Going to “neutral” between turns is a chance to change your skiing forever and flow through your turns with constant momentum (fast or slow – your choice). It sets you up to ski groomers, bumps, steeps, and powder with far greater success and less energy.
The most important part of linked turns is the transition between turns – actually a moment in the transition called “neutral.” A “good” turn involves the initial movement (tipping) of the skis from their uphill edges (release) to their downhill edges (engagement). In the process of rolling the skis over from one set of edges to the other there is a point (“neutral”) where the skis are flat on the downhill portion of the slope and the skier is actually inclined downhill of vertical and from his skis. “Neutral” is a point where there is no tip lead, no edging, no rotary, and no difference in pressure ski to ski. All four edges are on the snow. In “real” skiing, it is just a point we pass through, but pay attention to, on the way to our new edges and our next turn.
In the learning phase, we want to hesitate for several ski lengths in “neutral” to get totally centered over the skis (balanced) in an athletic stance and ready to move forward with the skis as they head downhill in the new turn. If the skier simply stops the tipping motion of the skis in “neutral,” the ski tips will naturally seek the fall line and, with NO additional effort at all, the skier has a free, effortless start to the turn. The key is not to rush through “neutral” too quickly trying to get to the new edges – impatience leads to twisting the skis before the downhill edges have a chance to engage. If the skis do not turn, you have not released the previous turn and are simply traversing on the uphill edges. Once the downhill edges begin to engage, the skier can continue the tipping motion to carve the turn or he can maintain less edge and add rotary (foot and leg steering; not quickly jerking the skis around) to create a turn that results in a direction change while scraping off some speed in a smooth round turn.
The majority of intermediate skiers and a great many black level skiers make their turns by twisting their skis first then edging them to coast to a so-called “finish” in a traverse or a sideslip. All of their effort is put into twisting the skis in the beginning of the turn; they eliminate the important middle third of the turn by quickly getting their skis perpendicular to the fall line to rapidly scrape off speed; then they relax in a traverse or a sideslip while they search for a place to make their next “turn,” which is nothing more than another braking maneuver. Most of these skiers end their turns out of balance (in the “backseat” and bracing against the outside ski) and the momentary “neutral” position is a chance to re-center (move up and forward) over the skis and avoid one out of balance turn after another. “Neutral” is a path out of the “intermediate rut.”
Dale Ring is a private instructor with 18 years experience with the Telluride Ski School. As always, it is wise to find a good instructor to help you learn any facet of skiing. For a lesson with Dale or another member of the Ski School, call the private lesson desk at 970-728-7507