The Beautiful Art of “The Turn”

The Beautiful Art of “The Turn”

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Alwin Bakker   January 04 2018  
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The Beautiful Art of “The Turn”
The holy grail with beginners or beginner lessons is mostly; “Can you turn?” And if you can, you’re considered somebody who can ski / ride by many. This has evolved to a level where instructors “preach” that one always has to turn.. This might relate to snowboarders more than skiers, since the act of turning on skis is a little more natural than on a snowboard. So the focus here is on snowboarders.

Yes, we need to turn, no doubt. Turning is the skill of performing an act following a circular direction. Going across the hill, pointing it down the hill and back across the hill in the opposite direction while controlling speed. This includes an “edge change” while your board maintains the same forward orientation.

Turning is mostly taught as a sequence that one has to follow, where the next turn starts whenever and wherever the previous one ends, continuously till you reach the bottom of the hill. And if this isn’t taught this way, it’s understood this way by the vast majority of students we get. But is this actually the most efficient approach and does this make things easier for your students? A view on “the turn” from a different perspective..

I do like to explain the act of tuning as the four essential skills we need when we ride; To be able to go left on one edge, to go right on the opposite edge, to go straight with your board down the hill and to slow down with the board across the hill. Given your guest is a regular rider the skill to slide on your heel-edge is the skill to go left and the toe-edge goes right1). A key prerequisite is that you explain clearly what is “forward” on the snowboard, and that this isn’t the direction you have your toes pointing, explaining this is moving sideways on the board is essential. Both edges give you approximately a 90 degree range, from horizontal to vertical.

If you master these four skills, and are be able to connect the different skills in a fluent motion you can go anywhere on the mountain. If there’s one of the four skills not fully developed, at some point there will be a moment where you’ll find yourself stuck. You want to do something that requires a skill that you don’t (fully) have, this is like a car that only steers one way.. and having to reverse the car to go the opposite direction, works on a roundabout but isn’t very useful in the regular city. Or you’ll find yourself being a car not being able to maintain speed for longer a certain while and find yourself getting out (unstrapping) and pushing till it gets steeper. Fun? No..!

When you’ve taken ownership of those four skills, it’s a matter of using them accordingly and in the right order to apply your skills to meet requirements for the terrain and situation of your riding. If you want to go left, go on your heels, if you want to go right go on your toes.. etc. Not ending up sliding sideways the entire day like a “heel-side warrior”, nor on the left edge of the run because you happened to be on your heels the entire time..

I think one should have only two reasons why to turn the board, none of the two is “following a sequence for the sake of the sequence”! First to change direction, very obviously. Second, to slow down, by getting your board across the hill. So in certain given situations you don’t want to turn at all. If you find yourself on pretty shallow terrain with no need to slow down (more) and you’re going in the right direction with no hazards in front of you.. DON’T TURN!

- Alwin -

1) For goofy riders it’s the opposite, the heel-edge goes right and the toe-edge left.
Tagged under: Snowboarding

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