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Side Slipping, a skill for all ability levels


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Well, I certainly triggered a lot of responses with that post. I wonder if there's a misunderstanding.

I am not advocating carving everything. I teach pivot slips, and pivot slipping one's way down the bumps is a great idea. Learning to pivot slip down a corridor the width of the ski length, straight down the fall line, is a great thing to do. Pivot slips, the real ones, involve using a ton of fine-tuning skills, and those skills come in handy all over the mountain. I affirm the virtues of pivot-slips, and of releasing by at first flattening the new inside ski. Teaching bump skiing by starting with pivot slips is a great way to approach bump skiing. A quick pivot is fine in the bumps. If people think I'm against these things, that's definitely my fault for not being more clear.

Teaching "release" with a side-slip is one way to teach releasing, but it's not the only way. Side-slips do not directly lead to pivot slips down the fall line in a narrow corridor all by themselves, either, but they usually do lead somewhat automatically to manually-rotated schmeeeered turns. Those schmeeered turns are fine, as long as their tops are not rushed for fear of gaining too much speed when the skis start to point down the hill.

But cutting off the top of the turn "QUICKLY" with a manual rotation of the skis until they rotate beyond the fall line, when making groomer turns, in order to avoid unwanted speed, is not a good thing to teach. It's the "quickly" part that encourages a pivot & brace turn strategy. Surely this group agrees with this.

Or maybe not?
I'm curious. Maybe there was no misunderstanding at all.

Does this group embrace and affirm pivoting flattened skis fast at the top of the turn --- all the way past the fall line (aka cutting off the top of the turn) --- in order to avoid unwanted speed when making regular groomer turns?

I do not think anyone said sideslipping leads to pivot slips. Pivot slips are not an intermediate maneuver, as I am sure you know.

No, I do not advocate “rushing the top of the turn”. As I stated if the old downhill ski remains on its uphill edge, you must use something other than femur rotation to turn, usually upper or whole body rotation which leads to a host of other issues.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Agree totally. I think we are standing on common ground.

When I made that post I thought the conversation had morphed from side-slipping to pivot slipping pretty fast, so I addressed that. Maybe I misread that part. Yes, pivot slips are not easy; many things need to be in place to get pivot slips to work right.

I think everyone in this thread knows that releasing the old outside ski/new inside ski is step one to starting a standard issue turn. One can release all the way to the new edge at the top of the turn, tipping that ski onto its new downhill edge, or stop short of that and only release to a flattish ski. Both are useful initiation strategies, and lead to different types of turns. Releasing to a flat-ish ski is usually taught first.

There are turns that don't involve a release. I'm thinking of hop turns, stem turns, and even skating the top of the turn. They have their place.

But there are dysfunctional ways to avoid the release, and that's what I think you're pointing out @Skier31. Using upper body rotation to sling the skis around, or using unacknowledged stemming to by-pass the release -- these are habits that impede advancing one's skills when they become habitual and remain unacknowledged. These habits come from resistance to letting go of the old turn by releasing that old outside ski. We see these turn mechanisms all over the mountain, every day. The instructors I know work hard to help skiers get these habits replaced with better initiations, all which involve a release.

And then there's rushing the top of the turn once the skis are released to flattish angles. Do any of you use "patience turns" to help skiers spend time in the top of the turn? Doing patience turns slows the downhill travel overall (not an intuitive thing at all, by the way) and improves bottom-of-turn grip.

So maybe there's not a significant difference of opinion at all in this thread!


Certified Ski Diva
I've done lots of lessons and no one ever taught me to side slip! My boyfriend showed me last year on an icy steep. We practiced on and off that day and I'm so glad I have it in my bag of tricks now. I just don't know how I survived before.


Certified Ski Diva
I was never taught side slips as a beginner (during my 3-4 private lessons). I first learned them this year while working with some of my hill instructors. Definitely a challenege for me in the beginning (really getting my hips facing down the fall line) but now they are so much better and for sure an essential!! Not sure how I managed before or skated by with never learning them!
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Certified Ski Diva
If you're patrolling, you are going to need to get this skill down pat!

Oh yes....side slips and pivot slips. So, so many runs doing them a trying to perfect them! Finally got one of my instructors to say they were “passable” haha! I would have liked a slightly better compliment (but I will take it! Way better than the first day when I am sure they were like wtf?) but I am still working on them.


