How to Downhill Ski and Slow Down

No athletes in the world move faster on the ground than skiers.
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Downhill skiing is a beautiful sport to watch and thrilling to do. Part of the challenge of downhill skiing is conditions can vary to extremes. Some sunny days you ski slushy, soft, corn snow. Other days you ski in blinding, blizzard conditions in 30 inches of fresh powder. Despite the variables, the constant is what you do with your head, hands and hips. Your head determines what your shoulders do, shoulders control hips, hips move knees, knees position your feet and your feet point your skis. Slowing down on downhill skis a matter of positioning your head, shoulders and hips.

How to Downhill Ski

    Step 1

    Stop at the top of a ski slope and locate the fall line -- the path a snowball would take if it rolled down the hill. Square your head and shoulders perpendicular to the fall line. Bend your knees at an angle between 15 and 35 degrees. Lean forward or back until your shoulders are positioned directly above your feet. Put your hands in front of your hips shoulder-width apart, elbows bent the same number of degrees as you bent your legs. Plant your poles in the snow next to your skis. Propel yourself forward by pushing off with your poles and sliding on your skis until you begin gliding down the fall line.

    Keep your shoulders square to the fall line at all times.

    Step 2

    Initiate a turn. Shoulders above your feet, slide your hips to the right until your buttocks are centered over your right ski in order to set the edge of your right ski and the inside of your left ski. Keep your head and shoulders facing down the fall line even though your hips, knees, feet and skis carve away from it. When the angle of your turn becomes so sharp that your shoulders begin to veer off a perpendicular angle in relation to the fall line, turn the other direction.

    You don't turn your skis, they turn you once you set an edge.

    Step 3

    Plant your downhill pole in the snow in front of you by breaking the angle of the bend in your elbow and extending your arm forward. Shoulders still in a parallel line with your feet -- perpendicular in relation to the snow -- shift your hips left until your buttocks are over your left ski in order to set your downhill edges and turn around the planted pole. Turn until your shoulder begins rotating uphill, then plant your right pole, shift your hips to plant your downhill edges and turn around your pole. Continue linking turns until you reach the bottom of the slope.

    Step 4

    Kill your speed by skidding as you turn. Plant your downhill pole. Shift your hips over your downhill ski. Carve around your pole. As your skis cross the fall line, bend your knees to between 45 and 90 degrees and shift your shoulders back behind your feet -- behind them in relation to the perpendicular line with the ground -- in order to weight the tails of your skis, which causes a carve to become a skid. Realign your shoulders over your feet, plant your downhill pole, shift your hips downhill to initiate a turn, and bend your knees and lean back as your skis cross the fall line. Continue killing your speed, turn after turn, until your are comfortable with your velocity.

    The farther behind your feet your shoulders are, the more you skid.

    Step 5

    Wedge Christi to slow down and stop when you're already going extremely slow -- when you are inching forward in a lift line for example -- and don't have enough speed or room to skid. Bend your knees to between 10 and 30 degrees. Rotate your heels out and your toes in so the tips of your skis come in close contact with one another, your skis creating a 90-degree angle in relation to one another and the inside edge of both skis creating friction against the surface of the snow. Widen your legs to create more friction and slow down faster.


    • Always keep your shoulders square to the fall line even when your hips and skies are pointed at a different angle.


    • Do not wedge Christi at high speeds. If you are going fast enough to turn or carve with your skis parallel, you're going to fast to wedge Christi.

    Things You'll Need

    • Skis

    • Boots

    • Poles

    • Goggles or sunglasses

    • Gloves

    • Ski pants

    • Jacket or vest

    • Sunscreen

    • Cell phone or radio

    • Fleece or wool hat (optional)

    • Neck gator (optional)

    • Lip balm (optional)

    • Back or fanny pack (optional)

    Use the wedge Christi when you are going extremely slow.

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