Google Web
Skate FAQs

Skate FAQs: Techniques - Slalom

Techniques - Slalom

Last modified: Monday, 22-Jul-96 14:40:55 EDT

A Web page devoted to slalom skating was announced in October 1995. It's called cones+wheels: the inline skating slalom page and can be found at:

From: Jim Aites (
Date: Unknown

The movement known as a 'slalom' is normally applied to the art of dodging in and around a series of obstacles. Being pulled by a ski-boat or weaving thru the poles on a ski slope are two well known examples. This discussion will try to address some of the joys and techniques used when effecting this move on in-line skates.

There is both a natural 'swing' and a physical 'compression' that come into play while doing a slalom. The 'swing' is durn near natural, but by understanding and making proper use of the 'compression' it is possible to use this technique to slow your speed, maintain, or even increase it.

Note: Although the slalom can be accomplished in a stylish manner by almost any skater, the ability to use the technique to slow down should not be considered a replacement for any of the more standard braking methods. Also, I believe that serious slaloming is well within the scope of the intermediate skater. Although novice skaters have more important things to learn before stopping...I feel that is is something that any skater can/should do.

Before trying to address the mode used to change your speed, let's talk about the simplicity of the move while coasting or going down a very slight grade.

The slalom movement is based on the transfer of weight during a continuous series of serpentine turns. This linking of alternating turns can be a slow-and-easy movement, or it can be as fast as skiing a tight mogul field.

Although there is a 'classic' position for doing a slalom (crouched with knees and feet together), it may be done with feet in an open placement or even in the water-skiing (one foot in front) position. The most important thing to keep in mind is your ability to handle your steering and speed.

Generally speaking, a couple of standard down-hill skiing suggestions come to mind. The most reasonable of these is the idea of keeping your shoulders and head facing straight down the hill (or direction of travel). Your upper body can provide added stability and leverage to manage the slalom movement itself. Giving yourself this extra stability will help a lot in avoiding an 'over-rotation' which happens when you just ride the turn, and then try to go the other way...only to find that your momentum wants to carry you around even further!

I mention this first because it is critical that you be able to steer your skates without lifting them. As a point in fact, you will not be able to do a free swinging one-footed slalom without mastering this type of steering in one form or another. The following is a basic practice move suitable for anyone, including novices.

One-footed slalom: (suggested method - author)

One of the simplest moves and most important ideas in skating (imho) is the ability to do small slalom movements while on one foot. Steering with one foot is basic for doing stable cross-overs, free-style, surviving a one-footed recovery, or...doing slaloms.

While moving at a slow glide on one foot, simply shift your weight comfortably onto your heel. Hey, easy there! Just lift your toes a bit. No need to try heel-walking yet! Now, simply use your body and/or free leg to help point your toes in the direction you want to go. Weave.

Note: I know I said one-footed, but I meant either foot. Practice both! This is easy, my 7 year old does it. She found that she needed to practice it to help her do controlled T-stops.

The basics of slaloming hinge on your ability to steer in some manner similar to this. PLEASE TAKE NOTE!

Safety thought:
The 'feet side-by-side' stance used often in slaloming is probably one of the more dangerous (from a front-to-back balance perspective) things about it. The one-foot forward water-skiing stance makes a great deal of sense when moving between smooth/rough pavement. In either event, beware sand and water! It is also suggested that your first attempts at slowing while going downhill be done on a wide road with no traffic. (nice grassy shoulders next to the road might be a good idea as well) If you find yourself picking up speed instead of slowing down, just continue a turn till you are coasting back up the hill.

Changing speeds: (This is where it gets interesting.)
In the process of 'carving' a turn (with both feet), you will find that there is a point of compression. Adding pressure before the furthest swing of each turn will increase (or help maintain) your speed. Letting yourself 'give' just after the point will slow you down. (if this reminds you of changing speeds while on a child's swing then you might have the idea ;')

When going down a hill, simply doing a slalom is not a sure way to slow you down. It will probably keep you from going as fast as a straight run, but that doesn't mean that you won't pick up enough speed to lose control. Making your turns wider or 'deeper' will help shed more speed because you are spending more time going diagonal or crossing than heading down the fall-line. It is important that you find the give-point (after compression) and learn to take full advantage of it.

While practicing your slaloms, you may be tempted to try 'shreading' some of your speed during each turn by unweighting the outside foot and then shoving your heel outward with a bit of extra force. This can help in slowing, but it is awkward and dangerous in execution. There is a tendency for the heel to 'catch'. Fair warning!

Other pseudo-slalom moves:

Just for fun:
After you've proven to yourself that you can maintain or increase your speed by pumping a slalom, try heading up a narrow sidewalk. Amaze your friends or passing motorists.

Date: Sat Sep 4 19:47:25 1993

I have a few comments to add. My skating is currently cross-training for veldrome racing (bicycles), but I also have experience racing slalom and GS.

One of the things that you leave out is the necessity of keeping one's weight forward. That is, imho, the main use of poles in skiing. The pole shouldn't be planted next to you; it needs to be planted in front of you. To maintain control in a slalom and use the "swing" properly, your weight needs to be forward. My suggestion for practice is skating by carving turns with alternate feet. The more you flex your boot, the more your rear wheels drag, and the more speed you lose on each turn.

To practice pole planting, sit in a chair. Sit forward a little, and move your feet back some, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Now, reach out with your hand and lean forward. See how that feels? Now try it on skis at 50 mph...

From: Hank Hughes (
Date: Unknown

Jim Aites ( wrote:

Note: I know I said one-footed, but I meant either foot. Practice both! This is easy, my 7 year old does it. She found that she needed to practice it to help her do controlled T-stops.
The basics of slaloming hinge on your ability to steer in some manner similar to this. PLEASE TAKE NOTE!

Very true ... but

Another approach may be too shift the weight forward (onto the ball of your foot). Start on a patch of grass/carpet with your feet in a v-stance. Then lunge like a classic fencing champion by mimicking a stroke, but keep the weight on the balls of your feet. You're more nimble with the weight on the balls of your feet. Then lift the trailing leg slowly.

Concentrating on the final stance:
With a lot of flex into the tongue of boot and knee, try to drop a perpendicular from behind the support leg's knee down to the space between the 1st & 2nd wheel. Basically, if you look down you should not be able to see your foot because your knee is in the way. To balance, press on your outside toes to turn in, or press on your inside `BIG' toe to turn out

In motion:
To steer, point your knee into the direction you wish to turn. This rolls your ankle & center edge into the appropriate inide/outside edge. Now you can grind through turns (& hear the whoosh from breaking traction).

From: Robert Schmunk (
Written: November 28, 1994
Revised: October 20, 1995

Having become a regular at New York City's Central Park slalom course, I guess I'm qualified to throw in some comments on the topic:

The Course:
The slalom course lies in the recreational lane of the Central Park loop, between Tavern on the Green and the Sheep Meadow. Just skate in the West 67th St. entrance to the park on a sunny weekend afternoon and you can't miss it. Due to its location, the course has a good slope and you don't have to get up much speed before you start down. Slightly disconerting is that the slope is steepest in the middle of the course, so that it feels like there's a "break" at about the ninth cone. Depending on the trick, the slope sometimes means that you have to "slalom faster" near the bottom of the course because the cones are coming up at you much faster. The course also has a slight curve to the right, which has been known to disturb visiting slalom skaters from other towns.

The standard Central Park slalom course is a series of 27 cones, spaced six feet apart. However, the number of cones has varied on occasion; when the National Slalom Championship was held here in October 1994, the course was 30 cones long. I've heard that in other towns, slalom courses are sometimes only about 15 cones long, but my guess is that future competitions will use closer to 30 because it provides more opportunity for video-genic combination stunts.

When measuring off an area for a slalom course, don't forget approach and exit areas. The Central Park normally has a 60-foot approach, with skaters starting anywhere within that distance, but when pedestrian traffic is light, it may be extended to 200 feet. Depending on how fast you're moving and how hard you can brake, you will also need from 5 to 100 feet to stop.

Occasionally, when the expert skaters want to demonstrate how good they are relative to those who are merely advanced (i.e., separate the men from the boys), or if they want to compete against each other without anybody else getting in the way, they will set up a course with the cones spaced at smaller intervals. Most frequently the distance is decreased to four feet, but lately there's been a lot of experimenting with three-foot separation and an occasional attempt at a vicious two-foot separation. We call such tight courses "technical courses". A clean run through a 30-cone course with three-foot spacing is just about the finest thing I've seen done on a pair of skates, and provides great satisfaction if you can do it yourself.

The cone themselves are 8 or nine inches tall and made out of orange plastic. The original square bases have been amputated. Cones of this size are available in different hardnesses, but the harder kind is best. Softer cones are less apt to fly away when you hit one, and they often bend around your skate in what seems like a deliberate attempt to induce a case of road rash on your exposed flesh. You can usually get cones at sporting goods stores like Herman's, at around $2-$3 per cone.

When the Central Park slalom course is not open, I've seen desperate cone skaters rummage for pop cans, paper cups, or Gatorade bottles and use them for cones, perhaps filling them with water to keep them from blowing away. However, the height of regular cones can be disconcerting if you've practiced a lot using pop cans, so if you're serious about slalom skating, get some real cones.

The Tricks:
One nice thing about learning to slalom skate is that everybody's interests diverge after the couple tricks, and if you stick at it for awhile, you may be doing tricks that the pros (or at least the supposed experts) have never learned. One woman I know devoted herself to learning every conceivable variant of the forward criss-cross (see below) and was doing things after six months that guys who have been skating cones for four years couldn't do.

One last comment before introducing types of tricks: You'll likely be wasting your time if you make your first attempt at many of these tricks on a real slalom course. For example, if you can't maintain your balance on one skate for ten seconds as you skate down a smooth empty street, you're not going to be able to do a forward one-foot. Even after having mastered most of the basic tricks below and a few major variants, I usually practice new ones away from the cones, or on a short course that only has six or eight cones.

Dividing into categories, there are:

There are presumably many more maneuvers, or variants on the above, but the problem is that the names for them may also be regionalized (e.g., I've discovered that what New Yorkers call a criss-cross, Bostonians want to call a crossover). Even within one locale there may be more than name, especially if a trick has a lot of variants (e.g., the flying eagle variant of the forward one-foot), and a name based on a combination of the above terms may have a special, fancy name. For example, I've heard a backwards monoline called a "rattlesnake" and a double-extended wave (wow!) is a "tidal wave". FAQs maintained by Tony Chen (
-"Techniques: Slalom" edited by Robert Schmunk (

[ HOME ]
Help support Skate FAQs!
General Info Techniques Marketplace Where to Skate Tutorials
Ask Tony
Quotable Posts
Skating Backwards
Skating Downhill
Figure Skating
Buying Guide
Essential Gear
Used Skates Guide
Kids Skates Guide
Buying Women's Skates
Where to Buy
Skate Reviews
Other Reviews
Search Western
Backwards stair-riding
Power slide

Copyright © 1996-2009 Anthony D. Chen,

Serving the inline skating community since 1991

Online Privacy Policy