Ski Carving For Beginners: 5 Actionable Tips

Learning to ski carve is something that every skier should eventually learn. It’s a great way to take your skiing to the next level and really get the most out of your time on the mountain. However, most skiers don’t learn how, due to the perceived difficulty of carving.

5 actionable ski carving tips for beginners are:

  1. Practice on a lower-level slope
  2. Lean into your boot
  3. Take a wide stance
  4. Make slow, controlled movements
  5. Be patient

So where does a beginner start? Many beginners struggle because they are missing key basics, but it’s not as complicated as it might first seem. Below, we discuss some tips and tricks a ski carving beginner can use to help excel at this advanced technique.

What Is Carving In Skiing?

Carving in skiing is a technique that involves using the edges of your skis to cut into the snow as you turn. It is considered to be an advanced skill that you will often see ski racers using when they are going down a run. Carving can be less physically tiring, and it can offer more control.

By getting on the edge of the ski, the skier uses the shape of their ski to turn allowing for a more natural movement. Once upon a time skis were designed to have straight sides, but nowadays you might have noticed that skis generally have a curved shape. This is what gives carving its shape and why some modern skis are referred to as carving skis.

Why Should You Learn To Carve?

There are several great benefits to knowing how to carve. The first is that it is less tiring. It is no secret that skiing can be exhausting, and if you want to make the most of your Après ski time, learn to let your ski do most of the work!

Another benefit to learning how to carve is that it is more controlled than letting your skis skid around the turn. By digging your edge in as you turn you are giving yourself a solid base, which will improve your overall balance, which can be very beneficial on more difficult terrain. This control will also help you maintain your speed while you are cruising down a slope.

Can You Carve With Beginner Skis?

You can carve with beginner skis. Beginner skis are designed to help learners gain the basic skills and techniques to progress in their skiing journey. However, there are several facts to consider when selecting your ski, and some beginner skis won’t be as ideal for carving as more advanced skis.

If you want to really focus your technique, a beginner ski will do the job for you as the motions you need to learn will be exactly the same as on an advanced ski. The one thing you might want to change is to increase your din strength to avoid any accidental ejections brought on by the change in position.

However, there are some advantages to using an intermediate ski. A beginner ski is generally shaped as a catchall to help a new skier learn the basics. An intermediate ski on the other hand has been designed with the assumption that the skier has skied a few times before. Some even have skis specifically shaped for carving.

When To Choose An Advanced Ski

If you are a confident or aggressive skier you might find it beneficial to go for an intermediate ski. The same logic applies if you want to spend most of your time on advanced slopes.

If you are unsure, a great option is to rent skis. Most rental shops will offer skis that cater to plenty of ability levels without the commitment of buying them. In fact, if you do want to buy your own pair of skis, a lot of resort stores will offer demos of different skis so you can try them before you buy, so you can make sure you get a pair you are comfortable using.

5 Ski Carving Tips For Beginners

1. Practice On A Lower-Level Slope

The first and most important tip when beginning your carving journey is to practice on a lower-level slope, a green or blue. This is to give you a great foundation to help you really feel the movements that you are going to have to make before you take it to a steeper slope. In fact, if a slope is too steep, it can stop you from being able to carve altogether.

2. Lean Into Your Boot

Try imagining you are trying to crush a grape between your shin and boot. Leaning down the slope can be a little scary and it can be tempting to sit towards the back of your skis. However, by making sure that you are leaning into your boot you will increase your control and help you really use the shape of your ski.

3. Take A Wide Stance

Give yourself a wide stance. It might be enticing to let your skis sit close together, and that was in fact the traditional way to do it. However, with improvements in ski shapes, it is no longer a requirement. Ideally, you want your skis to be hip or shoulder width apart to give yourself a good foundation and balance as you turn.

4. Make Slow, Controlled Movements

It might be tempting to try and rush your movements and give yourself some power when you are making your turns, but more often than not this can hinder your progress. When you are practicing your carving think about what each part of your body is supposed to do and really reinforce the muscle memory of the action. 

5. Be Patient

This might be the most important tip, but carving isn’t easy. In fact, many skiers cannot do it even with years of experience. There are a lot more moving parts compared to the basics and it’s okay if you don’t get it right away. There is a reason people say that skiing is easy to learn and hard to master!

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed it’s okay to take it easy. At the end of the day, if you are skiing, it’s because it’s fun. Don’t let it ski carving stress you out.

How To Practice Ski Carving For Beginners 

As mentioned before, the best place to practice ski carving is on a green slope. As some of the motions are different from what you might be familiar with, there are some basics that you can bear in mind to help break down ski carving into manageable chunks. 

