Skiing “backwards” also known as “switch” is an essential skill for skiers in the terrain park, teaching a child, or just increasing clout on the mountain. It is a foundational skill that should not be overlooked. In this post we are going to go over how to ski backwards, and look cool doing it.
A prerequisite for learning to ski backwards is being very comfortable skiing forwards, with proper form (parallel skis, controlled stops, turns, and edges) and being able to ski some of the more difficult terrain at your home mountain. If you plan to take this skill into the terrain park, get comfortable with straight-airs off of small jumps and rollers.
HOW TO SKI BACKWARDS
1. Starting backwards on a mellow run.
You should start on a low angle slope that you feel very comfortable controlling speed on (a green/blue run). Stop somewhere clear of obstacles and allow yourself to start skiing backwards from a controlled stop.
2. Proper positioning while skiing backwards.
When skiing backwards your knees should be approximately your shoulder’s distance apart with your weight centered. Arms should infront of your waist, somewhat in front of you. Keep that chest up, back straight, and resist the common flaw of folding at the waist.
3. Turning backwards on skis.
Stagger your legs a little so that one ski is further back than the other. This will be how you will turn. If your right ski is further back, you should then rotate your shoulders and hips so that you are looking over your right shoulder. To review: ski that is further back, look over that shoulder. By doing this correctly, you will carve towards the left (the opposite shoulder you are looking over).
4. Linking turns backwards.
To link your next turn, let your left ski fall further backward while you rotate your shoulders and hips to look over your left shoulder. Doing this will let you turn to the right. BAM you just linked your first turns skiing backwards.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER WHILE SKIING BACKWARDS
1. Always look downhill to see where you are going.
It may feel awkward at first, but you should be constantly looking over your shoulders to see downhill. If you turn your upper body fully rather than just glancing over your shoulder you will have a better view of where you are going, or terrain park features you are approaching. This is key to your own safety, and also the safety of other skiers and riders on the mountain.
2. Control your speed.
Just like when you learned to ski forwards, turns are key to controlling speed, NOT pizza-ing your skis (referring to the beginner technique of pizza/french fries). Resorting to the “pizza” method may indeed slow you down, but it is not as safe, and linking turns correctly will benefit you in the long run. The deeper you carve, the quicker your skis will turn up towards the mountain and reduce your speed.
3. Link turns both ways.
When skiing backwards, it is common for skiers to prefer to either carve to one side more than the other. We tend to be side-dominated, but it is very important to try and link turns similarly to how we ski normally, both sides evenly. It may feel awkward looking over each shoulder, but once you get the hang of it muscle memory will make it feel easier.
4. Have proper equipment.
Although it is possible to ride backwards on normal skis, it is recommended to ski with “twin-tip” skis. Twin-tip skis are rounded and curve up at both ends. The curve on both ends, rather than just the front with most skis, prevents skis from snagging and scraping the snow while skiing backwards. Twin-tips get stereotyped as just terrain park skis, but they work great as all-mountain skis too, especially if you plan to ride backwards.
5. Be consistent with practicing skiing backwards.
As they say: practice makes perfect. Most skiers will say that with plenty of practice, skiing backwards will become second nature, and can be a very fun way to cruise the mountain, or up your tricks in the terrain park.
We hope this helps you stomp some backwards skiing this season! Make sure you tag @alphatechapparel in your pictures and videos of you skiing backwards for a chance to be featured!