Yeah, I know—it's a provocative title, but I swear I'm not trolling. I wanted to post about something I've been pondering for a few years...hopefully for the benefit of new carvers.
There are many outstanding articles on carving technique by Jack Michaud, Tom Palka and others. I've read them all and learned a lot from them.
But I've noticed there is one crucial aspect of carving that typically gets omitted from instructional articles. Maybe because people think it's obvious, or maybe because it's the most difficult thing to explain (in which case I'm gonna take a shot at it).
DISCLAIMER: I'm not an instructor, but I do think a LOT about what I do and what other people do and why. If you find anything wrong with the following, then by all means correct me. What follows is what I've noticed about my own carving, as accurately as I can express it.
No matter what technique you use, a fundamental element of carving is learning to balance lean angle with centripetal force in a turn. Assuming you're doing everything else correctly (which is a big assumption for some of us, LOL), you will not just automatically carve great turns.
Every new carver has to go through the process of figuring out...
• How far you can lean at a given speed without falling, and
• Exactly how fast or slow you angulate—and to what degree you angulate—throughout the course of a turn to avoid falling
There are a lot of detailed descriptions of proper stance, initiating turns, how to angulate, rotation, etc...and though all of these things absolutely have an impact on carving, you could do all of them perfectly and still not be able to carve until you figure out those two bullets I mention above.
Regarding lean angle vs. speed: there is no way this can be taught, in my opinion. The only way each individual carver can learn this is by sheer practice, just doing lots and lots of turns. You have to figure it out for yourself, and it's different for everyone (depending on height, weight, weight distribution, board specs, etc.) It took me several seasons to feel like I'm starting to really get a handle on this.
Regarding the extent and speed of angulation: what I mean by this is that even if you know how to angulate perfectly, you don't just instantly "snap an angulation" when you carve a turn and "snap back" when the turn is done. It's a process that happens over the length of the turn...where (in my experience) you begin to angulate at the start of the turn...and as the turn progresses, so does your angulation, until you are at maximum angulation at the apex of the turn...then you gradually back off as the turn finishes. Like lean angle, knowing how to time this can't be taught (again, in my opinion). You just have to go out and figure it out for yourself.
I think it's important for new carvers to realize this. I believe many beginning carvers study all the articles on doing the Norm, on proper stance, on weight distribution, on looking through the turn, etc. but still get frustrated when the "big carve" doesn't happen. They might have technical problems with things that can be fixed by an instructor or someone more knowledgeable...but (to reiterate) they can do everything perfectly and still not make it happen.
This is even more true of EC turns. Again, I think you can study proper body positioning 'til the cows come home...but you're still not gonna be able to lay out big EC turns until you've practiced for a few years and done a lot of turns (and fallen a lot).
Like I said, some more experienced carvers might read all this and say "Well DUH!" Yeah, it might be obvious...but I think it's important that everyone teaching anyone else to carve say "I can show you stance and body positioning and some other things...but some of the most important things you'll have to learn on your own through trial-and-error, and you won't learn those things unless you stick with it and do it a lot!