Finding The Right Position

When learning to carve, getting your body into a good position is key. A good way to find this position is, with your feet hip width apart, imagine there is a piece of string attached to your head holding you upright. Next, release the string and let your legs relax, with your shins pressing into the front of the boot. 

Finding Your Edges

Once you have mastered standing still it will be a good idea to practice getting onto the edges of your skis. The best way to do this is to practice crossing the slope while on your edges. Ideally, your knees will be leaning up the slope while your torso will be leaning downhill. If you find your skis sliding downhill as you do this, try and increase the angle your edge is digging into the slope.

Getting Onto The Outside Ski

The next step in practicing carving is to get comfortable with putting your weight on your outside ski. It is this action that will initiate your turn. A great drill to become familiar with this is to lift your inside ski as you travel across the slope to get a feel for the weight change. If you find it difficult to keep your ski up, try stamping it up and down as you move.

Trying A Turn

When you are comfortable using your edges and shifting your weight on the outside ski, it is time to start turning. A good drill for this is to perform some J-turns. This activity will help you practice turning one side at a time so you can really feel the motions. 

To do this you are going to go straight down a gentle slope and try to make a J shape with your turn. To start, keep your skis straight as you go down, then when you want to start your turn focus on placing your weight on the ski which will be downhill when the turn is complete. For example, if you are turning left your weight will be on your right ski.

The next step is to turn your ankles and knees in the direction you want to turn so that your skis will start to go on their edges, think about how your ankles were when traveling across the slope on your edges. This will initiate the turn. 

The skis will do the work so just make sure you are standing in the proper position with your shins pressing into your boots. Once you have completed the turn, release the pressure and return to your starting stance. 

You are going to want to practice this a couple of times on each side before trying to link the turns together. Don’t worry if you find it easier on one side than the other as we all have a weak and a strong side.

Upper Body Position

When learning the basics of carving there are a couple of drills you can practice without getting your edge on the slope.

Ideally, when you are doing any skiing it is best to keep your upper body facing downhill. A good way to practice this is a waiter drill. To do this all you need to do is balance your poles on your arms like a serving tray that you are bringing to someone at the bottom of the slope. The tricky part is making sure that the “tray” is always facing the person you are bringing it to.

Alternatively, you can try to frame the bottom of the slope with your ski poles. The aim is to keep the view in your frame. You can complete both these drills while completing normal parallel or even wedge turns to save yourself thinking about an extra step while ski carving.

Gaining Confidence

Another area that a lot of beginners struggle with is not trusting the edge to do the turn. A great way to get a feel for this is to point your skis at an angle downhill while getting fully on the edge of your skis. As long as you are in the right position your ski should curve slightly uphill, preventing you from picking up too much speed.

Common Beginner Ski Carving Mistakes

Turning With Your Feet

When learning to turn in a wedge turn, you would have been taught to start the turn by pointing your feet in the direction that you want to travel. This is because your skis are flat on the snow and will be maneuvered easily that way.

However, if you try to turn this way while carving, you will catch the edge of your ski and end up falling. This can be avoided by trusting your skis to do the work and leading with your ankles.

Leading With Your Upper Body

When you are starting any turn when skiing, you want to initiate it from the ground up. It can be tempting to try and start a turn with your torso or hips because it feels more powerful. This can cause you to get off your edges and skid out at the end of your turn. To fix this, concentrate on having your torso always trying to be facing down the slope.

Leaning Back

A common mistake many skiers make is sitting on the back of their skis while turning. This can alter the distribution of weight on your ski and ruin your balance. Remember to keep your shin pressed against your boot.

Underestimating Your Edge

It can be tempting to keep your skis flat as you turn, but this can cause you to skid at the end of your turn. You don’t need to have an extreme angle on how much you put your edge into the slope, but it is important that you are letting the ski do the work.

Overestimating Your Edge

It can be very easy to take your edging skills too far in the other direction. Yes, there are circumstances where you need to dig your edge in, such as if you’re on a steep slope. But unless you are racing, you only really need to engage your edge a small amount. Nine times out of ten, less is more.

Going Too Slowly

I know we said before that you need to make slow controlled movements, but when it comes to initiating a turn it can be easier if you have built up a bit of speed. Think of it like riding a bike – if you are going too slowly it is easy tolose balanceand fall over. You don’t want to be a speed demon when you are practicing, but you also don’t want to be crawling!

Final Thoughts

In summary, learning to carve isn’t going to be something you can accomplish overnight, and there is a reason it is considered to be an advanced technique. But if you focus on mastering your body positioning and give these tips a go, it can make the process a lot faster and really take your ability to the next level and help open up the mountain while you are on your next ski trip.