Certified Ski Diva
What do you think when you hear "side slipping"? There is probably a different reaction from beginners, intermediates, advanced, or expert skiers. I used to think of side slipping only as a valuable survival skill. It's a skill that I learned long ago as a beginner on straight skis as a teen. I learned where the easiest slope where I spent most of the time learning would be considered at least a blue these days. There wasn't a bunny slope with barely enough pitch to get moving. In recent years, I've come to understand more about why side slipping is a fundamental drill as part of advanced multi-day programs taught by very experienced PSIA Level 3 instructors (Massanutten, Taos).

But how do people learn to side slip? I've long since forgotten exactly how I was taught. I remember well the terrain where my daughter was taught to side slip as an intermediate (ages 6-7) in full-day ski school. For those who know Massanutten (northern VA), it was on the side of the top of Upper Showtime. It's easier to learn and practice side slipping with a bit more pitch. But once you know how to side slip, it can be done anywhere and in any type of snow.

I'm not an instructor. I'm a visual learner. I've found that learning a skill by reading is difficult. But reading about a drill or skill after I know how to do it can be helpful. But can also be confusing so it helps to not worry too much if a comment doesn't quite make sense.

Here are a few descriptions that pop out when I search on "ski side slipping steep." Note that none of them from Page 1 of the search results were from N. America.




PSIA-C (Central U.S.) uses a PSIA-RM (Rocky Mountain) video about side slipping.

Well, shucks. Learned something new here today. I never knew that side slipping was formally taught to beginners. Never learned about it in a lesson. I learned it when I figured out the hockey stop. Just used the same method without thinking about it the first time I ended up on a run with a steep section I wasn't comfortable with. Great technique I use for safety's sake and for a bit of a breather when I want to shave some vertical off of the run I'm on. And when I'm being a bit lazy. :-)


Angel Diva
Well, shucks. Learned something new here today. I never knew that side slipping was formally taught to beginners. Never learned about it in a lesson. I learned it when I figured out the hockey stop. Just used the same method without thinking about it the first time I ended up on a run with a steep section I wasn't comfortable with.
I never learned it either. Actually came across it in a video two years ago and couldn't believe I didn't know that skill to get out of tricky situations. I have used both the side slip and falling leaf in steep questionable terrain as well as narrow slick runs. It's funny then when you see someone who has never seen those moves before comment "Well that was cool! That looked like a much better way to get down!" There have been so many times I've seen novices just stuck on a section of hill, unable to move out of fear or what to do next.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I was taught side slipping and hockey stops by the man who introduced me to the skiing world. I took a lesson later that day, and don't remember covering it there. Great to know when one is feeling tentative or tired.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I teach side-slipping - when I can.

It is surprising to me how many seasoned intermediates have never done it, and are scared silly when an instructor asks them to slip down the hill sideways. So I've grown to respect this tactic/skill as something that needs to be taught slowly and carefully, with full awareness that the adult student may be panic stricken from the get-go.

What the side-slip asks the skier to do is look down the hill (surprisingly difficult for some), allow the downhill ski to carry the most weight (tough for people who are used to leaning uphill at the end of their turns), and loosen their hold on the hill by allowing the skis to go flattish (well, that is scary if you haven't done it intentionally). Each of these things can be very difficult for some people. Then when a skier finally gets those three things going, the skis may surprisingly take off backwards or forwards. Now there's one more thing the person needs to do. They must lean back or forward at the ankles to control the direction of their slide. Doing that while continuing to do the first three is darn-tough for some folks!

When I approach teaching side-slipping, it needs to be on friendly terrain because scary terrain is the last thing people need. It's very hard to side-slip without any pitch if the snow is grabby. But hard snow or ice makes it easy on that low-pitch terrain. On a hard-snow day we can do it on the bunny hill. But if there's only good soft snow, that means a bit more pitch is required. That can be scary if the pitch is long, so it needs to be short. So I have to find short steepish groomed terrain that's easy to get to.

