If you’re a new skier heading to the slopes this winter, one problem that always concerns beginners is what to do about crossing skis. We have all faced this issue, and while it’s not very difficult to overcome, it can seem insurmountable when you’re new to skiing. The annoying habit of skis that insist on turning in and crossing over one another puzzles us all at first.
Skis will usually only cross when you stop or turn. In stopping, keep your skis flat and gently push the rear of the skis out rather than turn the toes in, keeping your weight even. If turning, place most weight on your outside ski and bring the inside ski round and parallel once more.
Realistically, the only thing to do if you’re skiing and your skis cross is to accept the wipe-out and start again. This problem really troubles most novice skiers, but it can be quickly sorted out with some guidance and a bit of practice and rarely raises its head in an intermediate or advanced skier.
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As a note, while I’ve skied, my friend helped me write this article because he has a lot more experience than I do.
Why Do My Skis Keep Crossing?
Fatigue and a lack of concentration in an intermediate or advanced skier can lead to one ski crossing the other, but in general, it is a rite of passage caused when a beginner is taught to snowplow. Getting those long planks of wood or composite material to turn is not intuitive and takes a lot of faith in your instructor.
How to Snow-plow (Pizza)
I enlisted the help of my friend who has a lot more experience than me, in skiing:
Make sure you find the gentlest slope available before you even point your skis downhill. I clearly remember my first day on the slopes over 35 years ago: We were told to keep our skis parallel and point them down the slope, and then off I flew, wind tearing through my hair as I shot along at breakneck speed down what seemed like a vertical drop.
When I reached the bottom and came to a full stop, I turned around and could not believe how gentle the slope was or that I had only traveled 30m / 65 feet.
Once my heart rate had slowed to normal, I realized that the ability to stop was something I would have to learn very quickly, and that’s where the snowplow comes in.
- From the top of a gentle slope, just before the decline begins, stand with your feet flat on the skis (no caving in of the ankles allowed)
- With the skis parallel, push the rear of your skis apart, creating a triangular wedge in front
- Use your poles to move forward slightly while allowing your skis to return part of the way to parallel
- To set off, you need to shift the weight on your skis. Move your ankles simultaneously to move the pressure on the inside edge of your skis to the center. This will leave your skis lying flat, and you’ll begin to slide forwards at a gentle pace.
- As you start moving forward, push the rear of the skis apart again until you stop. Repeat this movement several times, allowing more and more forward motion before braking as your confidence builds. Be careful not to let your ankles collapse outwards as you brake, or you will have your skis cross on you.
Both skis must move into the snowplow position in one simultaneous action. Applying pressure to one ski before the other will cause that ski to turn inward and over the other ski. Often referred to as ‘catching an edge,’ this is where you can practice your wipe-out technique. Remember to smile, as everyone seems to have a camera these days.
As you pick up speed, you will require more force to stop, and at this point, you will need to allow the inside ankles to drop more and more to put more pressure on the inside edges of the skis, which will no longer be perfectly flat on the snow, but more tilted inwards with the increase in speed.
- Don’t bring your knees in when you snowplow – push the rear of the skis out.
- Don’t turn your toes inwards – you will cross your skis for sure.
- Don’t leave the beginners’ slopes until you have mastered the snowplow stop.
I tried a blue run on my first day of ski school (we had the afternoons off) and had to slide about 400m/440yards down the hill on my backside because I didn’t learn the snowplow stop correctly. I was mortified but learned my lesson and, the following day, made sure I could control my slide.
Once you can snowplow correctly, you will suddenly gain enormous confidence, and a new world will open for you. Don’t be intimidated by the ‘ankle-biters’ that fly past you, by the way: These children were born on the snow and are incredibly adept at the sport, often better on skis than they are on terra firma.
Just focus on your own progress, and using the techniques you have learned here, never allow your skis to cross. Perhaps the most essential part of skiing is balancing, and at first, your balance will be all over the place, but you will soon get the feel of where your weight should be and start to shift it in the correct direction.
Should I have Ski Lessons?
Yes. You had driving lessons, right? While a car crash is more dramatic and has the potential to cause more damage in general than a wipe-out on the slopes, vehicular accidents are rare per capita. Wipe-outs, are a given, and you will have a great many on the slopes and off-piste down the line.
The more you are correctly prepared, the better your chances of:
- Staying upright, or
- Falling correctly if all else fails.
I went to ski school in Mayrhofen, Austria, and had friends schooled in France, and all of us were able to ski European Black Runs – the most difficult – after the first of two weeks of lessons.
The experience that ski instructors have after many years (and often decades) on the slopes is invaluable and can slash your skiing education time by over 90%.
If you would like to learn more about my experience, check out the other article I helped Peter write, here.
Intermediate Skiers Crossing Skis
As you reach the intermediate level and have picked up a lot of confidence, you will rarely have one ski cross another when heading in one direction on the slopes. What may well happen, certainly at the beginning when your confidence and enjoyment exceed your skill, is that you will sometimes get a crossover in the turn.
As you go into the turn
- Plant your outside ski in the desired direction
- Shift your balance and bring the inside ski in line. If your timing is off, you may cross skis or fly downhill with your weight on the outside ski.
This technique comes with practice, naturally, but don’t be afraid to try. Falls are guaranteed as you perfect your technique, and it’s best to learn each step properly before moving forward too far.
If you intend to learn to ski correctly, I recommend that you go for two weeks, as any less time doesn’t allow you time to practice all you are learning, and too much time makes the rest of us jealous!
Use common sense and consider your age and condition before embarking on any strenuous exercise program. My suggestions are aimed at a young adult in fair to good health. If you can only manage a fraction of this routine, be proud of your effort and be the best your physique can manage. You aren’t competing against anyone but yourself on the slopes.
Advanced Skiers Crossing Skis
More advanced skiers may use the snowplow technique on a very steep, glassy slope where traction is severely limited. Crossing skis in this situation can lead to fatal results, and I would still parallel turn or, at worst, stay off that particular slope.
I skied Mount Hutt in New Zealand just hours after a young lady was killed in precisely this scenario. The slope was icy, and once her skis crossed, there was no recovery possible.
Off-piste is guaranteed to give you crossed skis when you first attempt it. Despite not usually watching your skis, it’s incredible how having them under two feet of powdered snow freaks you out when you can no longer see them.
The transition from looking at your tips to feeling where they are, and thus avoiding a crossover, takes experience, but oh boy, it is worth it!
Crossing skis is a disaster for any skier, but once you learn to snowplow correctly and parallel stop effectively, crossing skis will be a rare occurrence. The more you practice, the better, so hit those slopes with determination when the season arrives!