I know everyone has their own way of describing the millions of turns we all make (at least the luck ones) in our lives, so I thought it would be fun to share some that I’ve heard of, and some that my ski partners and I have created over the years. Some of these may be AT specific, as I’m sure the telemarkers have a ton of their own.
I’ve left out your basic ski instructor terms like snowplow, wedge and parallel turn, since they are the fundamentals of learning how to ski. The turns listed below are more advance, often used negotiate specific terrain or snow conditions, or just raise the stoke meter.
If you have some of your own ski-turn terms that you would like to share, or have different names for the types of turns I describe here, feel free to email me or post a comment…and I will update the list. Enjoy!
Ape/Gorilla Turns-A carving turn where the skier’s legs are in a wide stance. The arms follow suit and are kept low. The upper body is hunched over like a primate, with lots of hip angulation. Typically a high speed…powerful turn.
Disco Turns-Kind of a series of linked-up sideslips…without pause in between. Your arms are often in opposite directions and your upper-body facing toward the fall line. A bit of ‘gaper-flare’ accompanies the Disco Turn and looks best wearing proper attire.
Feeler Turns-When the snowpack is thin and you are wary of rocks underneath…or when the visibility is bad. Typically you are trying to keep the speed down, with a moderately wide stance….mainly trying to avoid tearing your leg off. A quick snowplow between turns is allowed.
Floater Turns-This is when the snowpack is thin, but the snow is good, and the angle is low. You ski without weighting and unweighting your skis, with the ‘think light’ mantra running through your head.
Hacker Turns-This is when you are skiing breakable crust and you aren’t skiing with any type of rhythm. You travel across the fall line and then jump as high as possible to get your skis out from under the crust. The skis are rotated in the air, ready to change tack when they come back in contact with the snow.
Jonesy/TGR Turns-Named after Todd and Steve Jones of Teton Gravity Research, these are one of my favorite types of turns cuz it typically means the skiing is great. Big and fast, freeride GS turns where you’re riding the edge…without looking back. Days with Jonesy Turns are days we dream about as skiers.
Kung Fu Turns-My favorite turn because it is used in steep and tight terrain, which is the type of skiing I like the most. It differs from the Pedal Turn in that the focus is more on the landing of the jump turn…really trying to dig your edges in and shut down the speed immediately. Hands follow suit, rotating with the poles…almost punch through the turn. Significant elevation is lost with each turn and sound effects are a must!
Pedal Turns-Probably the most well known steep skiing term and a classic. With most turns, your downhill ski is last to come off the slope. With the Pedal turn, the skier lifts the downhill ski first and begins to rotate it…before jumping off the uphill ski. Very popular with longer skis, in tight terrain.
Porpoise Turns-This is when the powder is dense and bouncy, and the skier purposely exaggerates the weighting and unweighting of the skis, in order to get maximum weightlessness and face-shots A very rhythmic turn leaving a perfect ski signature behind. A Doug Coombs specialty.
Power Slide Turns-This is when you really don’t turn at all, as you slide down the slope sideways. In icy conditions, this can often be a faster way down the slope than actually linking turns, and less taxing on the skier. A controlled, high-speed side-slip of sorts. Not always done gracefully.
Slasher Turns-These happen one at a time, and typically aren’t linked together. They often require, or prefer to be done in dished out terrain or on a berm. Kind of a surfer or snowboarder turn when you really try to whip the skis around at the apex of the terrain…roosting it.
Smear Turns-This is a speed shaving turn, aimed to slow things down. One leg is almost fully extended, while the other is very bent and you are riding close to the snow. Often, the skier will even drag a butt cheek in the snow to help add to the drag. It often makes a good cover shot.
Smokescreen Turns-This turn is employed by rando racers (hint: Ethan Passant) to confuse skiers on their tail. With a little hop/slide on the top-side of a bump, he can kick a plume a snow that I call the “smokescreen”. The smokescreen can be used when skiing in a pack of people and you want to obscure their vision and/or send them turning into a pile of rocks. I have core shots to attest to the effectiveness of the smokescreen.
Squeegee Turns-Sort of like skiing low angle moguls, where you are absorbing the terrain and sliding down the backsides of the bumps…to control speed. It mainly occurs in spring-like snow conditions and uses a bit of body language as well.
Stem Crusty Turns-This is when the snow is on the verge of breakable crust and you kind of step through the turn, in order to dissipate your weight and reduce the edge set on the snow. A bit of a survival turn of sorts.
Wiggle Turns-These happen on flatter terrain and adopt ‘old-school’ style, with the skier’s legs nearly stuck together. The skis don’t cross the fall line much and are often done in quick succession. Most of the time you are trying to avoid obstacles.
Windshield Wiper Turns-These are done in an up-right stance, on very firm, and icy snow, and your skis are perpendicular to the fall line. You keep turning the skis to avoid too much rattling of your downhill leg…or make that knee.