What’s up with tip lead?

I’ve been looking at some skier video recently and I’ve noticed issues with tip lead in some of the better skiers, so I decided to write down a few thoughts…

Tip lead – also known as “ski lead” – is simply the situation where one ski tip is in front of the other. This is a natural – and desirable – situation at the bottom/end of a turn; as we go across the hill with our weight mostly on our bottom ski, the uphill ski is higher up the mountain. The only way to do that is for the upper foot to be slightly in front of the lower foot.

How far ahead depends on the degree of slope and the degree of angulation/inclination of the skier. Carving on steeper slopes and with more angulation/inclination will lead to more tip lead.

All of that is fine. Where we start running into problems is the turn transition, where we go from one turn into the next turn.

Here’s what I’m often seeing:


There is a switch in tip lead at the apex. Or, to put it another way, the tip lead at the bottom of the turn persists all the way to the next apex.

As most of you know, if we want to get a ski to carve, we need that ski to have consistent forward pressure and a tight ankle on that boot.

Another way to think about this is thinking about which ski is dominant:


The outside ski that is dominant at the end of a turn is staying dominant into the start of the next turn, where it is the inside ski. It has to stay dominant because the new outside ski is still ahead, which means that it’s not underneath us and therefore not forward weighted. The only way to carve in this state is to carve on the inside ski, which has a number of downsides…

What I would like to see is for the tip lead to change at the start of the turn:


That gives the following result. To label it:


I want the right ski dominant throughout the turn to the left and the left ski dominant through the turn to the right. That is what will give me those nice, early entry, flowing carves.

How do we accomplish that?

Different people have different cues that work for them; for me I’m thinking of actively pulling that uphill ski back and standing up on it. Others think of using the hamstring and glute to pull the knee back. And others think of it more as a pressure change.

One more picture:


On the left side, we are at our turn finish. Our weight is mostly on the downhill ski, and our uphill knee is bent and the ski is forward.

At turn initiation, we have actively gotten our uphill (old inside) ski underneath us, and we are lessening the amount of pressure on our downhill (old outside) ski. That lifts the weight off of our downhill ski, and helps our upper body move – or “flow” is the term I usually use – downhill. That movement lets us get our skis on their new inside edges at transition and carve both into and out of the turn.

Hope that helps. Please comment with any questions.

So, what do you think ?