The next step in the shortswing is the side-slip, a practical way for any novice to come down a hill and a good way for anyone to practice the all-important business of edge control, i.e., the angle at which your skis bite into the slope during a traverse. Like every shortswing maneuver, it begins and ends with the comma, with a minimum of motion in between. For the side-slip, in fact, there is no new movement beyond an unweighting of the skis through a downward motion, and a releasing of the uphill edges that allows you to go into a controlled slide.
Two-pole push is good way for beginner to learn side-slip. Stand in comma position on side of hill, hold poles together as shown, and push against the slope. As you bend knees and hips to put pressure on poles, skis become unweighted and you start to side-slip. Poles act as brace to prevent fall into slope when skis first begin to slide.
Side-slip begins with Willy in traverse position (1). To start side-slip he unweights skis by bending knees and hips down and farther toward slope in exaggeration of comma, at same time easing grip of uphill edges on snow by slight outward turn of the ankles (2). By accentuating comma bend, Willy keeps upper body out over skis, thus correcting natural tendency to lean into slope when edges let go, upsetting balance and causing skis to chatter or slide out from under you. To stop side-slip, Willy downweights again, then returns to modified comma, rolling edges back (3) until skis lake hold. If skis will not slide easily at first, try exercises shown at left and right.
Parallel poles placed across front of torso show how hips, shoulders must be kept in same plane during side-slip and traverse. Skiers trying shortswing for first time often move downhill shoulder forward, twisting body off balance, breaking comma and forcing upper body in toward the slope.
Half side-slip, graduate version of straight side-slip, is excellent exercise in edge control, besides being quick, easy way to make diagonal descent. Skier, moving in fast traverse, releases edges as shown in figures 1, 2 and 3. As edges let go, forward motion makes skis carve diagonal path through snow with upper edges brushing snow as in advanced turns to come.
Patterns on snow show paths of skis during straight sideslip (left) and half side-slip. In straight side-slip, Willy moves slowly, stops, side-slips, moves on. In half side-slip he skims across slope in one continuous move, stopping only when he has reached bottom.
Push and Catch is good confidence builder for side-slip since skis cannot run away. Plant one pole just above uphill ski, other pole downhill. Push with uphill pole. Skis will slide, stop at downhill pole.
Split push is good side-slip aid in heavy snow or in steep narrow gullies where the skier has no room to maneuver. Plant both poles uphill, one at each end of skis, release edges and push to start side-slip.
THE FIRST TURN