Winter is the time skaters can practice making turns on the ski slopes.
Here are three skate drills that I've been practicing to improve my weekend turns on skis. They aren't just for skiers, though. They are also great for improving overall agility and balance on skates. The first two drills are also designed to help overcome what I call one-footedness. I'm badly one-footed: my body likes turning on my right foot much better than on my left, and this affects both my skating and skiing.
Most people favor one foot over the other. To find your strong foot, try some circle stops or spins. If you tend to turn counter clockwise, you're right-footed; if you prefer clockwise, you're left-footed. And if you use both feet equally well, you have a big advantage over the rest of us!
These drills are best done on open pavement such as a gently sloped parking lot or paved school yard. If you don't have a slope, you can still do the drills by getting a good running (skating?) start. The more turns you can link without interruption, the more you will get out of the drill.
One-foot slalom turns
Try doing linked slalom turns on one foot only. Raise one foot off the pavement, keeping the weighted knee well bent. Turn by twisting the leg from the hip and knee. You may need to wave your arms a bit to help initiate the turns, but try to keep the upper body movement to a minimum. You can tuck the resting foot behind the turning one. Practice more on your "bad" foot than the "good."
Once you get the hang of it, set up markers to slalom around. It's best to keep the markers in a straight line down the slope.
Outside edge turns
Normally, we turn on the inside edge of the wheels on the outside skate. In other words, we turn to the left using the right skate, and vice-versa. In this drill, you will do the opposite. Start each turn by pushing off in the opposite direction of the previous turn. Step onto the turning foot and lean to the outside, using the left foot for left turns, and the right foot to turn right.
Tipping to the outside edge without finishing with a cross-over will seem quite unnatural at first--spreading your arms will help with balance. Finish your turn by re-centering your weight and stepping onto the opposite foot. Exaggerate the stepping motion to transfer energy between the turns. Strive for a long smooth arc while turning.
Hopping can be a bit scary if you aren't used to getting your wheels off the pavement. But it's terrific for putting extra energy into your skating, and fun, too. In this drill, end each turn--and start the next--with a hop. Begin by making a couple of regular slalom turns. As you finish a turn, do a little hop to shift your feet into position to start the next turn. Complete the turn and hop to start the next. Basically, your feet move across your path and land close together. Work on being both energetic and smooth. You want an observer to hardly notice that your skates left the pavement. As always, keep your hands forward and your knees well bent between hops.
Finally, don't spend all your time drilling. We learn better when we're having fun. Once you've learned these moves, throw them into your daily skate. And forget what James Brown said--get on the bad foot!