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Kickturns, a useful survival skill even for an intermediate

marzNC

Angel Diva
#1
I didn't realize that kick turns were considered an advanced skill until relatively recently. I was taught how to do one on straight skis as a teen, and I only skied for two seasons back then so was an intermediate who couldn't even do parallel turns. I was in the northeast and knowing how to switch the direction my skis were pointing while not moving on a narrow slope was a survival skill that came in handy.

In recent years, I've become more adventurous off-piste as an older advanced skier taking lessons regularly. I started practicing kick turns at my home hill a few years ago. Asked my instructor to demonstrate because I hadn't done one in decades. Now it's something I practice during early season.

Have you had an instructor teach a kick turn? In particular in the last 10 years or so.

Recently came across a video that is a good introduction to what I kick turn looks like on steep terrain.
 
#2
I’ve never even attempted this, nor has an instructor ever brought it up (and I’ve taken quite a few lessons).. It’s definitely something I’d like to learn, it’s never fun when you find yourself in a less than desirable place to turn one way in the trees or any other sketchy location, and desperately wish you were facing the other way. Is this something any instructor should be able to help with?

I also want to learn jump turns this season.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#3
Is this something any instructor should be able to help with?
Maybe @liquidfeet can answer that question. I know my Level 3 instructor at Massanutten knew how to demonstrate and teach a kick turn.

I remember showing @Olesya Chornoguz how to do a kick turn during one of our early trips out west. But all I could do was demonstrate.

When it's really steep, I've figured out how to do a variation that's what I call a "sit down" kickturn. I start standing but end sitting. Came in handy when I got myself and my ski buddy into a double-black at Taos by mistake a few years ago.

Lorelei Trees, Feb 2017
TR Lorelei Trees.jpg
 

Kimmyt

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
Yes, I was taught this as a part of an advanced womens ski clinic (Alison Gannett's Rippin Chix clinic). I have used this many times before, particularly in very tight trees and chutes where I am navigating exposed rocks and finding lines.
 
#5
whoa, that's something I've never tried, but only going into my second season and will be taking more lessons upcoming! Looks handy to get out of sticky situations...
 
#6
An essential skill, IMO if you are skiing tight and/or steep areas inbounds or out. They are great for a quick readjustment. Definitely practice--know where to plant your poles so they don't interfere (ask me how I know). I am always very careful when I do them--three points of contact at all times. I like my joints!
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#7
Someone upthread asked how to learn to do a kick turn. I can't find the reference now to quote that post, sorry. But anyway here's how I teach it. Given that most lessons I teach are one hour, or 1.5 hours, I don't usually take the time to teach kick turns, but I do when I have an all day lesson with British teens.

1. Face downhill with skis across the hill. Stick both poles behind you firmly into the snow to keep you from falling over as you lift the downhill ski. Lean back on the poles. You can position the grips and your hands holding onto them at the back of your butt so your hands won't wobble. Do this with the poles because lifting the ski is the hard part; people lose their balance and topple if they don't use the poles this way at first. Those two poles will help stabilize you. Be sure to lean back firmly on the poles.

2. Lift downhill ski up off the snow until it is vertical, and prop its tail in the snow right next to the tip of the uphill ski. That tail must be right next to the uphill ski's tip. Reposition if at first unsuccessful, leaning back on the two poles stuck in the snow behind you to stabilize yourself. (Don't move the poles, lean back on them!) The tail of that ski once it's on the snow added to the two poles behind you will form three points of contact that will increase your stability from this point on.

**3. Next, rotate the upright ski's tip down onto the snow below you, using its tail as the pivot point. You will have rotated the tip and dropped it onto the snow beside the uphill ski that you've been standing on. The goal is to drop it parallel to the uphill ski. The tail, stuck in the snow, shall not move! If your range of motion in your hips doesn't allow it to get it fully parallel, just do the best that you can. Scoping out a "clear runout" is needed if you are doing this on a pitch andif you cannot get the skis parallel; you might take off downhill a little. I teach this on flat terrain at first to avoid that issue.

**It's at the start of #3 that seriously cautious skiers can back off and put the lifted ski back where it was before. #3-4 involve the "commitment" the skier in the video above talks about, which can appear quite daunting until done once.

4. As that ski tip rotates and drops, move your belly button downhill across the ski you've been standing on and rotate your body to face in the direction the dropped ski is pointing. This is one fluid motion. Its purpose is for you to transfer your weight to the rotated ski. This feels scary the first time you do it, but once done done you'll realize it's easier than it looks.

5. When you are firmly standing on the rotated ski, bring the uphill ski around and set it down on the snow beside you, with both skis pointing in the same direction. Done!

6. Improving the move:
(a) Take it from the flat pitch where you learned it to a green pitch, then a blue, then to a black pitch. #2 above is easier when it's steeper, but #4 is scarier as pitch increases. You'll be lifting and rotating the downhill ski. Practice every day until comfortable.
(b) Eliminate propping the lifted ski's tail on the snow; do the whole maneuver keeping that ski lifted, as demonstrated in the video above.
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
#8
whoa, that's something I've never tried, but only going into my second season and will be taking more lessons upcoming! Looks handy to get out of sticky situations...
The time a kickturn can be useful even on a blue trail is if there is a short steeper section where a trail is relatively narrow. For instance, suppose you've come to a stop with ski tips facing the trees and don't have really enough open space to keep going and make a turn back towards the center of the trail. If you have practiced a kickturn on easy terrain, then in theory can do one to turn your skis around and be all set to keep on going.

Fair to say that there are a few survival skills that aren't taught to beginners any more because of the way skis are designed these days. But they are still useful to know sooner or later. Especially for someone who is the adventurous type, which I was as a teen and still am as a senior skier.
 
#9
Maybe @liquidfeet can answer that question. I know my Level 3 instructor at Massanutten knew how to demonstrate and teach a kick turn.

I remember showing @Olesya Chornoguz how to do a kick turn during one of our early trips out west. But all I could do was demonstrate.

When it's really steep, I've figured out how to do a variation that's what I call a "sit down" kickturn. I start standing but end sitting. Came in handy when I got myself and my ski buddy into a double-black at Taos by mistake a few years ago.

Lorelei Trees, Feb 2017
View attachment 11567
That's funny but works! Used to be able to do kick turns but it's been years.
 
#10
But anyway here's how I teach it. Given that most lessons I teach are one hour, or 1.5 hours, I don't usually take the time to teach kick turns, but I do when I have an all day lesson with British teens.
You continually amaze me at your ability write up a drill or skill in a detailed and understandable way!

While I would have a hard time learning from a written description because I'm a visual learner when it comes to sports-related skills, it makes complete sense given that I know how to make it happen.

The question was about whether any instructor would know how to teach a kickturn. Would you say any PSIA Level 2 instructor should know?
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
Not sure. I don't see instructors in tight situations having to use a kick turn where I ski in New England. If they are my age and have been skiing since childhood, then sure they probably learned it along the way. It's not on the LII exam. I've never had a kick turn covered in a clinic. I wonder what the rest of the instructors here would say in answer to your question....
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
An adult who was enrolled in a weekend three-day clinic taught me to do a kick turn. We were doing a ski club early season thing at Stowe, and were skiing with an instructor who taught us absolutely zero all weekend. At this point I was not an instructor. What a disappointment that instructor was. I had hoped to learn something. I'm glad this fellow showed me how to do a kick turn; that was the highlight of the weekend, education-wise. Otherwise, I wouldn't know today how to do a kick turn. It's come in handy numerous times in the last 10 years or so.

When I've encountered overterrained skiers stuck on the edge of a groomer facing the trees, afraid to try to turn given the short space in front of them and afraid to back up to give themselves more room, I've stopped to help and taught them an alternative process of turning around. This may be the same thing just described by @marzNC upthread.

Lie down on the snow facing the trees, eleveate feet with skis on up in the air as high as you can, roll onto your back then continue to roll self over to face the other way, which is the middle of the trail. Put feet down and stand up. You'll be facing the middle of the trail now. Easy-peasy.

I saw a dad take a very short child, not as tall as his waist, up Tuckerman Ravine one day. They traversed across the whole bowl, with dad below kid in case kid's skis lost grip. We are talking THE TOP of TUCKERMAN BOWL, folks, just below the big dark protruding rocks in the picture below. When they got to the far side, dad had son turn around as I just described. Dad stayed below kid in case kid started slipping, which didn't happen thank goodness. Then they traversed back across and turned around the same way again. They zigzagged their way down the bowl doing this over and over. Did I say this was a small child? Had I been MOM, this would have been grounds for immediate divorce.
 

