May 10 2012

BC Techniques: Step-Down Kick Turn

How you change direction on a skin track is largely a matter of personal preference – provided you have a quiver of options. Most skiers only know one or two kick turns which can sometimes put them in a precarious position and make switchbacks a moment of anxiety that is avoided at all costs. It need not be so.

Just as it is important to be able to make more than one style of turn while skiing downhill, it is equally valuable to have an assortment of switchback tricks available when you need them for the uphill leg. The uphill snap-kick turn is a super valuable technique to learn, but some folks simply cannot do it because it requires more range of motion across the hips than their body allows. If that resembles your perspective on the snap kick-turn, let me suggest a move I’m calling the Step-Down kick turn.

Rather than try to pivot your uphill ski around above the skin track, pivot it around while stepping down, below the skin track. This requires less stretching across the hips and typically only costs you a foot of elevation at each turn which can be easily made up for in the next few steps.

If you have limited range of motion give this a try and let me know how it works for you. I wouldn’t have bothered showing it if I didn’t have a friend with this very problem give it a whirl. He simply could not do the uphill snap-kick turn but had no problem with this variation.

Related Posts:
Snap Kick Turn on Steep Terrain
Meanderthal Skin Track
Keep ‘er Steeper

© 2012

  • bsc

    Great tip. Never seen that one before but can’t wait to try it.

  • teletilyouresmelly

    this is sort of like going a ski length past the switchback before transitioning, eh? But I think I do that more when the track is set already because you can clealry see where you need to go- will have to try this more when in front

  • tele.skier

    Dostie, Thanks for the tip. I will give it a go tomorrow.

    On spring corn I ski a much shorter ski than my winter skis. It’s much lighter to drag uphill and since there’s no real ski penetration on the snowpack descending, the downhill performance is not that different on the consolidated snow. Hopefully with that shorter ski, I will be able to more easily do that step down turn. If the range of motion in my hip can handle it, perhaps I can get skilled enough at it to use it on my longer skis for winter touring….

  • http://www.thompsonpass.com Valdez Telehead

    I do that turn rarely and naturally stumble into it if needed. My issue with it is related to loss of vertical and the effort to get back in the skin track behind whoever is breaking trail through deeper snows than a spring pack.

    My “go to” when doing a traverse is a kick-turn FACING DOWN the slope. I rarely if ever see anyone do it on my tours. Works good in terrain too steep to do an uphill facing kick-turn. I call it a “Larsoni” and it requires more balance than any of the kick turns I flail through. It’s also scarier and harder, though with practice, I snap it around pretty good. (want a video?)

    The main thing in any kick turn is keep the poles as far away from the body as possible so they don’t interfere with your skis. Second is good balance. Third is “earn your turns” for practice.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Really good point there VT – your poles need to be in the right place to do kick turns and that position changes with the type of kick turn. But in all cases, in a place where they won’t obstruct the movement of your skis.

    Nearly everyone I try to teach the snap kick turn to has a very difficult time changing where they place their poles out of habit, which prevents them from doing the rest of the movements. So they get frustrated and never learn it.

    Taught a newbie and he had it figured out in 4 switchbacks because he didn’t have any pre-existing habits to overcome.

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