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Discover the Secrets to Perfect Ski Stops

Mastering Ski Stops: Expert Tips on How to Stop Safely

Learning how to stop properly on skis is one of the most important skills for every skier or snowboarder to master. Being able to control your speed and come to a complete stop safely is crucial for avoiding collisions, falls and injuries on the slopes. This comprehensive guide provides expert instruction, tips and techniques for mastering various ski stopping methods.

Introduction: Why Mastering Stops is Critical

The ability to stop swiftly and effectively gives you much-needed control over your downhill momentum. Stopping requires coordination between your upper and lower body along with proper weight transfer. Mastering stops takes practice but is essential for safety. Unexpected obstacles, varying terrain and other skiers crossing your path make it necessary to know how to scrub speed and stop on demand.

Knowing when and how to use certain types of ski stops allows you to smoothly adapt to different conditions and situations. Learning proper stopping skills early on also builds confidence for learning more advanced skiing maneuvers down the line.

Overview of Ski Stop Techniques

There are several main types of ski stops, ranging from basic to advanced. Mastering at least one or two can make you a well-rounded, adaptable skier.

Snowplow Stop

The snowplow or wedge stop is the most fundamental stopping technique. It's usually the first method taught to beginners.

To execute a snowplow stop:

  • Keep knees bent in an athletic stance.
  • Press the fronts of your skis outward to form a wedge shape.
  • Increase pressure on the inside edges of the skis to dig them into the snow.
  • Gradually apply more leverage as you gently sit back.
  • Bring your skis closer together to come to a complete stop.

The wedge shape creates drag that slows you down. This is an effective way to control speed as a beginner.

Hockey Stop

The hockey stop allows experienced skiers to come to an abrupt, quick stop.

To hockey stop:

  • Head down the hill with knees flexed.
  • Rotate your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the fall line.
  • Press down on the downhill ski edge to dig it into the snow.
  • Swing the back ski around into a T-shape with the lead ski.
  • Apply even pressure to the edges of both skis to stop.

This aggressive braking method requires expertise. Use caution to avoid catching an edge.


The sideslip is somewhere between a wedge and hockey stop. It involves sliding the skis sideways across the hill to shave off speed.

To sideslip:

  • Start in an athletic ski stance.
  • Tip your uphill ski edge into the hill.
  • Press the edge of your downhill ski into the side of the slope.
  • Keep your shoulders aligned with your feet as you slide sideways.
  • Control your speed by angling more or less across the fall line.

Use sideslipping to scrub speed on steeper pitches. This versatile stop is great for tackling different inclines and conditions.

Common Beginner Mistakes

Learning to stop on skis has a learning curve. Be patient and watch out for these frequent beginner mistakes:

  • Sitting back too aggressively, causing the tails of your skis to cross and tangle. Maintain a centered stance.
  • Not bending your knees enough for optimal leverage and shock absorption.
  • Lifting your heels, which reduces edge control. Keep heels pressed down.
  • Looking at your feet instead of ahead. Focus on the stopping point.
  • Relying solely on the back of the wedge, making you heavy on your heels. Distribute weight evenly.
  • Dragging the back tips of your skis, wasting energy. Lift the tails and use your edges.

Concentrating on proper form will help you override these tendencies and stop more efficiently.

Advanced Stopping Techniques

Reverse Wedge Stop

It is similar to a standard snowplow but with tails closer together than tips to provide more friction and braking power. Sit back and engage your edges to execute. This technique is useful for slowing down quickly on steeper slopes when you need more braking power than a regular wedge stop. Keep your weight centered between the skis as you bring the tails together.

Stem Christie Stop

It is an old-school technique that involves stemming one ski out perpendicular to the other with knees angled outward to quickly slow down. It's fun to try but requires expertise. The Stem Christie is an advanced move requiring good coordination and edge control to execute the stemming motion. Use it sparingly for style points rather than as your go-to stopping method.

Skidded Parallel Stop

From a parallel skiing stance, gently skid the edges of both skis at the same pace to distribute pressure and stabilize your stop. This is a great way to scrub speed smoothly while maintaining stability on steeper slopes. Make subtle edge angle adjustments to control braking power and avoid catching an edge.

Choosing the Right Stopping Method

The type of stop you use should take into account variables like snow conditions, pitch, traffic and your skill level. Here are some general guidelines on which techniques work best for different situations:

  • Fresh powder - Snowplow or reverse wedge stop. Powder won't allow for edge control.
  • Icy slopes - Sideslip or skidded parallel stop. Sliding sideways gives you a grip on the hard pack.
  • Narrow trail - Hockey stop takes up minimal space.
  • Steep terrain - Sideslip to control speed without accelerating downhill.
  • High-traffic areas - Snowplow for beginners in crowded spaces.
  • Fast momentum - Hockey stop for an abrupt halt at higher speeds.

