Angulation refers to the lateral movements of creating angles at the ankles, knees, hips and spine1, but it is commonly used to reference hip angulation. Its purpose is edging and balancing over the outside ski and it usually manifests itself in a "stable core" or calm upper body, since the torso tends to look upright while the skis swing and turn underneath:
We can also bend "forward" at the hips, i.e. "hunch forward" to balance over the outside ski, in the bottom part of the arc. Coiling allows this movement to be combined with hip angulation in balancing over the outside ski, see coiling and Get over the outside ski for more discussion.
So... what exactly would you do if I asked you to "angulate"?
Because of the fuzziness of this term, we prefer the term counterbalancing throughout this website, which is a very specific lateral movement and counteraction, which is a specific rotational movement.
A specific form of angulation, where you are crunching sideways at the hips more than curving the spine, depending on the needs.
When executed properly at the high levels, you will be able to notice not only the shoulders parallel to the snow but also the hips staying parallel to the snow, i.e. using the hips more, and the spine, less:
Sometimes you will see references to "knee angulation" to mean a sideways angulation at the knee, which is not a good thing, as the knee is a hinge joint with a minimum lateral range of motion.
What sometimes happens is that if someone is pushing against the ski at the same time he or she is trying to tip it on edge, the pushing counters the tipping and the edging stops:
In this case, you may be tempted to think "knee angulation" and drive the knees into the hill, possibly with some Femur rotation. But that is suboptimal. It is more effective to use flexing and manage pressure appropriately.
It was prevalent in the days of the straight skis4, which required a lot of edging, but not really necessary with modern equipment.
We certainly could ski quite square, bank into turns in good skeletal alignment and forego angulation, but it would limit our angles and compromise our balance and edge hold, not to mention introducing an inefficient pendulum torso movement. The reason we create angulation is to balance more effectively and allow more tipping than otherwise... which allows more angles, shorter turns, more grip and effective speed control on carving skis.
Also, it moves more effective weight over the outside ski, increasing the hold of this ski, while the flexed joints also improve balance, as we can absorb impulses and react better, with more range of movement.
We prefer to see all skiing as requiring angulation. How much exactly is mostly a matter of speed and turn shape, but even a little angulation can go a long way.
Too much speed may put a big strain on the back if you go in with a lot of angulation. Although it can be mitigated with coiling, in speed events, at the apex, where the pressures are at maximum, it is more common to have less angulation, although in GS these days, there is more and more angulation, as athletes try to get the skis more and more on edge.
In technical skiing, short/medium turns, too little angulation will reduce the hold of the outside ski. It would also tend to create a pendulum motion of the torso.
Another effective thought about angulation is to level the hips as much as possible, see lifting the inside hip.
It is not effective to drag the skis on edge with the upper body, so we do not see edging as a result of angulation/inclination, but as the separate movement to tip the skis on edge from the feet and ankles. In ski racing and high-performance skiing, the focus is always on separating the lower and upper body and the upper is used for balance4.
In this sense, angulation of the upper body (hips, spine) follows tipping, to allow bigger tipping angles and balance over the outside ski, so an effective use of "angulation" is more in the sense of counterbalancing, to complement tipping the skis on edge.
Angulation is really defined from the viewer's perspective, it is more of a geometrical concept. The skier not skiing in front of a big mirror will not appreciate the angulation: the viewer does. So it represents instruction and feedback from the viewer's point of view rather than the skier's point of view.
Sometimes the concept of angulation is taken away from the planes of movement, when speaking of "separation creating angulation"3 because if you bend forward at the hips and then turn to the side, a viewer would see the result as a lateral angle.
Also, sometimes angulation is seen as an application of the principle ofseparation.
In modern ski instruction, the notion of alignment is preferred to "angulation" more and more, as in creating and maintaining alignment over the outside ski, in recognition of the fact that, as the skis turn throughout the turn, the needs for balancing on them are changing throughout the turn as well, as a continuous and coordinated play between separation and angulation or between counterbalancing and counteraction.
Tech talks / sessions: