First, it is necessary to point out that the info on this page
is a compilation of opinions from various sources and is not a definitive guide
to carving technique.
More than any other sport, there is a total lack of consensus as to what constitutes
proper carving technique. Different instructors teach radically different styles.
If you posed a question to a group of three carving instructors, you would probably
get four different answers. In particular, the biggest discrepancy seems to
be where your torso should face:
- Instructors who race but don't carve often teach these styles:
- Torso facing down the fall line (Maximum downhill twist).
- Torso facing the direction of the bindings
- Torso facing a direction between the bindings and the long axis of the
- Instructors who carve but don't race often teach these styles:
- Torso facing the direction of the long axis of the board
- Torso facing as much as 30º ahead of the long axis of the board
(Maximum uphill twist).
Carving styles seem to fall into a spectrum that spans two extremes:
- Styles that transform the energy of the board into speed. They tend to
have a higher center of mass and use a more open stance (knees separated,
facing more toward bindings). These styles do not tilt the board high on edge,
so you don't have to worry as much about boot-out. They are more stable, and
absorb bumps well on varied terrain. They are generally used for carving somewhat
less than a complete half-circle on each turn. Because the energy of the board
goes into speed, these carving styles are used for getting the fastest time
out of a race course.
- Styles that transform the energy of the board into G-force. They tend to
have a lower center of mass and use a more closed stance (knees together,
facing more toward the nose). These styles tilt the board high on edge, so
you have to worry about boot-out. They are less stable, and cannot absorb
bumps well on varied terrain. These styles are used for carving complete half
circles, allowing you to experience up to about 3 Gs of centripetal force.
Because most of the energy of the board goes into G-force rather than speed,
you can progress down the fall line slowly and in control, even on a steep
Independent of those two styles, there seem to be two primary techniques:
- Bomber-style, or angulated style, which emphasizes angulation. It causes the center of mass to be balanced over the edge of the board
- Push-pull style, which emphasizes inclination. Riders push or pull against the board to equalize the lateral forces.
It's best to learn from several instructors and pick and choose techniques
to see what works best for you. Getting good instruction is vital: it's worth
spending more money on instruction than on gear when you are first learning.
In addition, it's important to find an instructor who can help tweak your stance
setup so that you won't be fighting your equipment while you are trying to learn,
which means the instructor should also be knowledgeable about carving gear adjustment,
as well as bootfitting.
Unfortunately, it's hard to find instructors who can effectively teach carving.
That's because an instructor who tries to teach carving based on conventional
snowboard fundamentals will likely steer you in the wrong direction, and set
you back skill-wise. In addition, the carving style used for race training may
not provide the right learning curve for the type of carving that you are look
A lot of carvers aspire to the G-force style because it feels like riding a
roller coaster. However, the instructional aspect of the G-force style is complicated
by a monkey wrench known as the bumblebee effect. If you were to describe the
G-force style to an instructor fresh out of snowboard instructor school, the
instructor would explain to you why this style couldn't possibly work, and how
it would result in skidding out on every turn, even on the best terrain and
conditions. Yet some of the best carvers can go rail-to-rail, in perfect half
circles, down steep ice using exactly this technique. A few years ago, scientists
finally figured out why the bumblebee is able to fly, despite having aerodynamics
that seem to make it impossible. Perhaps the same thing will eventually happen
with the G-force style of carving. Also because of this phenomenon, instructors
with the best insights have invariably gone through a phase where they have
completely revised their notion of what constitutes proper carving technique. In general, there are two types of good carving instructors:
- Those who received no formal training or certification, and taught themselves
to carve without the burdens of conventional wisdom. (like Doug Dryer)
- Those who are certified to teach snowboarding, and who then subsequently
figured out which rules to break in order to carve well. (like Flo Jayme)
Which means you need the name of someone with a reputation, otherwise you
are wasting money. Check out lesson summaries from these instructors:
If you decide to roll the dice with your local snowboard school, first ask
if there is a designated carver who can teach on plates. If there are no designated
carvers, ask for someone with racing experience who can teach on an alpine setup.
Canadian CASI level IV instructors are certified on plates. Get the earliest lesson of
the day, which not only has the best grooming, but often comes with an "early
bird" discount. (In the spring, you may have to wait until the bulletproof
ice has thawed.)
Ideally, you want to find an instructor who carves exactly the way you want
to carve. If you can't preview the instructor, there are a few approaches:
- The only sure way to make sure you are getting the right instruction is
to immediately ask the instructor to demonstrate rail-to-rail carving on steep
ice. If he can't, or won't, or never has, there is probably still time to
get a refund.
