How to Slow Yourself Down While Skiing

Ski Expert Hunter R. explains the three ways you can slow yourself down while skiing so you're always able to stay in control of your speed.

A large yellow sign at a ski resort reads "Woah Slow Down."

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

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Woohoo! After all the anticipation and excitement leading up to your first day out, it’s finally happening—you are finally skiing!

You ride to the top of the lift, get off, and start making your way down the mountain.

Things are going well! So far so good. Okay, picking up some speed now, and wait...oh no, where are the brakes?! You want to slow down but you don’t know how.

Don’t let this be you!

And thankfully, since you’re here reading this, it won’t be.

Speed control is an important part of keeping yourself and others safe while skiing, and keeping everyone safe is an important part of having fun on the mountain!

So let’s talk about a few safe ways to slow down or stop when you are skiing.

1. Pizza or Snowplow

A man takes a ski lesson and learns how to ski in a wedge.

Photo by Travis Crawford

You’ve probably heard the classic pizza vs. french fries analogy when it comes to skis, but basically, when using this method, you’ll position your ski tips together and keep the back of your skis far apart making the shape of your skis resemble a slice of pizza. The friction between your skis and the snow will slow you down. It’s an easy, effective way to reduce your speed, especially if you are a new skier or just getting back into the sport!

If you want to speed back up, move your skis to be in a parallel shape with each other (french fries, if you will), and this will get you gliding on the snow again. It can be a bit hard to control your direction when doing a full pizza, so once you feel comfortable with a pizza, move on to the next option!

2. Wedged Turn

Turns are a great tool to utilize when trying to control your speed but also want a bit more control over your direction than the pizza/snowplow allows. During a wedge turn, you are not quite making a full V-shape with your skis, but you still have the tips closer together than the backs and have your weight on the inside edges of both skis. You are then going to use your weight distribution to control your direction.

To make this work, put more weight on whatever edge is opposite the direction you want to go. So, if you are turning left, your right ski has more weight than your left ski. If you are turning right, your left ski has more weight than your right ski. If you want to go slower, make your turns more perpendicular to the hill, if you want to go a bit faster, make your turns a bit more angled towards the bottom of the hill.

3. Parallel Turn Adjustments

Parallel turns are the classic ski turns that you see when you watch experienced skiers come down the hill—ankles and knees bent, leaning forward in their boots, arms up, and torso pointed towards the bottom of the hill. During these turns, your skis are in a parallel position from each other and your weight will be on the edges of your skis.

This graphic shows two skiers going downhill. One makes tighter turns with the text "body, skis angled perpendicular to hill with longer turns = slower" and the other makes looser turns with the text "body, skis angled towards bottoms with shorter turns = faster."

Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik and text by Hunter R.

Let’s talk about how to utilize these turns to slow yourself down when you have gotten yourself going a bit too fast. The best way to do this is to adjust the turn length and turn shape, as well as the direction of your torso. If you want to slow down, point your skis and torso less towards the bottom of the hill and more perpendicular to the hill. Make your turns a bit longer as well so you are traversing further across the mountain. Once you have slowed down enough, re-angle your body and skis towards the bottom of the hill again and carry on!

(Making a quick, parallel turn while digging your edges in will bring you to a complete stop, called a hockey stop!)

Disclaimer: make sure on this type of turn in particular that you are paying attention to other people on the slopes, making huge, wide turns in a crowded area can put you and other skiers in danger, so just make sure you are checking uphill to make sure the coast is clear before making your way across the slopes!

A Few More Things to Consider Regarding Speed

Different types of snow ski differently

Powder is slower than groomers and groomers are slower than ice. Just because you have skied a run a few times doesn’t mean the conditions will always be the same, so make sure you are still paying attention.

Use the terrain!

It’s self-explanatory but steep slopes mean faster speeds, so use the terrain to help you with your speed control.

Somone skis downhill and makes a parallel turn.

Photo by Harrison Moore

The best way to control your speed is preemptively

Avoid going very fast before you are comfortable with speed. Your friends would rather wait for you at the bottom of the ski hill because you are skiing safe but slow than wait for you in the waiting room at the ACL repair shop because you were trying to beat a speed record. Stay on more gentle slopes until you feel confident in your ability to execute these techniques! Once you are feeling good and in control of your skis, then transition to those steeper slopes.

Watch your form while falling

If you end up falling down (happens to all of us—beginner or expert!), try to fall uphill, and don’t try to get up until you have come to a complete stop.

So, if you feel like you are going to take a tumble, try to keep your body uphill from your skis. It minimizes the distance you will fall, prevents your body from getting in a contorted, injury-prone position, and minimizes your momentum so you won’t end up like that incredibly long fall scene in “Hot Rod” where he just keeps tumbling and falling forever and ever.

Coming to a complete stop before trying to get up is important in knee injury mitigation as well. Getting up too early can often mean one ski/leg is still going and the other one doesn’t have time to catch up. You will likely end up falling again and it increases your chances of ACL tearing!

A Few Things to Avoid...

Trying to grab something to stop you!

A tree, a sign, a friend...that’s not the move we want to make. Trees can break, tree wells are dangerous, and if you are going fast, slamming into a tree is not going to be good news.

Signs? Same story! I have seen more people break arms, legs, you name, it by running into these than I can count on my ten fingers. Grabbing onto a friend, instructor, or another person will likely result in you pulling them down and hurting them as well as yourself.

Relying on your poles

That’s not what they are for! Best case, using them as a brake system at high speeds will hurt your wrists, but likely it would end up in a worse injury than just wrists.

Now that you have a good understanding of how to stay in control and at a safe speed while skiing, get off the internet, hit those slopes, and practice these methods! If you have any further questions or want to chat gear, hit up one of our Curated Ski Experts and we would be happy to help you out!

Ski Expert Hunter R.
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Hunter R.
Ski Expert
Hunter here! How can I help?
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Hey there! My name is Hunter and I grew up in Ogden, Utah - one of the most underrated places for skiing IMO (but shh don't tell your friends). I considered leaving the state for college for all of five minutes until I realized the access to skiing, climbing, etc. in Utah is unparalleled. So I just...

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