How To: Execute a Downhill Kick Turn
This basic survival skiing turn is a backcountry staple for experts and novices alike.
Intro: The downhill kick turn allows you to make good time, if not stylishly. Sometimes snow is too shallow or crusty, your pack's too heavy, or you can't ski well enough to make downhill turns safely. It also works with longer, northland-style snowshoes.
1) To start, traverse downhill at a comfortable, controlled angle until you're ready to turn. Stop and put your downhill pole behind you, on the slope above your skis. If needed, stomp your skis until you have a firm platform underfoot.
2) Once stable, kick your downhill foot straight ahead in 'chorus-line' fashion, letting the tail stick into the snow and the tip point straight up.
3) Facing downhill, let your downhill ski pivot on the tail, so the tip falls behind you. For easier movement, lean on your poles for balance and let your hips twist downhill.
4) Once your downhill ski is back on the snow, reversed in direction, stomp it firmly to form a reliable platform you can stand on.
5) Lift your uphill/forward pole and put it well forward of the downhill ski tip.Transfer all your weight onto the downhill ski.
6) Using your poles for balance, lift your uphill ski from the snow and let it pivot around naturally to your new direction of travel.
7) Plant both skis firmly and regain your balance again.
8) Proceed as before, making Z-shaped switchbacks down the slope. Repeat as needed until you're on flat ground again.
Photos by Jennifer Howe / howephoto.us