Skiing techniques – Part 1: How to ski proactively and safely

06/11/2017 - Brandi Gulick

A big part of skiing is about technique and tactics. SnowTrex discussed this complex issue with Max Holzmann, chief instructor at the German Ski Teacher Association (Deutscher Skilehrerverband, DSLV). In the first part of our series, the state approved ski instructor gives valuable advice about considerate skiing according to the FIS Piste Rules.

Riding in formation helps train controlled, cautious skiing.

There is a lot to pay attention to when skiing. One important aspect of the right skiing technique is being in control of your own equipment. Apart from that, it is essential to observe the situation on the piste carefully, to assess it correctly, to adjust your speed, and much more. Only then are danger free winter sports possible.

The 10 FIS Piste Rules, a basic code of conduct on the piste, give a concise overview of the most important behaviour patterns. The rules are short yet precise. Behind the few sentences, there is a lot to consider in order to ensure a danger-free atmosphere on the pistes. Our DSLV expert explains what can only be read between the lines of the FIS Rules.

Control of speed and track

Safety first! That also applies to being on the piste. A ski piste can be compared to a road, and skiers or snowboarders are the drivers. Both on the road and on the piste, the appropriate speed guarantees safety in traffic. “If somebody drives or skis too fast, they lose control”, ski instructor Holzmann explains. “You should only ever ski at a speed that allows you to control your direction and balance safely.” Control of speed is one of the most important rules of skiing and can be found under #2 in the FIS Rules. When skiing too fast, one easily loses control of their equipment and is a danger to oneself and others.

It’s also important to keep control when choosing the track – #3 of the FIS Rules. Every skier should be in control of their skis, and not the other way around. Our expert’s advice: “Controlling your track can be easily trained: When skiing in twos, for example, try skiing next to each other and keeping the same distance all the time.”

Direction – Speed – Balance

“The highest premise when skiing on the piste consists of the following triad: Direction, speed, and balance”, Holzmann summarises. “Everybody should be able to control these three features. If you also keep in mind that there are other skiers on the piste that you have to show consideration for, there is almost nothing that can go wrong.”

Avert subjective and objective danger

There’s a reason that showing consideration is the 1st FIS Rule: Apart from your own way of skiing, you also have to pay attention to other skiers. The two types of danger on the piste, however, are not explicitly mentioned in the rules: subjective and objective danger. “Subjective danger comes from the skiers themselves and involves their skill and behaviour”, Holzmann explains. “Apart from that, there is also an objective danger, such as e.g. icy patches on the piste, stones or other objects under the snow that you cannot see, as well as skiers coming from the side that you have to be able to take into account. Both types of danger have to be assessed realistically and avoided in order to guarantee a safe environment on the piste.”

Black is not always black

Another important aspect of skiing is checking the general weather conditions before choosing the piste. The basic piste classifications always apply: blue means easy and flat, red stands for a medium slope, and black for steep and challenging. “Nevertheless, there are days when black pistes are rather red, and other days when red pistes are pitch black”, ski expert Holzmann explains. “It always depends on the quality of snow and the vision. Whenever it’s freezing and there is a layer of ice on the piste, red pistes are hardly manageable. On days with powder snow, on the other hand, even beginners can technically ski on a black piste when the snow doesn’t slip and is a little blunt so that it breaks the speed”. In certain conditions, even beginners can ski on more difficult pistes.

Children practice cautious skiing by holding hands, as seen above.

However, in difficult conditions, such as foggy or icy pistes, one must be particularly careful. Even an experienced skier should think through whether they can take on a red piste or not. These variations show how important a cautious approach and a healthy assessment of one’s own skills are for choosing the right track.

Stopping and choosing the right stopping point

Another one of the FIS Rules is: Stopping and pausing is only allowed at the edge of the piste. Holzmann explains what is not mentioned explicitly: “One should never stop abruptly. Unexpected, quick stops with a sudden change of direction surprise other skiers and create a high potential of danger. One must always take into account that skiers higher up on the piste do not expect others to stop. This means: It is important to slow down gradually while getting closer to the edge of the piste.” Holzmann also emphasises the importance of choosing the right stopping point. Never stop in the middle of the piste. Only take a break at the edge of the piste. Being attentive is also important when starting to ride again. First check the piste above for nearing traffic, then start riding slowly.

Some pistes are a little wavy: they have flat passages that later on rise a little and create a small hill. On such passages, it is impossible to observe the entire piste before arriving at the top of the hill. That means: always stop before the passage and get an overview of the situation behind it. Never stop behind the hilltop, as skiers behind you cannot see you there.


Skiers are the drivers in the traffic of the piste. They have to pay attention to their own way of riding as well as to others‘, and they should ride at a speed that fits their skills. Weather and piste conditions should always be taken into account. Always stop slowly and only at the edge of the piste. Safe skiing fun is guaranteed when not skiing too fast and carefully, and when paying attention to other skiers.

Max Holzmann, Board of Education DSLV

Our DSLV expert

Max Holzmann is a state approved ski instructor and executive board of professional training in the German Ski Teacher Association (Deutscher Skilehrerverband, DSLV). His areas of responsibility are the contents of training courses, the respective assessment levels and levels of difficulty in all training stages from level 1 to the state approved ski instructor exam in the disciplines motor skills, methodology and theory.

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