- If you are looking for G-force style instruction, check to see if the instructor
has boot overhang - if so, find a polite way to end the lesson and ask for
- Even if you are a racer looking to improve on the Speed style of carving,
you will get better training from an instructor who has a good handle on the
low-to-the-ground G-force style. If the instructor dismisses this style by
saying "those guys have bad technique because they reach for the snow"
it means the instructor is clueless about carving in general, since advanced
carvers don't reach for the snow to skim their hands on the slope - they don't
have to, because angulation, timing, and weight shift cause it to happen naturally.
It's OK to touch the snow, as long as you don't reach for it, and as long as you don't place any weight on that hand.
- Ask the instructor how to get the board higher on edge quicker. If the instructor
says, "Use the same technique, just commit," The instructor may
be clueless. Techniques and drills that help with angulation are required.
- Ask the instructor how the technique should be changed in order to handle
steep ice. If the instructor says, "Use the same technique, just commit,"
the instructor may be clueless. Steep ice calls for cross-through techniques.
- Ask the instructor how the technique should be changed for racing. If the
instructor says, "Use the same technique: only the timing is different,"
the instructor may be clueless. Racing style dictates a more forward-facing
chest to avoid over-rotation.
If you find an instructor with a clue, you should work on the cross-through
technique for carving the steeps and ice, because you can use it anywhere on
Inside vs. Outside
When talking about what your body does in a carve, always use "Inside"
to refer to the direction toward the hill, to the inside the turn. Use "Outside"
to refer to the direction away from the hill, toward the outside of the turn.
It's too confusing to talk about uphill / downhill or right / left.
Carving is a form of human origami. Some of the G-force carving styles require
extreme body contortion, and part of the process of learning involves teaching
yourself to become more angulated than you thought possible, to bend your knees
more than you thought possible, and to twist your body more than you thought
possible. If you were born with elastic double joints, you have the advantage.
Because the body positions are so extreme, it often takes a few runs at the
beginning of each day to recall all of the muscle memory. Even advanced carvers
start the first run of the day looking useless, and then progressively recall
the right body positions over the course of the next 2-3 runs until the muscle
memory fully returns. Even if you are experienced, you will probably tip over
on the first run of the season. Many carvers require up to 6 days of riding
before returning to the skill level they had at the end of the previous season.
When you are a beginner, it might take you half a day to recall the right body
movements after a week of not carving. This warm-up period can be disconcerting,
because by the time you have recalled your technique, the slope will be chopped
Angulation involves keeping your center of gravity over the carving edge while
you crank the board high on edge. Angulate your body by compressing the outside
part of your body linkage and expanding the inside part of your body linkage
like an accordion. To achieve balance, your bones should be stacked over the
carving edge. If you lose angulation for even an instant, either at the beginning,
middle, or end of the carve, you will likely wash out. A few tips and drills
assist with angulation:
- Imagine a line going through your shoulders, then keep that line parallel
to the slope at all times. As you crank the board higher on edge, you will
have to raise your inside arm to the point where your collar bone starts to
tilt up to become parallel to the slope. Normally, when your arm sticks straight
out perpendicular from your torso, the collar bone does not move - it is only
when you raise your arm further than perpendicular that the collar bone starts
to tilt. A few drills help out here:
- Hold a break-away bamboo pole across your chest at shoulder height,
just under your neck, with both hands near its center. To prevent a thumb
injury, don't wrap your thumb around the pole - keep it on top. Now point
your elbows outward, aligned with the pole. Keep the pole, and the line
connecting your elbows and shoulders, parallel to the slope at all times.
If you fall, pull your elbows into your body to prevent shoulder dislocation.
- As a drill, try fully extending your inside arm and point parallel to the slope. Near the end of a turn, you should be pointing straight up the slope. It looks weird, so instead, you can do the
chicken wing: keep your inside hand just in front of your chest, and point
your inside elbow up the slope. Feel your collar bone tilt. The analogy here is to "spread your wings and fly."
- Your outer hand can add leverage to help with angulation:
- Drive your outer hand across the board with your body.
- Touch your outer hand to your back knee, then your front knee, then
the outside edge of your board (at your front foot).
- Try to touch the bottom of your outside rib cage to the top of your outside
hip: Think of cracking a walnut with your hip.
- With your FRS radio turned up, have someone watch as you carve and go "Bzzzzzzzt!"
into the radio whenever you lose angulation. There's nothing like positive
- It's easier to get more angulation, especially on heel side, if you drop
your back knee toward the slope, behind your front knee.
- Don't lean into the turn with your torso - instead, achieve "lean"
by start the turn with your hips first, by moving them across the board towards
the inside of the turn as you begin the turn.
- In order to properly angulate, you need to keep your butt over the carving
edge - don't let it stick out to the inside of the turn ("sitting on
the toilet"). On heel side, think about rotating your torso to be aligned
with the long axis of the board.
- Do not let your inside shoulder dip, no matter how tired you get. If you
find yourself dipping your inside shoulder later in the day, there is no use
continuing to carve.
- When you skid out, immediately check to see if you have enough angulation
- you probably won't.
Carving involves paradoxes that trip up beginners, and one of the paradoxes
has to do with angulation. Laid-over carving allows riders to get close to the
snow, sometimes skimming both forearms during a carve. Beginners often attempt
to achieve the same result by reaching for the snow and tipping their inside
shoulder. But this move only results in an edge wash-out because you will lose
angulation. In order to get your body close to the snow, you have to move it
away from the snow. The correct method is to angulate your body away from the
inside of the turn. The more you bend away from the snow, the higher you can
put the board on edge, until the board is so high on edge that your body is
close to the snow. If you focus on angulation (keeping your weight over the
carving edge), then you will naturally achieve inclination (leaning your whole
body close to the snow). When you see expert carvers laying it down, what you
see is an optical illusion - it looks like they are leaning their body toward
the snow so their hand touches it, but in reality, they are pulling their body
away from the snow so their hand does not touch it.
Another way to describe the approach is by using the terms "cantilevered angulation" or "progressive angulation," where the angulation, and the edge angle of the board, feed off of each other in a continuous cycle. More angulation results in more board tilt, which allows more angulation, in a symbiotic, yin/yang sort of way.
When carving GS turns, you should lead the turn with your body: First your
body turns, starting with your hips, then the board follows. As you progress
through the turn, don't stop turning your upper body: continue to lead the board
with your hips and shoulders until the next edge change. Letting the board get
ahead of your body at any point in time is called counter rotation, and there
are three scenarios:
- Counter rotation with opposing upper body: It involves
abruptly twisting your upper torso in one direction to get the board to turn
in the opposite direction by using conservation of momentum. Newbie softbooters
sometimes use this technique, often without bending their knees. After this
type of turn, the board is pointing in one direction and you are facing the
opposite direction, which affords zero control and no chance of carving. You
can also max out your twist, run out of rotational angle, and fail to turn
the board as much as you want. Because this technique maintains constant rotational
momentum throughout the turn, it is the fastest way to turn the board, and
in fact you can spin the board in place. The only times you should use this
technique are when you need to take quick emergency countermeasures, or when
you are gliding on the flats at low speed and need to make a quick 90º
turn into the lift line. You can also use counter-rotation to weave your way
through a crowd on the flats before a lift line by swinging your arms around:
this method is called "Counter-rotation kung-fu"
- Counter rotation with quiet upper body: This technique
is the cross-under slalom racing style. Your body faces down the fall line
while the board makes quick transitions back and forth underneath you. It
is not effective for GS carving. However, this type of counter rotation is
required for slalom racing, riding moguls, or going through the trees.
- Counter rotation at the finish: Your body leads the board
at the beginning of a GS turn but then lets the board catch up to it at the
end of the turn. Counter rotation at the finish causes you to carve less efficient
trenches that will deviate from a perfect circle.
When carving GS turns, avoid counter rotation by bringing your outside hand
toward the inside of the turn, twisting your body to the inside of the turn,
and looking uphill toward the inside of the turn. Then keep leading the board
all the way to the edge change. CERN has a web page on the evils of counter-rotation.
The technique used by the ExtremeCarving people requires riders to completely
eliminate counter rotation.
Look up to hookup
In addition to getting rid of counter rotation, some carving styles require
over rotation, which involves twisting your body aggressively into the slope
in order to carve perfect half-circles. For this style, you can visualize carving
a figure-8: Even though the board will not point uphill, you can visualize bringing
the board uphill by over-rotating (for each hump of the figure-8). By ending
the turn with your torso twisting uphill, you can generate the windup that you
need to dive into the next turn, and you can use this extra energy to crank
the board higher on edge.
Avoid petting the dog - don't let your outer hand lag behind you. Instead,
bring your outside hand across the board as you transition into the turn to
provide more twist. Ideally, you want to carve the turn with both forearms parallel.
This style also requires that you look uphill, at the point where your board
would go if it were to follow the path of a circle back up the hill - but it
won't because you change edges before then. In this style, you don't look where
your board is going to go; you look where your board would go but won't. If
you aim for the over rotated method, you know you are doing it right because
it will feel more efficient, and you will be able to carve a perfect half-circle
instead of an ellipse - check your trench from the chairlift to verify. A side
benefit of the over-rotated style is that you can take a look to see if someone
is about to run into you. However, this style requires that you tilt the board
high on edge - if the board edge is too low, you are likely to skid out on heel
Right after an edge change, you need to enter a carve with your weight toward
the front of the board, and shift your weight back as you progress through the
carve. This method is often called "feeding the dollar bill." Do not
start a carve in the middle or back seat. Use your legs to get your weight forward
- don't do it by breaking at the waist and bending over too far, or you will
bury the nose and go over the handlebars. When carving fast turns on the steeps,
you may not have time to do the weight shift. In this case, you don't have to
actually shift your weight - it is sufficient to merely think about shifting
your weight to get a small bit of extra edge hold. You know you are doing the
weight shift correctly if you get a lot of tail spring from the board without
trying for it.