My point is that when teaching side-slipping, terrain matters a lot... as well as reading the student's caution level.

alison wong

Angel Diva
Very well said and explained @liquidfeet . 1st time I learned to side slip was at Snowbird 3 years ago(?), I was a low intermediate then. Terrain was bit steep and icy, I was too scared to make turns. The instructor took advantage of the circumstance and taught me how to side slip my way down... Like you said, I was panic stricken from the get go. My side slip became side step. :thumbsup:

Your observation is correct, there are seasoned intermediates have trouble with this. When I was at Taos ski week, 2 students in my class fell while practicing side slip, I think they caught an edge while sliding (?)

It is true that when side slipping, one can also move forward... or backward. That made me very nervous in the beginning because I was moving toward the edge of trails / trees..... thought I did something wrong.

Again, this is something needs many practice to get the "feel". The circumstances I got to practice lots were: at Taos, there are few trails that are wide and then they have the 90 degree sharp turn to narrow steep cat tracks. I was not comfortable making turns when enter those cat tracks, so I chose to side slip my way down... I am comfortable doing this now, my right is better than my left. I actually got a compliment from my instructor last year when I was too scared to make turns and I side slipped. Him: "Nice side slip by the way." :becky:


Angel Diva
In two of my last three lessons we spent time on these. I have had about 20 lessons the past two years focused on carving and the perfect turn and edging and easy bumps etc but for me it seems now about nuances like timing etc are the most impactful. The last lesson we spent a lot of time on falling leaf, and then on doing a pivot turn instead of a carving turn, and two classes before with a different instructor on really flattening my skis into a pivot turn in my hockey stop. It really takes bravery to release those edges and it feels good. I felt connected with my skis and the ground. I think these are good things to learn. I am grateful to the instructors to teach me these things.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Introduced side-slipping to a large group of British teens yesterday. It was their second day on skis. The mountain was covered in 3" fresh snow, so we were going to need some steepness to attempt side-slipping, and the snow would get piled up so we'd need to be able to step over those piles when they prevented downhill movement.

We only got one chance to work on side-slipping once, on a shortish little connector between two trails that was pretty narrow for them to negotiate in their awkward wedges. I had them start by side-stepping, then flattening skis to allow a slip. The slipping was optional. Not all of them had yet absorbed the concept of "across the fall line" and not all of them were comfortable with moving from one foot to the other, so some balked at the idea. So fear crept in for a couple of them.

Two did the task well, some had measured success, and the rest got themselves down somehow. One fell and got up and walked down holding the skis. We didn't get a chance to try side-slipping again as I kept them on very low-pitches for the rest of the day.

Having a lesson that focuses on side-slipping for the entire time, when the right terrain is accessible, is a great thing. Most people don't get that chance, so I suspect this is why so many can't do side-slips.


Angel Diva
Having a lesson that focuses on side-slipping for the entire time, when the right terrain is accessible, is a great thing. Most people don't get that chance, so I suspect this is why so many can't do side-slips.
Good point about having good terrain for practicing side slips. At Massanutten and Taos, it was useful to learn from instructors where to practice. Can't usually do it on greens. Sometimes the section is fairly short, meaning 10-20 feet. But well worth the effort for aspiring intermediates or people who want to have solid fundamentals for exploring challenging terrain, which could simply mean having more confidence to try an unknown blue trail.


Angel Diva
Thinking about kick turns as a survival skill reminded me of this thread about side slipping. I definitely learned how to side slip early on as a beginner on straight skis long ago. These days, it doesn't seem to be taught to beginners consistently. Can be worth asking about when taking a lesson if getting past the first season or two.

Practicing side slipping is clearly a fundamental skill that instructors who have posted in this thread value for reasons that are directly related to learning how to control your skis when making turns.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
We worked on side slips in the women's clinic I did last season. Some of the parting advice from our instructor was to keep working on them. For me it's a great way to practice engaging and disengaging those edges as well as staying balanced over the center of the ski.


Diva in Training
Side slipping is a very important skill to learn and have(In my opinion.) I have always taught the side slip by having people stand comfortably with their skis parallel facing across the hill.
I next have them slowly straighten their uphill leg while moving their hips up and over both skis.
This allows the skis to flatten out and slide sideways.
Then I have them bend their uphill leg again engaging their edges and feeling how they are able to stop again.
The hardest part I have found is getting people to slow down the motions.

It is great for teaching edging, fore and aft balance, learning to control your center mass and feeling the sensation of them sliding to later help with speed control.

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