Skidding is one of the first things most skiers learn. We all use the skid to stop when the earth’s contours do not allow us to stop when and where we want to.
At the end of the day I like to come down my hill’s big black diamond run and then depending on how much speed I have I will carve out to the left and take the long way up to the main lodge. If conditions give me less speed then I shorten how much I break out to the left. I can usually come to standstill right next to the steps of the main lodge without having to skid.
Some years ago I picked upon a copy of Warren Witherell’s How the Racers Ski and he emphasized skids are to be avoided!
His advice (from memory) is never ever skid. Do not skid to slow down, do not skid to stop. Why not skid? He wants us carving and using the hill’s contours to control our speed. I am not entirely disagreeable with the general sentiment and I am also certain I may be exaggerating his exact feelings of skidding. However, if you do not have to skid, why do it?
What is skidding? Quite simply a skid occurs when you set your edges into the snow perpendicularly to your current velocity. Velocity is speed (how fast you are going) plus the direction you are going (where you are going). The ideal is having your edges in the snow pointed in the same direction as your velocity. Now when you are carving a turn you may not be going “straight” but if your turn is pure carving then your edges are in the snow and forcing you and your skis to change velocity.
Now, when we set our edges perpendicular to the velocity typically what happens is we hear that scraping sound, we push snow around, and we lose more speed than if we had change direction via carve or a step. In addition, our control is reduced. Think of what happens when the tires of your car gets loose from the road surface and that is exactly what happens when we skid on our skis our edges get loose from the snow and it is our edges in contact with the snow that allow us to control our motion.
In the end, it is good to be able to skid stop from both directions. Use skids only when it is impractical to use the terrain and gravity to stop you. Oh, one last thing, please stop skidding in the middle of the runs when there is no need to stop, please keep the snow where we can ski on it rather then scraping it downhill.