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One of the biggest challenges faced by beginners on the slopes is making the transition from snowplough to parallel skiing. Leaving behind the safety of stem turning can be pretty daunting, and it can take time to build up the courage to take the plunge, although sooner or later everybody has to learn how to do this if they want to be a proper skier.
While it may be scary, the best way to progress is to try and move on to parallel turns as early as possible, as this will ensure you don’t get too used to snowplough. As soon as you’re comfortable with your ‘pizza slice’ turns, start making your V-shape smaller, and before you know it you’ll be ready to start learning the parallel technique.
In this guide, we’ll take you through the basics of learning how to parallel turn.
The basic premise of parallel turning is that both skis should remain straight and at a fixed distance apart throughout all phases of the turn. What this means is that for a brief moment they will both be pointing directly downhill – meaning you will have to go through the fall line – which is why this type of turn is so much trickier for beginners than snowplough.
In order to control this, you want to make sure the time spent facing downhill is kept to a minimum, so speed is an important factor when parallel turning. Complete the manoeuvre too slowly and you’ll end up spending too long passing through the fall line and hurtling straight down the mountain.
Essentially, it’s all about shifting your weight from one ski to the other, while making sure the same edge of both skis is cutting into the snow. As you begin the turn, you should be balanced on your downhill ski, before spreading your weight evenly across both skis as you pass through the fall line, and then shifting onto the downhill ski once more (the one that was your uphill ski before you started the turn) to complete the manoeuvre and continue traversing the slope.
How to practise
Naturally, it will take time to perfect this technique, which is why it’s important to practise on a gentle slope before attempting to tackle anything too steep. Greens and blues are great for testing out your parallel turns, and a wide run will give you more room to manoeuvre than a narrow one.
So, if you’re a beginner it’s a good idea to choose a location with plenty of green and blue runs for your next ski trip, and stay away from those blacks until you’ve got parallel turns licked.
Mistakes to avoid
As previously mentioned, completing a parallel turn too slowly will make it much harder to control, so one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to approach the move half-heartedly. Speed and momentum are the things that will pull you through the turn, and many beginners find it difficult to find the courage to attempt this kind of move with the necessary velocity. Being scared is therefore a real hindrance and will hold you back – you have to really commit and just go for it!
Another error many beginners make is to keep their weight shifted too far towards the back of their skis – particularly as they pass through the fall line. To complete a parallel turn, your momentum needs to be in a forwards direction, although it often seems natural to try and slow yourself down by leaning back. However, this will make it much harder to balance, and once you’ve got over that mental barrier of not wanting to travel at speed you’ll find parallel turning much easier.