Let It Slide: Side Slip and Pivot Drills

Laying down long hard arcs is great, but sometimes it's good to have something else in your toolkit. There's nothing like the sideslip for getting out of trouble.

According to The Professional Ski Instructors of America, otherwise known as PSIA, edging, pressure, rotary and balance are the four basic ski skills. However, since the advent of the shaped ski, which facilitated carving technique, many ski students believe that carving is the Holy Grail of the sport. As such, they spend most of their time practicing edge and pressure drills, and little time focusing on rotary.

This is actually understandable. After all, we spend so much time trying to break the habit of twisting the ski, that when we finally learn to carve, we'll be damned if we ever go back to skidding! However, believe it or not, there are some occasions where you actually need rotary skills. In fact, there are also occasions where carving is not appropriate. Even when you carve, there is a transitional phase where both skis should be flat. Some skiers miss this phase, and end up jerking the ski from edge to edge, which can result is a loss of balance. Learning to trust the flat ski can be helpful in a variety of circumstances, such as moguls and steep terrain.

The Side Slip: Savior of Skiers

While we all know that we are supposed to ski within our ability level, sometimes we either overestimate ourselves or we accidentally end up where we don't belong, with literally nowhere else to turn. That's where the side slip can come in handy. The side slip is your get out of jail free card. In fact, it's amazing that many schools wait till students are at the intermediate level before they teach this helpful skill. Instead, some instructors teach a traverse, with a wedge turn to change directions. There are a number of reasons why this is a bad idea:

  1. On a crowded slope, the skier becomes a duck in a shooting gallery
  2. It teaches defensive skiing. As the student traverses the slope, he or she is terrified of going into the trees, or worse, off a cliff. As such, they ski "with the brakes on," which is a hard habit to break.
  3. If you begin a steep slope by performing a traverse, every turn becomes your first turn.

Sideslipping Starts at Home

You can learn the motor memory required for the side slip in the privacy of your own home. Begin by standing sideways, as if you were traversing a ski slope. Start by facing left, which means that your right arm and leg will be on the "downhill" side. Turn your upper body to the right, and extend your arms forwards, as if you were holding ski poles. Roll your ankles, so that you are standing on the little toe of your left foot and the big toe of your right foot. Then, simply flatten both feet. Try this about 10 times in each direction.

While this is pretty easy to do on your living room floor, it's a bit more challenging on the slopes. If you are not correctly aligned on your skis, either your tips will slide forwards, or your tails will slide downhill.