Randi M.

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
I saw a dad take a very short child, not as tall as his waist, up Tuckerman Ravine one day. They traversed across the whole bowl, with dad below kid in case kid's skis lost grip. We are talking THE TOP of TUCKERMAN BOWL, folks, just below the big dark protruding rocks in the picture below. When they got to the far side, dad had son turn around as I just described. Dad stayed below kid in case kid started slipping, which didn't happen thank goodness. Then they traversed back across and turned around the same way again. They zigzagged their way down the bowl doing this over and over. Did I say this was a small child? Had I been MOM, this would have been grounds for immediate divorce.
Whaaaaaaaat? That is NUTS! Especially since the kid couldn’t handle it.

On a less heart-stopping note, I didn’t know kick turning was a skill or even called a “kick turn”. It was just something we messed around with as kids while waiting for something interesting to happen during a group lesson. Live and learn!
 

Pequenita

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
On a less heart-stopping note, I didn’t know kick turning was a skill or even called a “kick turn”. It was just something we messed around with as kids while waiting for something interesting to happen during a group lesson. Live and learn!
I didn't realize it was a legit tool until I started backcountry skiing, where we use it all the time going uphill in steeper terrain. Before then, like you, I would kick turn in circles while waiting for something to happen. :becky:
 
#15
This may be the same thing just described by @marzNC upthread.

Lie down on the snow facing the trees, eleveate feet with skis on up in the air as high as you can, roll onto your back then continue to roll self over to face the other way, which is the middle of the trail. Put feet down and stand up. You'll be facing the middle of the trail now. Easy-peasy.
I've done a back roll after falling in deep powder and ending up with a least one ski uphill. But the skis end up facing the same direction. I can envision the maneuver you described though.

What I call a "sit down kick turn" starts as a downhill kick turn as in the video in Post #1, but finishes by immediately leaning into the steep slope and sitting down instead of ending up standing.
 

NYSnowflake

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
You continually amaze me at your ability write up a drill or skill in a detailed and understandable way!

While I would have a hard time learning from a written description because I'm a visual learner when it comes to sports-related skills, it makes complete sense given that I know how to make it happen.

The question was about whether any instructor would know how to teach a kickturn. Would you say any PSIA Level 2 instructor should know?
My PSIA level 2 instructor Megan who is on the OC board taught me how to do one last year when I asked her to at Mount Snow.
 

BlueSkies

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
I learned this years ago on cross country skis. I've only used it in recent times when following my daughter into some tight trees. She missed the correct entrance, but being on a snowboard she had no problem with the tight zig-zags. (She apologized after.) On a narrow trail my move would be a side slip to reposition.
 
#18
. . .
Recently came across a video that is a good introduction to what I kick turn looks like on steep terrain.
At the end of the 1-min video, there is an Overview for the situation of making a kick turn when facing downhill in a steepish off-piste situation.

OVERVIEW
  • Stomp a flat spot with skis
  • Give yourself plenty of room
  • Practice makes perfect
Obviously the idea that "practice makes perfect" applies to any ability level. I'm not an instructor but here are ideas that made sense to me once I remembered that kick turns are a useful survival skill. When practicing on a groomer, be sure to pick a location where you are visible to other skiers. Practice in both directions, partially because one side is always easier than another. Start on relatively flat terrain, and move to increasingly steeper pitches. Once you are reasonably comfortable with kick turns, practice a few when you are tired.

I practice kick turns at my home hill (Massanutten in northern VA). There isn't any ungroomed terrain, and even the "steep" terrain isn't steeper than most blues at a destination resort in the northeast or Rockies. But I usually ski there for at least a few days before any major ski trips.
 
#19
I’m looking forward to practicing this, seems straightforward enough from the videos and descriptions in this thread, though I’m sure it’ll be a whole different thing trying it for the first time! :rotf: Will be waiting for a bit more terrain to open though, I wouldn't feel safe doing this with the current skier to trail ratios in New England..
 

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