Getting edge sooner
When carving on the steeps, it is critical to tilt the board high on edge early
in the turn so that you can control your speed. One method is to use a diving
turn. While the board is perpendicular to the fall line at the transition, crank
the board to its highest angle using your knees and hip. This movement
should happen in less than 1/4 of a second. After that 1/4 second window has
elapsed, you won't be able to effectively squeeze much more angle out of the
board during the rest of the turn. With this technique, on heel side, you will be going into the turn blind, since you won't be able to see where you are going while the board is perpendicular to the fall line. It is essential that you learn to trust your board to catch you coming out of the turn. There are a couple of tips to get high edge
- For both heel side and toe side, you can also throw your hip to the inside
of the turn to touch the snow with your hip early. All the motion happens in your hips,
not your upper body - visualize closing a door with your hip, while still
balancing a tray of food with your hands. You will need to couple this movement
with high angulation, or you will tip over.
- On toe side, drive your back knee to the inside of the turn, toward the slope.
- On heel side, it's more difficult to get early edge angle. Your back knee
should drop toward the carving edge quickly, and this move is assisted if
your torso turns to the inside of the turn, and your butt stays over the carving
edge. One way to get higher on edge is to flex your ankles more by trying
to lift the toes on your front foot as you enter a turn, and then try to lift
the toes on your back foot as you leave a turn. This move also helps you get
forward on the board early in the turn, and shift to the rear of the board
later in the turn.
By tilting the board high on edge, you should be able to get the board to carve
a turn radius that is much tighter than the sidecut radius of the board. What
this means is that you can power a large sidecut radius board into a smaller
radius on the snow. When you crank the board high on edge, it's going to generate
centripetal force that counteracts the force of gravity, which will slow you
down, so this high edge angle technique works best on steeper slopes. If you
try it on the flats, you will come to a complete stop.
There are a few ways to change edges:
- Cross-over: Your board stays where it is and your body
travels up and over the board in an arc. In this style, you bring your torso
up (placing weight on the board as you move up) and then you sink back down
to begin the next carve (unweighting the board as you sink). This technique
is easier and more natural to learn, but it does not work well on steeps because
it takes too long to change edges.
- Cross-under: Your torso stays where it is and your lower
body swings back and forth underneath you to change edges. In this style,
you bring your legs in (unweighting), then you hop to a new edge for the next
turn (placing weight on the board as you enter the next carve). You can change
edges quicker than in the cross-over style, however you don't hold edge pressure
for as long. [Cross-under and cross-over terminology was used for a long time
in skier ETS (Examiner Training Squad) certification.]
- Cross-through: A good technique for ice and steeps, which
is a combination of cross-over and cross-under. It consists of bringing your
center of gravity straight across the board and downhill by partially unweighting
before an edge change, while your knees roll to the next edge. Instead of
rising up and then sinking, like in the cross-over, you stay low the entire
time. In fact, your body starts out low and gets even lower when your center
of gravity passes over the board. The term cross-through was originally coined
by Tom Reynolds, a ski coach at UMaine Farmington. Erik Beckman later applied
the term to snowboarding in his 1994 self-published book.
If you are a beginner, you can start off with the cross-over technique, then
work you way to the cross-through style, with a bit of cross-under on crowded
- While a perfect toe side carve feels great, a perfect heel side carve feels
even better, but it's harder to pull off. To take up the sport of carving
is to seek the perfect heel side turn.
- Your carving ability will be limited by your weakest side: toe side or heel
side. Carvers are usually less skilled on heel side. A poor heel side has
a bad cumulative effect:
- Turns are not tight enough, causing excessive speed.
- The excessive speed causes the toe side turns to be more difficult.
- Carvers wind up trying to check their speed on toe side, which limits
the effectiveness of the toe side turn, making the next heel side turn
completely fall apart.
- Therefore, it is critical to develop your heel side turn: If you improve
your heel side by a factor of two, your toe side turns will also improve dramatically,
and your overall carving will improve by a factor of 4.
- A lot of carvers start down a run and drop into their first carved turn
on toe side, because it is easier than on heel side. However, if you are not
oriented to start with a toe side carve, you will wind up wasting a turn to
get the board around to toe side. It is important to learn how to drop into
your first carved turn on heel side to avoid wasting vertical. In fact, you
may want to only start your first carved turns on heel side,
to force you to practice it. To start a carve on heel side, you will need
a lot of angulation, and you will need to build up speed using weight shift:
visualize moving your hips down the hill, out from under your torso.
