Parallel skiing is the skiing technique used by intermediate to expert skiers, and is considered the best technique for skiing. Skier will generally transition from ‘snow plough’ technique of skiing to parallel skiing once they have reached the stage of skiing on blue runs, or when they feel comfortable keeping their skis parallel.
Parallel skiing allows skiers to pick up more speed as well as gain more precision and control of their skis while carving down the mountain. There are a number of steps to go through in order to reach a stage of being able to ski parallel, one of which is being able to ski the snow plough first in order to develop your balance on skis, as well as learning the basics of turning and controlling your speed.
How to Go From Snow Plough to Parallel Skiing
Skiing Snow Plough
When you first learn to ski, the technique you will use to begin with, until you find your balance and work out how to turn, is the snow plough. This technique requires you to put your skis at an angle to the slope and pointing towards each other much like a snowplough has its shovels at diagonals to create a point at the front, to be able to shovel the snow out of the way. This is the same principle used to slow a skier down using the snow plough technique. By putting pressure on both skis as you ski down the slope you are able to control your speed and turn.
Skiing Parallel Turns
Once comfortable using the snow plough technique for skiing, the natural progression is to begin skiing with your skis parallel to each other in between turns, as opposed to pointing inwards towards each other. Once this feels comfortable, you may want to start trying to complete turns with your skis parallel also. This will likely begin with your skis further apart that what you see the professionals skiing like (don’t worry, its completely normally to ski with your feet this far apart to begin with), then as you become more comfortable, naturally you will feel more comfortable skiing with your skis much closer together.
Is Parallel Skiing Hard?
Skiing parallel is not at all difficult once you get used to it and have found your balance. I would actually argue that once you are a good enough skier and are skiing at some speed, skiing parallel is much easier than the snow plough. This is in part due to the fact that it is almost impossible to turn in a controlled way using the snow plough, when you are skiing beyond a certain speed. Ironically parallel skiing is actually more difficult at slower speeds and on flatter slopes. This is because of the need to dig the edges of both of your skis into the snow as you turn, shifting your bodyweight in towards the mountain as you do so. If you try and picture this image, you will understand why this is more difficult on flatter slopes, because you do not have enough speed to be able to lean into the mountain and dig your edges in – you will only lose your balance and fall over. Parallel will take some getting used to if you have been skiing using snow plough for a week or two, however once you get used to it, it will feel completely normal for you!
What Is the Difference Between Carving and Parallel Turns?
The short answer to this question is that carving is a form of parallel turning and there is no real difference between carving and parallel turns. Parallel turning constitutes a wide range of different types of skiing including carving, quick turns & off-piste skiing for example. It is not a choice between parallel turns or carving, as may be misunderstood. Parallel turning only describes the way your skis are positioned in relation to each ie. that they are parallel to each other in between turns, and throughout the turn as it is made.
Why Do Skiers Carve?
Carving is an essential part of skiing due to the control and turning ability it gives to skiers. Carving allows skiers to turn accurately and precisely at speed, but leaning into the mountain and getting over on their skis edges to use the natural shape of the ski to turn across the piste. Ultimately the purpose of a skiers turning technique, is to maximise control of the skis during a turn and in between turns, while maintaining speed. This is what carving is useful for, and what other turning techniques such as quick turns - a technique used for moguls or extremely steep pistes, for which carving is not practical.