The parallel turn in skiing is a method for turning. It is credited to Austrian Toni Seelos in the 1930s. Since the 1930s, the parallel turn has evolved to be widely taught and used by most skiers, replacing the earlier techniques of Stem Christie and snowplough turning.
Parallel technique involves tilting the outside ski so that pressure is on its inner edge, and the outer edge is off the surface. As the turn progresses the skis remain parallel, and the inner ski also is pressured on its outer (little-toe) edge. Perfect technique involves no skidding during the turn. The ideal parallel turn involves carving throughout the radius of the turn with weight distributed more on the outside ski, though a softer surface requires more equal weight distribution.
As the turn progresses the skier's weight remains centered fore-and-aft. The skier pressures the front of the ski in an effort to keep the longitudinal center of gravity of the skier's mass over the toes.
Torsional stiffness of the ski determines how much power the skier can extract from the ski. Skis built for Olympic level slalom competition are significantly stiffer than those designed for recreational use. The stiffer the ski, the more acceleration can be extracted from the ski at the end of the turn.
During a parallel turn, the skis do not come closer together; ideally they remain about shoulder width apart, though this has varied slowly over the years. During the formative years of skiing, skiers brought their skis together. However, with modern equipment this makes turning more difficult since the knees don't have room to tilt the ski and results in undesired sliding or skidding.
Turning the ski using a parallel turn with skidding is the opposite of a carve turn. In a properly carved turn, the edge of the ski does not slide laterally during the whole turn. In the 1990s ski design developed with radical side-cut skis to make this require less skiing effort, as skis were progressively widened at the tips and tails relative to the waist. With this shape, applying one edges to the surface significantly curves the ski, resulting in its turning.
Most ski curricula begin with the snowplough turn, then introduce the step turn, and finally to a parallel turn. As of the early 2000s, some curricula begin with the parallel turn.
Parallel turning involves three axes of movement: lateral, vertical and rotational. Lateral movement refers to shifting the weight from one side to the other.
Vertical movement involves bringing the hips slightly forward, but keeping the upper body at the same angle to the ground. This will lift the upper body (some instructors call it 'humping the turn'). The movement should not affect weight centering longitudinally.
Rotational movement involves rotating the upper body relative to the legs. This causes the mid-area of the body to act like a spring, giving easier turn initiation. At the beginning of the turn the separation is at its maximum and so the body will naturally untwist, moving the skis in the direction of the next turn. In the first half of the turn the body is unwinding, in the second half the body is winding up for the next turn.
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