A lot of carvers are plagued with edge hold problems on heel side, which can
appear as two phenomena: wavy trenches or chatter.
If it feels like the tail of the board is oscillating back and forth, you are
probably leaving wavy trenches. It happens because the nose and tail of the
board are each trying to carve a different radius. There are two ways to fix this problem:
- Avoid twisting the board longitudinally. Try using more heel lift on the back foot.
maintain the same rigid static pressure during the turn. Instead, apply dynamic
pressure using a few techniques:
- Progressively shift your weight from forward to back throughout the turn
- Progressively increase your angulation throughout the turn
- Progressively twist your upper body towards the inside of the turn.
- To allow the board to seek its most natural arc, try unlocking the lean
adjusters on your boots.
If the entire board chatters or washes out, it means you are unbalanced, or the board is twisting. Some
- Keep your weight over the carving edge by angulating. See the section on
Angulation for several tips, including moving your
outer hand to the inside of the turn.
- Tilt the board higher on edge. A board tilted at a low angle is more likely
to skid out. Strive to get early edge angle.
- A stiff setup on bumpy terrain is not a good combo.
- Your binding setup might need tweaking. Make sure that you are centered on the board, and that both legs are contributing
an equal amount of pressure during a turn.
- Do not tense up your legs, otherwise the board will chatter. Bend your knees
more and relax your muscles.
- If you twist the board, the nose will want to carve a different radius than the tail. Board twist can happen if you bend your knees aggressively, rotate your body into the turn, and don't have enough lift on the rear binding. In this situation your rear heel will try to lift up as your front toe pushes down, twisting the board.
- Chatter can be caused by too much pressure on the tail ... or too little:
- Don't break forward at the waist, otherwise you will take pressure off
the tail, causing it to skid out. To avoid breaking at the waist, try to tilt the board using your lower leg, with your knees and ankles.
- You might be exerting pressure on the board too late in the carve. As
you are finishing the turn and the board is about 15º from the finish,
you need to be taking pressure off the board to start the next turn. If
you are still pressuring the board beyond this point, it's going to skid.
Shift the time interval of pressure toward the early part of the turn.
This problem can occur if the board doesn't get tilted high on edge soon
enough at the beginning of the carve - as a result, the rider over-pressures
the board during the later half of the carve trying to get it higher on
Use the Force
Visualization is important. Spend a minute at the top of the slope visualizing
what you are going to do. Plus, you have to wait at the top anyway until the
family of floundering, skittish, novice skiers finishes the run. Some people
use a carving style that only works on perfect snow, and other people radically
change their style depending on the snow conditions. Everyone seems to have
a totally different technique, and your skill will get better after you watch
and hang out with other good carvers, since the skill set seems to transfer
Here is one possible skill series that beginners can follow.
- First focus entirely on angulation, by keeping your shoulders parallel to
the slope. As a drill, fully extend your inside arm so that it points straight
up the slope: this motion will force your collarbone to tilt, keeping your
shoulders parallel to the slope. Do not let your inside shoulder dip. You
can also try the "chicken wing" pose, where you keep your inside
hand at your chest, point your elbow to the inside of the turn, and
raise your elbow so that it points up the slope. (If you start to fall, bring
your elbow into your body to avoid shoulder dislocation)
- Now, increase your angulation by bending your knees, getting a little lower,
and tilting the snowboard higher on edge, while still keeping your shoulders
parallel to the slope. Try to develop an accordion bend, by expanding the
side of your body facing the inside of the turn and compressing the side of
your body facing the outside of the turn. Don't lose your angulation near
the end of the turn, and don't break at the waist.
- While maintaining angulation, work on twisting your body into the turn so
that you carve a more circular arc. To aid your body rotation and angulation,
move your outside hand across the board, or try touching your outside hand
to your front foot. Look slightly uphill, and face your body slightly uphill.
Focus on pulling the board all the way to the end: don't let the board get
ahead of you. The idea here is to get rid of counter rotation. This skill
comes in two phases:
- First you work on your toe side turns. Without a good toe side
turn, it's hard to enter a heel side turn with enough control to
practice the technique. Over time, your toe side carves will become
tighter and more controlled.
- Once you are able to master the toe side, you will have enough
control to start practicing on heel side. After you improve on heel
side, you get a feedback effect - your toe side turns will be even
easier, which in turn improves your heel side. This is usually when
carvers experience their first breakthrough.
- While maintaining angulation and twist, focus on entering the turn with
your weight forward, then shift your weight back as the turn progresses. You
should start to feel a pop as you get some tail spring to help the board change
- While maintaining angulation, twist, and weight shift, focus on doing a
cross-through: Instead of rising up and then flexing back down to change edges,
stay low all the time and bring your body straight across the board.
