How To Parallel Ski (Guide To The Perfect Skiing Technique)

James Shaffer
By James Shaffer
Last updated on April 15, 2021
Table of Contents

Whether you're a skiing enthusiast or you want to know how to parallel ski for beginners, you may be hesitant to attempt the parallel ski turns. Sure, the move looks cool, but it also seems pretty complicated. As a sport that primarily takes place on mountains and in the most extreme seasons, taking risks can be an accident waiting to happen. 

With our tips, we hope to give you the tools to start parallel skiing without the risk of hurting yourself or your fellow skiers.

What Is Parallel Skiing?

Before we get into the "how," we should probably start with the "what." So what exactly is parallel skiing? Beginning skiers will be familiar with the "wedge" shape—the position you keep your skis in, with the front tips of your skis pointed towards each other. 

Parallel skiing is a style of skiing where your skis are running parallel to each other when you are making turns rather than pointed towards each other.

Skin turn techniques are a more refined style than the wedge method. Once you've mastered the wedge shape and feel comfortable advancing to the next step, you can start learning how to do ski turning.

How To Parallel Ski

As for learning how to parallel ski, there are several moves you need to master that will help you get to the point where you can perform a parallel turn. Let's break it down.

1. Narrow The Wedge

parallel ski instruction guide animated gif - narrow your wedge

As we mentioned above, the "wedge" refers to the shape your skis are in while you are skiing naturally. To get to a point where your skis are running parallel, you will have to begin narrowing the width of the wedge that you keep your skis in. 

You can do this by standing so that your legs aren't as far apart and turning your heels closer together so that they aren't angled in opposite directions. 

Practice widening and narrowing the wedge between your skis so that you can get used to the footwork involved with this move. Remember: you don't have to attempt a parallel turn immediately. Work on narrowing the gap between the back of your skis a little bit at a time and work your way up to parallel skiing. There is no rush or need to get the moves right on your first try. Practice makes perfect!

2. Turn With Your Legs

parallel ski instruction guide animated gif- turn with your legs

The following is a move that will take a bit of time to get down, as it's the opposite of the way you'd move naturally. When you turn on skis, make sure that your legs do the bulk of the turning as opposed to your torso.

When you're standing or walking, we generally turn with either just our torso (to look) or our whole body (to move or reorient). When you're skiing, if you start your turn with the upper half of your body and allow your lower half to follow, by the time your legs and feet are engaged in the turning process, the turn is half over. 

Skiing is all about your leg and footwork, so your movements should be focused on the lower half of your body.

Starting the turn with your legs allows your feet—and by association, your skis—to follow through sooner, making for a cleaner and more controlled turn. Allowing your legs to lead your turns will also help you control your weight and your center of gravity while you are skiing.

Practice turning without moving your upper body. Make a note of how that feels and the impact it has on your turns.

3. Flatten Your Skis

When you are turning using the wedge method, the edge of one (or both) of your skis will dig into the snow, causing your skis to drag through the snow as you turn. The drag that you experience from your skis slicing through the snow is what gives this turning style the moniker "the snowplow method."

Having your skis angled towards the ground will make it harder for you to turn your feet and adjust the position of your skis, making it difficult for you to "narrow the wedge." Ensuring that your skis are flat to the ground will help you control your skis and limit the amount of drag you experienced as you are turning.

Practice shifting and adjusting your footing and the position of your skis while you are on flat ground. This will help you get used to the way you need to orient your skis while moving. 

A lot of skiing is about instinct and muscle memory—how can you rely on the memory of muscles you haven't trained? As you practice and experiment, your foot positioning will become second nature, and you won't need to focus on what your feet and skis are doing as much.

4. Shifting Your Weight

Once you've mastered the concept of turning with your legs, it's time to focus on where you are holding your weight. When you are skiing straight, you want to make sure your weight is evenly distributed between both skis to throw off your center of gravity and keep your forward momentum. 

When it's time to turn, you will need to shift your weight to accommodate the position's change. As you turn, you will want to focus your weight on foot on the outside—for example; if you're turning to the left, you'll want to focus your weight on your right ski. Shifting your weight not only controls the direction of the turn but allows you the ability to quickly move one of your skis so that it is parallel to the other.

Putting it All Together

Alright, so now that you've got the individual concepts down, it's time to put them together.

When you are skiing straight, your skis will be in wedge formation. Flatten your skis so that the edges are not angled towards the snow. With your flattened skis, begin to narrow the wedge so that you can pull your skis towards the parallel position. 

Turn with your legs and shift your weight to your outside leg to begin your turn, making sure to continue adjusting your weight as you finish the turn and return to the straight position.

Further Reading

Now that we've gone over the basics in parallel skiing, you may still need help visualizing how to put these tips into action. 

The above video by Stomp It Tutorials goes in-depth on the mechanics involved in parallel skiing. The instructor's tip to practice the "bow-tie" movement with and without your skis on before attempting to parallel ski is an excellent piece of information to help get you ready to tackle the move.

For further information, you can also look at some of our other skiing articles, including safety tips, ski and boot recommendations, and the ever-debated topic of skiing versus snowboarding.

Parallel Skiing: In Conclusion

two women practicing parallel skiing technique

Parallel skiing looks a lot harder than it is. Once you've mastered the basic concepts that make up the parallel turn, it will be smooth sailing. You can always experiment with pulling your skis towards a parallel position at different points in your turns while getting used to the footwork and weight shifting you need to complete the moves correctly. 

As always, take your time while you're learning to ensure you fully understand how to safely and effectively complete the actions that you are attempting. And remember to have fun above all else!

James Shaffer

James Shaffer

James is a veteran snowboarder and skier. His passion for snow sport dates back to his early life growing up in Colorado. He spent his early adulthood as a ski instructor around popular locations in Europe but is now back in Colorado.
Published April 15, 2021
Last updated April 15, 2021
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