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Skiing Technique Tips – Lateral & Rotary Separation

How to Learn Skiing Skills & Movements

Jargon, its great when its one short word referencing a bigger concept that the whole audience already understands. Otherwise its just fancy wording that means nothing. So lets get into it.

In terms of active steering movements on our skis. Broadly speaking the lower half of body is the key area. From the hips down to the feet, these are our steering components. The upper body, from the waist to the head, broadly speaking, these are our balance components. In order to produce a given type of turn we blend our movements together. The lower body producing active steering, and the upper body in sync subtly balancing out our steering movements. So that we can stay on that sweet spot over our planks, and continue steering the skis in the way we want.

The rates and ranges of all our movements are adjustable, which help to produce all varieties of performance. Generally speaking we separate the upper body from the active steering movements of the lower body. Again, this is done at a variety of different rates, and ranges depending on the performance. We’ll get to this later. This is just to set the tone that these are not fixed positions. This is about continually adjusting movements, in both rate and range. More on this below.

Giacomo skiing megeve

Lateral Separation

Lateral separation is in part something that helps us to stay balanced on our skis, while tilting the skis onto their edges. Allowing us to produce a variety of edge angles at different speeds, and maintain balance against them. Thus, forces build up around the curve and act against the ski to create more grip and shape to the turn. Essentially this is when some parts of the body actively tilt the skis, and other parts of the body dont get involved in that tilt. There are other words thrown in the mix here, Angulation, and Inclination. These are describing different ranges of separation. Often a lack of lateral separation where the whole body tilts is called inclination. And the term Angulation used to describe the use of lateral separation.

[Citation BASI Alpine Manual]

The lateral movement involved in creating edge tilt can originate in the following areas.

  • The feet / ankles
  • At knee level (this is actually a rotation of the femur within the hip socket)
  • Around the hips
  • The waist and above (we can separate anywhere along the spine up to and including the neck)
  • The whole body

[Citation BASI Alpine Manual]

Things To Consider When Working With Lateral Separation

  • It takes longer to tilt the whole body than it does to tilt just part of the body. For quick changes of direction when skiing narrower corridors. It will be more effective to tilt the skis
    with the legs (legs working laterally), while keeping the upper body more vertical.
  • Separating laterally is structurally weaker, and may not allow us to maintain the balance and posture necessary to deal with larger forces. So for turns which generate large forces, like high speed carve turns in a wider corridor. We are likely to allow more of the body to tilt into the curve with the skis.
  • A single turn may contain sections with varying degrees of lateral separation. For example a skier may use full body tilt at the start of the turn to create edge angle. But then separate laterally from above the waist later in the turn to aid the transition in to the next.

Freedom Snowsports Ski & Snowboard Schools

Ranges Of Lateral Separation, The Pros And Cons.

Less Lateral separation


  • Strong position
  • Good for resisting pressure at high speeds


  • Less agile
  • Can lead to loss of balance to the inside of the turn or a difficulty exiting a turn.

More Lateral separation


  • Quicker from edge to edge
  • Can aid agility
  • Can aid ability to balance against outer ski


  • Structurally weaker
  • Too much, too early can limit the ability to tilt inside progressively through the turn

Lateral Misconceptions

There is a line of thoughts that seems as if there is a choice for a skier to do one or the other. To incline or to separate laterally. As mentioned above, its not “either / or”, and its not a fixed position. This is an entirely adjustable set of movements that can be changed in rate and range at any moment through the turn. The point is to blend your movements together to adjust in a way that will achieve the desired performance. So first decide what kind of turn you are going for, choose an appropriate piece of terrain, then work out the blend of movements needed.

Ski technique - Steering the skis & rotary separation of lower and upper body


Steering the skis by rotating/turning the legs and feet against the ground is what we refer to as “Rotation”. This alone will not create a change in direction. Flat skis with no grip will only side slip and not take the skier around a curve. Only when rotation is blended with some edge grip does it result in a change of direction. And once again the varying blends of edge and rotation are adjustable combinations which can produce everything from pivot side slips, to skidded turns, and every tiny addition of grip up to a cleanly carved turn.

Rotary Separation

Just as in the concept of lateral separation. Rotary separation is where we are using some parts of the body to actively rotate the skis. But other parts of the body do not get involved in that rotation. And as always it is adjustable in its rate and range, and there are choices over the parts of the body we use:

[Citation BASI Alpine Manual]

  • The feet/ankles rotate alone – minimal effect
  • The thighs/femur rotates from within the hip
  • Hips and below rotate without the upper body / chest
  • The whole body rotates with the ski

These different ways of rotating affect the ease, rate and range with which we can rotate the skis.