- While maintaining angulation, twist, weight shift, and cross-through movement,
start entering each turn early, by performing the cross-through movement before
you think you need to turn. Early turns will tighten up your carves and allow
you to carve on your downhill edge at the very beginning of a turn. Think
of pressuring the board up the slope at the beginning of
the turn, while the board is perpendicular to the fall line.
- While maintaining angulation, twist, weight shift, and early cross-through
movement, work on adding a burst of angulation at the start of the turn (the
beginning of a diving turn) to get your board higher on edge so that you carve
a tighter radius on steeper slopes.
Other tips for beginners:
- If you have not done other board sports and you need to determine whether
you are regular (right facing) or goofy (left facing), do a slide test. In
socks, sprint across the floor and slide. Whichever way you find yourself
facing is the stance you should use.
- You can think of carving as an extreme version of regular freeriding - your
carving style will take you in a direction beyond where your freeriding style
left off. And by pushing yourself beyond your freeriding style, your freeriding
skill will improve. The extra edge control will also be of use in the halfpipe.
- As a beginner, you can progress up the learning curve faster if you attend
a carve camp.
- To click into your bindings on the slope, face downhill with your board
perpendicular to the fall line and downhill from you. Then dig a shelf in
the snow by banging your front heel on the slope, keeping your rear foot uphill
of the board. Then slide the back of the board over the shelf and click into
the rear binding.
Riding bumps and Moguls
For moguls, you can use the same cross-under technique used by skiers. Keep
your torso facing down the fall line with your arms posed like you are holding
a tray of cookies while the board zips back and forth under you. Keep your upper
body quiet so you don't drop the cookies. Use your front foot to make the tip
of the board follow a zipper path between the moguls, and swing your back foot
side to side, setting the edge on the side of a mogul and then pushing off with
the tail to bleed off speed. Keep your center of gravity low and maximize your leg extension. Try to keep the board out of the gully between
moguls: try to set the edge on each mogul a foot or so above the valley. In
addition, you can tweak your setup for moguls:
- Use an all-mountain board or a BX board that is wide with a rounded tail.
- Use lower binding angles for quicker response and leverage.
- Use less setback: it will make the board more responsive.
- Unlock the lean on your boots for more shock absorption.
Carving the Steeps or ice
Use the cross-through technique: it will
- Keep your center of gravity low throughout the entire turn.
- Make edge changes quicker.
- Give you more nimble control when setting the edge
If you go into panic mode, your sphincteral reaction will be to stand up, which
is the wrong thing to do, since you lose angulation and board angle. Train yourself
to get lower on the board when you panic. Think of fighting back against the
slope by cutting into it with more angulation and a deeper knee bend. Think
about slicing into the slope by dynamically flexing the board, and by shifting
your weight from front to back. Staying low requires a lot more leg power, but
do not let yourself stand up, no matter how tired you get. If you find yourself
frequently standing up later in the day, bag it and head to the bar. Other tips:
- In addition to using cross-through, try to start that cross-through motion well in advance, before you have finished the current turn. In the angulated style of carving, most of the pressure gets applied to the edge during the second half of the turn, as the board is about to turn perpendicular to the fall line. Rather than letting this pressure build up, causing the board to skid out, begin the cross-through early, sucking your boots toward your body, and crossing your body over your board, to ease the pressure off the edge.
- Before hitting the steeps, it is beneficial to practice getting tail spring
out of the end of your turns, since it is much easier to enter the next turn
if you finish the current turn will a nice clean pop.
- Starting a carve on the steeps can be tricky. You initially won't be going
fast enough to balance with the proper board angle for the slope, but that
means that you can accelerate too quickly and develop too much speed on the
first turn before you can drop into the proper rhythm. To start, pick up speed
and gradually sit into the carve position over the course of the first turn,
then lock in the right position on the second turn.
- Don't go into panic mode and lean back at the beginning of the turn. It'll
go downhill from there.
- On steeps it is more important to shift your weight forward at the beginning
of the turn, but it's more difficult because everything is going fast. To
help out, you can go with a flat cant on the front foot or reduce the setback.
- Relax your muscles - don't let your sphincter take control. If you tense
up your legs, you will chatter the board and skid out. It's all mind over
- Angulate to keep your weight over the carving edge. You can't angulate too
- You have to keep up with gravity, which means that on the steeps you must
transition into your turns by diving into them. If you enter turns slower
than gravity wants you to, you will never be able to properly complete a turn.
