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How To Ski Backwards (The Ultimate Guide)

If you plan on becoming an expert skier, skiing backward, or switch, is an essential skill to learn. It’s necessary for mastering certain tricks and will make you a more versatile skier in general. However, it can be hard and even dangerous to learn how to ski backwards.

The 6 steps for skiing backwards are:

  1. Start from a stationary position
  2. Bend your knees
  3. Keep your arms in front
  4. Go once and then stop
  5. Keep it slow
  6. Look over both shoulders

Skiing backwards can open the door to feeling more comfortable and more in control on the slopes, but there is a lot to keep in mind when you’re still learning. Below you will find tips and tricks to find the safest way to perfect your form without taking on any bad habits. 

Safety Considerations Of Skiing Backwards

Before you point your skis backward down the ski hill, you must ensure your safety and the safety of others. First things first, get yourself a helmet and a set of twin-tip skis. Twin-tip skis are skis that curve up at the tip and the tail. They mirror each other, so whether riding regular or switch, they ride similarly.

Ski manufacturers make twin-tip skis in every style, from racing skis to powder skis, so they should be easy to find. It is possible to ride switch on directional skis, but I don’t recommend learning on them as it can be much harder to get used to.

Using Shorter Skis

Learning on a shorter pair of skis is also helpful as they are less likely to cross and get tangled up. Someone I know even started learning on ski blades (the shortest skis you will find). Once outfitted in the proper gear, the next step to teaching yourself to ski backward is to head to the bunny slope, preferably a wide-open one.

You will have a blind spot while skiing backward, so it is best to make your first attempts away from other skiers when you are learning. Even as your skills progress, it is always good to remember where your blind spots are and to be aware of your surroundings. Just remember to go super slow when beginning to learn.  

6 Steps For Skiing Backwards

1. Start From A Stationary Position

Once you have secured the appropriate skis and found yourself a safe spot on the bunny slope, I recommend starting from a completely stationary position. Keep your skis parallel to each other with your feet shoulder-width distance apart. Keep your weight centered right over your skis.

2. Bend Your Knees

As gravity starts to pull you down the slope, bend your knees considerably, hinging slightly forward at your torso. Stagger your right ski back. This will open your hips so you can more easily look over your right shoulder.

3. Keep Your Arms In Front

Keep your arms in front of you and try to keep them from flailing around. The more they move around, the more they will affect your carve. Keeping your knees in line with your ankles, roll your knees over your right inside edge. This will cause you to turn towards skier’s right.

Keep looking over your right shoulder but slightly stagger your left foot back and roll your knees over your left inside edge to turn back towards skier’s left. This is how you start to make slow and small backward turns.

4. Go Once And Then Stop

What helped me the most was gaining a small amount of speed, carving once, and coming to a complete stop. This is an excellent way to hone your edge skills before trying to travel down the run. Just remember that body positioning is everything, and your lower body will follow your upper body.

5. Keep It Slow

Keep your speed to a minimum until you feel confident and in control. Mastering these turns while keeping your head over the same shoulder is excellent practice for heading into jumps, but only using one shoulder can develop into a bad habit. 

6. Look Over Both Shoulders

When you feel comfortable making these small turns, you can start switching the shoulder you are looking over when you switch from right to left turns. As you complete a turn from skier’s right and begin to stagger your left foot back, turn your head to look over your left shoulder.

Be aware that when you switch shoulders, you create a more significant blind spot for yourself. Ensure you know who is around you and if any other skiers make their way into your blind spot.  

Common Mistakes

If you have followed these step-by-step directions and are still having trouble, you could be making a simple mistake. Below are several common mistakes to avoid that will create good habits. Probably the most common is not getting low enough. If you stand up too tall, you will make it much harder to look over your shoulder.

Adjusting your height will affect the width of your turns, so if your turns feel like they are going too wide, you might need a deeper bend in your knees. A lot of people confuse bending their knees with leaning forward. In the heat of the moment, sometimes hinging forward feels like bending your knees but shifting your weight too far forward will cause your skis to wash out behind you.

Using Both Inside Edges

Another common mistake is using both the inside edges to slow down. This is when you let your skis form a “V” behind you, regularly referred to as a “backward pizza” or a “backward snowplow.” Instead of your knees rolling over the proper edges, a backward pizza would cause both your knees to knock together, locking you on your inside edges and losing your ability to carve fluidly.

It is tough to switch to an outside edge once you already lock on the two inside edges. It can be a little scary to use your momentum to turn onto the correct edges, but this commitment will make you more successful. If you get scared and decide to backward pizza, you set yourself up to have your skis cross, which quickly leads to disaster and, most likely, injury.

Keep Them Flat And Straight

One of the most remarkable pieces of advice I received was to keep both skis flat and straight down the ski slope’s fall line before rolling the knees to start your turn. Your right knee rolls first when you want to go right, and the left knee rolls first when you want to go left.  

Benefits of Skiing Backwards

Once you learn how to carve backwards, the benefits are endless. New spin tricks are the most attractive benefit of your newfound skills because you have already learned the basics of a 180. Now you can combine the turn of a backward carve with the pop of a jump and fluidly go from forward skiing to backward skiing.

Then, the next step is to take these skills to the mini-park and hit a jump from a forward stance, spin 180 degrees, and land switch. Start on small jumps and work your way up. Once you’ve mastered landing switch, you can start trying a switch take-off.

The Switch Take-Off

Keep your head over one shoulder as you make a few small turns before hitting the jump. Act like you are about to make a backward carve and then continue your spin in midair before landing forward.

Another benefit of skiing switch is using it to get you out of sticky situations. Sometimes you can find yourself in tight trees or on top of a cliff you didn’t see coming. The only way out of these situations is to ski backward to safety.

Handy For Teaching Others

I recommend skiing on groomers until you have become an expert at skiing backward. If you are trying to teach your kids to ski from a young age, skiing backward will allow you to face your child to prevent faceplants that would otherwise scare your child away from the sport!

Final Thoughts 

Learning the proper way toride switch will exponentially expand your skills as a skier. Deeply bending your knees with your weight centered over your skis will allow you to look over your shoulder and initiate your backward turn while still looking where you’re going.

Staying on the inside edge of your leading leg and the outside edge of your following leg will give you the most edge control and speed control. Give yourself plenty of space when learning and follow the steps above to prevent bad habits like crossing your skis or leaning too far forward. Once you have mastered this skill, you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you progress as a skier!