc, you shorten your stability. There are many advantages to starting your run in this fashion. First, it provides momentum and gets you up to your skiing speed, so it is more natural to start a turn, rather than starting by skiing across the hill. Secondly, by starting in a diagonal direction your skis will have an easier time entering the fall line.
Now stand on top of that powder slope, glades, mogul run or chute you have been eyeing and eager to ski. Look down the fall line, identify deceleration zones, either wide sections, large moguls with long backsides or opening between trees. As your skis enter the fall line stand tall, hands extended, shoulders square to the hills and your eyes down the fall line, not across the hill.
Because you will be entering the arc with the right angle, you’ll want to start to mix up the flow of your turns, from short radius to long radius turns this will add control to your skiing and broaden your decision making as far as where you go and why. Often the slope starts off ideal for medium radius turns, then narrows in the mid-section for shorter turns and finally opens at the bottom for wide-open arcing turns.
Look down the fall line and see yourself arcing turns in a smooth fluid fashion down the slope.
Remember, momentum is your friend. You have the skills necessary to apply specific technique in specific areas of the runs and choosing the angle of entry into turns ski will provide the stability you need to adjust your route, speed and path. Identify the different sections of the trails, sections that call for flowing and slowing. Then within these sections, mentally identify the length of the arc of the turns. Now push off and ski to the predetermined plan, mixing up the length of your arcs, the pace of your turns.