Practice judging when to apply the ideal stop for maximum control and safety.

Staying in Control

Learning proper stopping techniques is only part of the battle. You also need to ski in control and be prepared to stop at all times. Here are some key tips:

  • Scope out terrain and obstacles ahead of time. Identify possible stopping points.
  • Keep a moderate speed. Going too fast makes stopping more difficult.
  • Focus on the stopping point, not the distraction. Remain aware of surroundings.
  • Keep hands forward and knees bent in a responsive athletic stance. Don't freeze up.
  • Make gradual speed-checking wedge turns on steeper pitches.
  • Don't panic. Take a moment to decide on the best stop for the situation if needed.

Stay focused, calm, and centrally balanced over your feet and edges. Have a plan and the ability to execute emergency stops if necessary.

Proper Technique and Body Position

In addition to edge control, effective ski stopping requires proper coordination between your upper and lower body. Keep these technique tips in mind:

  • Maintain forward-facing shoulders and hands over your feet for balance. Don't twist or hunch.
  • Sit back moderately over your heels without exaggerating the movement.
  • Keep your core engaged and knees bent to absorb force and direct energy efficiently.
  • Press shins firmly into the fronts of boots for maximum leverage.
  • Focus pressure on your big toe, little toe and heels to maximize edge grip.
  • Look ahead to choose your stopping spot; glance down periodically to check stance.
  • Keep arms out to your sides and elbows bent for stability and turning power.
  • Remain centered over your base of support for even weight distribution.

With an athletic stance and centered balance, you can apply leverage and torque for a smooth, stable stop.

Beginner Ski Stopping Mistakes To Avoid

It’s common to make some mistakes when you first start learning how to stop on skis. Being aware of these errors can help you correct any bad habits early on:

  • Sitting back too far - Overly aggressive backward leaning causes you to lose balance and edge control. Remain centered.
  • Straight legs - Keep your knees softly bent and flexible for shock absorption and leverage.
  • Heavy heels - Avoid shifting weight to your heels, which reduces stability. Distribute evenly.
  • Crossed tips - Don’t let your ski tails come together, which can make you tangled up and off balance.
  • Bad arm position - Flailing arms or letting them creep behind you affects your center of mass. Keep hands forward.
  • Poor vision - Looking at your feet rather than the slope ahead makes it hard to steer and stop efficiently. Eyes up!
  • Frozen muscles - Remaining stiff and tight prevents fluid movement and responsiveness. Loosen up!
  • Panic stopping - Abruptly slamming into a stop can cause loss of control. Ease into stops gradually.

Choosing Your Stopping Technique

Knowing when to use a certain stopping technique is key for safety and control. Consider these factors when deciding which method to use:

  • Snow conditions - Powder and icy slopes limit edge control compared to groomed granular snow.
  • Slope angle - Steepness impacts speed and stability. Moderate inclines allow more versatility.
  • Traffic and obstacles - Consider skier congestion and terrain when picking your stopping point.
  • Your skill level - Beginners should stick to basic wedge stops until developing proficiency.
  • Speed - Faster momentum requires more aggressive stopping power.

Get in the habit of assessing conditions and choosing your stop accordingly. Having multiple reliable techniques in your repertoire makes it easier to adapt.

Looking Ahead

Scanning ahead is one of the most important elements of ski stopping. You should always be looking at least 3-5 seconds down the slope to identify:

  • Changing terrain - Rolls, pitch variations and natural obstacles
  • Other skiers - Watch patterns and leave room for erratic maneuvers
  • Preferred stopping points - Target smooth, wide areas clear of hazards
  • Proper timing - Initiate stops well in advance, not at the last second

Focus about 10-15 feet ahead while also using peripheral vision to monitor edges and surroundings. Time your stops proactively, not reactively.

Frequently Asked Questions on Ski Stops

Should I learn snowplow or pizza wedge first?

For most beginners, the snowplow stop is the easiest technique to start with. It allows you to control speed gently while feeling out your edges. Once comfortable, you can progress to the more abrupt pizza wedge stop.

How can I avoid catching an edge when stopping?

Stay centered over your base of support, flex your ankles and knees to absorb force, and press straight down through your shins to engage your edges cleanly without catching.

How do I graduate from wedge to parallel stops?

In the same way you progress from a wedge to parallel turns, you will make this turn by using the hill to help you stop. When you are ready to come to a stop, bring your skis across the hill. Using the terrain to naturally stop.

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