Martin Bell’s Expert Advice: Part 3 - Carving Turns

Martin Bell’s Expert Advice: Part 3 - Carving Turns

By Martin Bell

We've been working with former Ski Olympian Martin Bell for over 15 years and he created our unique PB Martin Bell Ski Academy, which runs every year in Zermatt and, from this winter, in Arosa too for children, aged 11 to 15. In this series of blog posts, Martin shares his extensive knowledge and valuable expertise. This is the third post of the series, in which Martin gives us his expert advice on perfecting the technique of carving on ice and hard snow.

Carving turns on ice and hard snow

Natural snow that falls from the sky is soft and fluffy but it doesn't stay that way forever. In ski resorts, groomers or "piste bashers" flatten the fresh snow to a firmer surface. In addition, sun and warm temperatures melt the snow, increasing the water content. Overnight, that water can freeze, creating snow that has a hard, icy surface.

When you're making turns on hard snow, the main part of your ski that is in contact with the snow is the edge. Hopefully, you'll have had those edges sharpened recently.  If you want your skis to grip on hard snow, you need to have them tipped over, so that their edges bite into the ice; and you need to be exerting downward pressure on to those edges.

When you're going around a turn, it is safest to have most of your pressure on your outside ski, i.e. your right ski if you're turning to the left, and vice versa. The reason for this is simple: with most of your weight over your outside ski, if that ski skids out from under you, you'll have your inside ski to save you. On the other hand, if you habitually have most of your weight over your inside ski, and it happens to skid out, then you're doomed to falling on to your inside hip ("hipping out"). You need to tip your skis over, while keeping pressure on your outside ski.  The only way to do that is by curving your body into the shape formed by the letter 'C'. This is often called "angulation" because it requires creating angles at your knees and hips. It is also sometimes called "separation", because the upper and lower halves of your body need to move in separate directions.

Perhaps the most common fault amongst all skiers is that they try to edge their skis by tipping their whole body inwards, in a straight line. Doing this gets your skis on their edges very quickly but tends to put the weight on to the inside rather than the outside ski, so is inherently unstable.As you start to lean your shoulders outwards, to keep your weight over your outside ski, you'll find that this movement becomes easier if you turn your shoulders slightly outwards, to face the outside of the turn. Doing this means that if you just bend slightly forward at the hips, and round out your back so that your shoulders move forward, you'll automatically move more weight over the outside ski. In fact, you'll find it easiest if the whole inside half of your body - your inside foot (i.e. your left foot if you're turning to the left), inside hip, inside shoulder and inside hand - are all ahead of their outside counterparts. This principle is called "countering" because it involves turning your shoulders counter to the direction that your skis are turning.

Once you can edge and pressure your outside ski, you're ready to learn to turn by "carving". Instead of turning your feet to turn your skis, you can just tip your skis up on to their edges, and let the sidecut (the curved shape of the edge) take you around a turn in a long arc. This is a very stable, predictable way to handle ice, because it allows your ski's edge to slice forwards through the ice, rather than scraping sideways across it.Once you can carve, you'll be able to glide smoothly around your turns, which is not only a fun sensation, but also the fastest way to make turns if you ever want to take on a race course.

For more information on the PB Martin Bell Academy, click here or call 020 8246 5300.

Read our other blogs from Martin using the links below:

Part 1: Ski Equipment

Part 2: Ski Fitness

Part 4: Conquering Bumps

Part 5: Piste Skiing

Part 6: Racing

Part 7: The mental game of skiing