[Citation BASI Alpine Manual]

Backcountry Skiing in the Chamonix valley

Things To Consider When Working With Rotational Separation

  • It takes more effort to rotate the whole body than it does just a part of the body. This is why it will be more effective to rotate the legs and keep the body facing down the hill when trying tomake quick changes of direction. For example when skiing a direct line in the bumps.
  • Separating rotationally can put us in a weak position and may not allow us to maintain the balance and posture necessary to deal with larger forces. So for turns which generate large forces, like high speed carve turns in a wide corridor, we are likely to allow more of the body to rotate with the skis.
  • Rather than thinking of rotational separation as the upper body staying still and the skis rotating, rotational separation also describes any moment when the upper and lower body rotate at different speeds or times. For example: it can be useful to initiate a turn with a strong active rotation of the upper body. This can aid the flow of the body down the mountain and will be linked to the lateral movements as well, which help control pressure and edge. This active rotation of the upper body is often seen in the variable strand to help initiate turns. The timing and range of this movement must be carefully controlled to maintain balance.
  • In order to initiate or control rotation, the body needs some contact point with the ground. The pole provides the skier with an extra point from which to affect rotary separation.
  • Rotation always needs an axis about which to rotate. With the skier’s body close to this axis the skier will rotate faster than when the body is further away. This concept can give the skier extra control over their rotation. Spreading the arms will give more control of the upper body (slowing rotation) than having them tight. Pulling the legs to the chest will allow a freestyle skier to complete a flip faster than remaining in an open elongated position.
  • Controlling existing rotation will require different movements to creating a new rotational force. A skier may be able to create more rotational momentum from a wide stance than a narrow one. A freestyle skier imparts rotational momentum before leaving the ramp with a wide stance but once in the air the stance may narrow to increase the speed of rotation.
  • When choosing which movements we use to control rotation it is useful to remember that not all parts of the body will take the same line down the hill. The upper body will often take a shorter, more direct route, meaning that it is necessary to have some degree of rotational separation even if it doesn’t feel very active.
  • Staying square to the skis means maintaining the basic stance (see sliding pictures in the Central Theme) relative to the skis, no matter what arc the skis describe. Any turn that is not fully square therefore has some element of rotational separation in it at some point (skiers are often square in one part of the turn and separated in another).

Skiing in Saint Gervais

Ranges Of Rotary Separation – Pros And Cons

Separation at Lower limbs


  • Fast rotation
  • Useful for small rotational deflections


  • Weak ability to deal with a large rotation of the skis or large forces through the skis

Useful For

  • Straight line bumps
  • Short turns on flat slopes with very narrow corridor

Separation at Hips


  • Useful for medium rotational deflections.
  • can allow a skier to get the hips further inside the turn through the middle and end of a long turn.


  • Can encourage a leading inside ski (split stance) which negatively affects for/aft balance
  • Discourages the skier from being in a strong aligned position.
  • Limits the ability of the skier to rotate the skis and tilt the lower limbs freely

Useful For

  • Shorter turns of medium radius
  • Squeezing a little more edge angle through the middle and later part of a long turn

Separation above hips


  • Helps the hips to stay in a strong aligned position


  • Discourages fast rotations of the skis and the ability to create lateral angle at the hip. Especially if the skier stays very square

Useful For

  • Faster more powerful turns in a wider corridor

Totally Square


  • Maximum strength.
  • Benefits full closed turns using more width across the hill


  • Limits early transitions, fast rotations, and line change.

Useful For

  • Closed turns controlling speed through line.

General tips – Rotational separation vs remaining square

  • Turns made in a narrow corridor give us less time to rotate the large mass of the upper body one way and then the other. It makes sense to use more separation in this case.
  • In tight radius turns, keeping the body square to the skis will result in the body also having to rotate quickly. It is difficult to control this rotation sufficiently to move into the next turn.
  • Even in long turns the body does not have to be square to the skis and some rotational separation may help the skier make the transition into the next turn and allow the centre of mass to travel a shorter distance.
  • Rotational separation can happen in the lower legs, the hips and from above the hips.

So, now its known that these are all a series of adjustable components, its time to shred and blend it all together. See you out there.

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