I did ski-touring in the past with a small backpack (10 kg); it was fun. I have recently done a short ski tour with a heavy backpack (20 kg, including camping gear); it was pretty much pure suffering on the way down. I was falling all the time - I couldn't do turns on any significant downhill slope, so had to look for alternative paths, where you don't need to turn so much. I would rather walk downhill, but I was hoping that somehow I'd finally "figure it out"; it didn't happen.

Is there any specific technique I should employ for such downhill skiing? Or maybe specific equipment?


3 Answers 3


There is no special technique, there is only practice. Make sure you have a good technique without and with a small backpack. Slowly increase the size and weight of your backpack to get adapted to the additional load. The basic technique of skiing stays the same.

There is however some measures to help with the backpack:

  • Pack it properly. Heavy stuff should be at middle height and close to your back to help with your balance
  • Make sure there is no ropes, etc dangling around at the outside. Fix such things properly or pack them inside if possible
  • Make sure your backpack is fixed tight. The more it moves, the more it moves different to your body
  • 2
    It might also help to load some of the weight on the front, so your center of balance is more directly over your legs. (You can see some examples here or search "front pack" and "chest pack".)
    – csk
    Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 20:16

There is no special technique for skiing with a heavy pack, just suffering. Consider how much more difficult it is to simply walk downhill with a heavy pack---and that's for something as biomechanically simple and practiced as walking. In addition to the points that @Manziel makes, here are several that I have found helpful.

  • Don't. As much as possible, reduce the weight of your load and try to plan routes that avoid more difficult terrain. If you are faced with a difficult descent, consider caching gear and doing several laps to ferry your entire load down. Regardless, severely dial back your terrain and aggressiveness---think "backpacking with skis" and not "skiing with a heavy pack."

  • Strength. If you can't comfortably crank out squats with the weight of a pack, skiing will be even more problematic. Having a pre-season weightlifting / dryland training regime will make skiing with a heavy pack much more feasible (in addition to improving your normal skiing). Additionally, you will fatigue faster with a heavy pack.

  • Ski equipment. Consider how you would have originally selected and set up your skis/boots/bindings if you weighed 20 kilos more. Having more supportive boots along with wider and stiffer skis can help counteract the additional mass. A superlight skimo racing setup might be great for tagging spring corn objectives, but will be miserable with a heavy pack. You might also consider the DIN setting for your bindings: upwards to account for the additional weight or downwards to account for the slower speeds and the higher likelihood of knee-wrenching falls.

    • @Manziel makes some excellent points about thoughtfully loading your pack. I will, however, quibble with the idea of cinching the pack straps tight. In the extreme, this ends up feeling like trying to ski while lashed to a backboard. Try to find a balance wherein the pack isn't wildly swinging around but isn't so tight as to impede hip and pelvic mobility. For short difficult sections, I will sometimes even completely loosen the waist strap and carry the entire load through my chest and shoulders with a strongly braced core (you did include core work in your off-season training, right?...). While inefficient from a long-distance load-carrying perspective, I find that it helps free up my body to ski and to help me feel how the load is reacting. YMMV.
  • Technique. Good ski technique is still good ski technique. All of the fundamentals about fore-aft and lateral balance, edge angles, counter-rotation, weighting and unweighting, and so forth still apply. In addition to simply being heavier, note that your center of mass will generally move upwards and backwards. Correspondingly, think about getting your stance slightly more forwards---getting backseat with a heavy pack is disastrous. I also focus on trying to make smooth, large radius turns (effectively balancing on an edge, "park-and-ride" style), rather than short hop turns. Similarly, over-exaggerate your normal ski movements: jump hard to unweight, get higher edge angles, keep your upper-body extra calm, etc. Think back to the skills & drills you practiced when you were first learning to ski; if possible, try to run through some of these with a heavy pack to get a sense of how everything reacts with the extra mass.

    • The next level of technique would be learning how to use the additional mass to your benefit for certain movements. For example, subtle fore-aft and lateral shifts can suddenly make large differences in how your skis are pressured. With the additional mass, we can bend our skis deeply and crank some very tight turns (provided we manage to control the resulting forces!). Toy with dynamically unweighting the pack and turning underneath it.

    • Spy on your local ski patrollers the next time you see them with a large pack, carrying a bundle of bamboo, or even maneuvering a rescue sled. Observe what they do differently (and the same!) with heavy, awkward loads.

  • Ski dirty---with such a heavy pack, style points go out the window. Rediscover your stem-christie, side-step, sideslip, and even resort to long downhill traverses with kick-turns at each end. Again, change your focus from "shredding the gnar" to "getting from point A to B with skis on."


There is at least one significant difference in skiing "heavy".

There are a number of turn techniques that get used in different circumstances. Many consist of (in simple terms)

  • unweight your skis
  • turn your skis
  • reweight your skis

I was taught that there are two ways to unweight you skis. One is to push down with your feet, effectively jumping slightly, making the turn before you come down from the jump. The other is to lift your feet, effectively just bring your feet up and letting your body "free fall" slightly, making the turn before your feet come back down to the ground. See erfink's comments for more details and videos.

I have always used the "jump" approach, and so do most people I know. But that becomes harder when you are carrying more weight. I expect that is why you are more tired. Hikers don't need to jump every ten seconds or so when doing a hike in their pack. Theoretically the "lift your feet" approach doesn't become harder. If you can make use of that I would try it.

You can also use carving turns where terrain permits. I fall naturally into carving turns on shallower slopes, and I expect that is why your tiredness is more pronounced on steeper slopes - you do carve turns on shallow slopes (which don't take much more energy in a pack) and switch to jump turns on more significant slopes. If you can carve more, that will reduce your fatigue.

In agreement with erfink who says "ski dirty", you might consider a more skiddy turn when terrain doesn't permit carving - maybe, as erfink suggests, a Stem-Christie. Consider using the pole more to do a controlled unweighting without the jump. Slower speeds will also mean you don't have to execute the turn as fast, which means the jump doesn't have to be as hard. It's the jump that will get you.

  • In teaching/coaching circles, this distinction is often termed "cross-over vs cross-under" (yourskicoach.com/glossary/SkiGlossary/…). I agree that cross-under type turns can be an excellent way to avoid raising and lowering the extra weight of a heavy pack. The downside is that a cross-under involves transitioning in a somewhat backseat position. Coupled with the generally higher speeds necessary to effect this transition, I shy away from recommending it to intermediates. If it's a technique in your repertoire, it is excellent in consistent snow.
    – erfink
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 0:22
  • A nice comparison of these transitions in a ski racing context: youtube.com/watch?v=90RChr1otpQ
    – erfink
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 0:24
  • I confess I have never done this, I just remembered it from lessons. I bow to your superior knowledge. Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 0:34

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