Think of first moving your body down the hill, then pulling your board with
- To bleed off speed on the steeps, it is essential to crank your board as high on edge as possible at the beginning of the turn. The small joints on the lower part of the body are best for this, since they have less mass, are close to the board, and can move quickly. Try the body-whip drill: your lower body quickly and abruptly tilts the board on edge using your knees/lower leg/ankle, then the upper body follows like the end of a whip. As your lower body cranks the board up on edge, you need to maintain balance and angulation, and to do that you can tilt your upper boy to the outside of the turn to achieve angulation. This move can be used as a wind-up, which can be released (the follow-through of the whip) by moving the upper body to the inside of the turn after the board tilt has been achieved.
- In order to sustain a series of carves down the steeps with balance and
control, you need to set a rather precise rhythm from one turn to the next.
Part of learning the steeps involves maintaining this rhythm, and mastering
the steeps involves being able to quickly recover from a skid and regain the
While carving, some tricks are possible:
- Carving up the side of a bank provides a very cool G-force experience. However, in order to make it work, your board should be exactly perpendicular to the bank when you start to carve up the side.
- Tricks at edge changes are possible, especially when carving up the side
of a bank (Nose rolls, 180s, 360s, etc.)
- Riding fakie on a race board is easier than you think, and it really
feels backwards. It also kicks up a lot of snow.
- The PureBoarding movie Beyond
the Limits shows a few tricks and switch riding.
- A few of the non-extreme grabs are possible (Method, Indy, etc)
- Damien Sanders was renowned for this ability to do tricks in Koflach boots,
including his patented Iguana Air (rear hand grabs toe-edge near the
Eurocarve turns (also called Vitelli turns or V-turns, named after Serge Vitelli)
involve a quick extension of the whole body in the middle of a carve. Eurocarving
typically requires perfect timing and hero snow, and doesn't work well on the
steeps. It also helps to have a long, stable, narrow board, and be able to get
the board high on edge as soon as possible. However, it's difficult to link
a series of Vitelli turns in quick succession, and the early eurocarving pioneers
(Serge Vitelli, Peter Bauer, and Jean Nerva) usually performed Vitelli turns
on toe side, without linking consecutive turns. Get your cross-through technique
nailed, then try Eurocarving.
The PureBoarding style uses a surf stance, with binding angles of around 55°/20°
on a wide board. The stance has a few advantages:
- It allows a more comfortable upright stance.
- The movements of the knees along the heel-toe direction are more efficient
and take less effort.
- Toe side turns are easier, because you get more leverage and it's easy to
drop your knees straight down into the turn
- It's easier to compress low onto the board without exerting twisting pressure
on your knees.
- It allows for a more rotated style.
ExtremeCarving is a version of the Push-Pull technique taken to the extreme,
on steep groomed hardpack. See an in-depth discussion in the ExtremeCarving
Pitch and Terrain
As you get better, you will get slower. That's because you will be able to
control your speed by getting the board high on edge and making tighter turns,
which generates centripetal force that counteracts gravity and slows you down
- think of it as "engine braking". Beginners often accelerate beyond
their control because they can't make tight, high-angled turns. As you get slower,
you will need to advance to steeper terrain in order to maintain the speed necessary
to carve. Be aware that as you get better and slower, people are more likely
to run into you from behind because you will be traveling down the fall line
more slowly. Facts about terrain:
- Overall, the surface conditions have a huge impact on your carving performance.
The difficulty of carving a slope depends more on the surface texture/grip
of the terrain than on the pitch.
- Good surface terrain can come at unlikely times. Some of the best carving
can be had on the last day a resort is open.
- Sharp edges help on ice, but your technique is a larger factor for edge
- Carvers often seek out the handful of runs at a resort that are best for
carving and stick to just those: when carving, it's not the variations in
the terrain that provides the variety, it's your carving technique, and you
may find yourself riding a single run for the entire day. In fact, a resort
only needs to have one really good carving run to qualify as a "good
Double-arm Carving and the flight model
Most carvers aspire to double-arm carving, which happens when you are leaned
over so much that both of your forearms are skimming the snow on toe side and
heel side. It can be achieved two ways:
- Using a fully extended style like the ExtremeCarving technique.
- Using a highly compact, ultra-angulated, over-rotated carving style, like
Doug Dryer's Ultimate Carving. In this case, you need to completely eliminate
yaw (side-to-side motion) from your technique. Instead, limit your motion
to roll (tilting the board high on edge using angulation), and pitch (pulling
the nose of the board by twisting your body uphill to the inside of the turn).
The roll motion comes first, and consists of quickly tilting the board maximally
on edge to get both forearms in the snow. This move happens before you enter
each turn, while the board is still perpendicular to the fall line, and requires
a low center of gravity. Then, arc the board across the snow using pitch by
twisting your torso uphill. Think of a fighter jet rolling and then peeling
out of a formation, without using any rudder yaw.
Of all the folks on the hill who are captivated by a carver railing turns,
ski racers are the ones most genuinely interested in trying it out. That's because
they aren't scared of hard boots, and they have already tasted carving to a
certain extent on skis in a race course. These folks generally "carve"
more than softbooters. It's also quite easy for ski racers to pick up snowboard
carving, especially when coached by someone who can explain snowboard carving
You can improve your technique by attending one of the many carving sessions
that are organized throughout the year.
- Watching yourself on videotape is enormously helpful, if not humbling. When you view yourself on video, you never, never look as good as you think you are, and you'll spot all sorts of problems. Which is why you might want to consider a carve camp that offers video analysis.
- Carving is like being in orbit: you are always falling.
- You may get into a rut (figuratively speaking), and find yourself unable to carve without tipping over or skidding out. In this scenario do the following drill: Do not allow your board to turn downhill until you are maximally angulated. Traverse across the slope, and increase your angulation more and more as you traverse, and let the board turn downhill only when you have maxed out on the angulation.
- It's usually easier to learn new skills on a damp board than on a lively
- When switching over from soft boots to hard boots, you can ease the transition
by gradually increasing the binding angles on your soft boots a few degrees
at a time, then make the switch to hard boots using the same angle, then gradually
increase the binding angles on the hard setup.
- When you move to a longer board, it will go faster, but at the same time
it will have more carving inertia. Which means you have to simultaneously
think faster, and smooth out all of your movements by a notch.
- Your technique will improve if you practice on different types/brands of
carving gear. Some people on the regional carving web sites hoard a ridiculous
amount of carving gear, so ask to borrow some. In general:
- Stiffer equipment
forces you to ride with better technique, and may speed the learning curve.
- Longer boards sometimes mast bad habits. Try a shorter board, and practice keeping your weight centered.
- Try wider boards, and lower your boot angles; it will give you more stability, and will allow you to practice different techniques.
- Try both the G-force style and the speed style: elements of each can help either.
- The CERN club has a description
of French style (torso facing down the fall line) and Swiss style (torso facing
the direction of the long axis of the board). However, the cross-over, cross-under,
cross-through techniques are better models upon which to develop a carving
style. The CERN site also has an online snowboard tutor.
- You need to bend your knees more than you think. More advanced, compact
carving styles require your butt to be about 3 inches above your back foot,
which means you should almost be sitting on your back foot. This stance puts
a lot of strain on your quads. Bring ibuprofen. Practice at home in the living
room while watching TV: Get used to how low you need to be. Because of the
geometry of a carving stance, you will think you are bending your knees, even
when you are not. There are two ways to check:
- When you carve, put your hands on your thighs: If your thighs don't
seem parallel to the slope, you are not bending enough.
- Look at yourself on videotape.
- Carving is like lifting weights, since it takes a lot of leg muscle power
during the middle of each carve. For many carving styles, you may not have
the muscle power to carve the entire length of a long run without stopping.
As your legs get tired, your technique will go downhill - fast. After around
noon, your legs will lose steam and the terrain will get chopped up: consider
switching to freeride mode for the afternoon, or make use of a half-day AM
lift ticket. Even on all-mountain boards, the experience is not always fun
after the terrain is chopped up. In spring conditions, moguls are created
quickly. However, as your technique improves, you will be able to continue
carving later in the day.
- Carving has another similarity to weight lifting: because the strength and
concentration needed, people sometimes forget to breathe during a series of
turns. Remember to breathe.
- The edge control skills you learn from carving will come in handy for the
- Occasionally check your trenches for signs of boot-out, and increase your
binding angles if necessary. Boot-out may not affect you on softer snow, but
on hardpack, it can cause you to skid.
- Confidence is a huge element in carving. Therefore, it's a bad idea
to carve in low visibility conditions or on a board that is outside of your
skill range. It's also not a great idea to carve when the cover is thin with
exposed rocks - your technique might suffer if you are not confident about
where to set your edge. Steeps are 50% mental. If you carve while someone
is videotaping you, your skill level drops by 30%. Unfortunately, carving
attracts attention, so you are always being watched.
- Speaking of confidence, what's really impressive are the carvers who appear
in photos taken during the middle of a really deep carve, who also seem to
be completely relaxed, smiling at the camera, and just chilling out as if
they don't have a care in the world. Damn them!
- The unfortunate thing about carving is that when you are learning, you are
guaranteed to look really stupid when you lose an edge, because you will either
tip over or wind up plowing snow in an exhibition sort of way. Constant humiliation
goes with the learning curve. Also, skating your way off the lift in a hard
setup is not quite trivial.
- As far as carving technique, don't believe anything you read on the internet.
A call for versatility
In 2002, Transworld
Snowboarding asked Craig Kelly "What do you respect about other riders?"
He responded by saying "I really like seeing riders who can carve turns
and also pull big tricks and big moves."
Back to The Carver's Almanac