Originally Posted by sharpedges
This thread has gotten off-track already. Dean01234's primary question was about leg extension and flexing ("up and down.") His secondary question was about general advice for parallel turns. He only mentioned the wedge to identify his skiing level. He isn't looking for a wedge v. parallel debate. He's specifically looking for guidance on parallel turns.
No, SE, I don't think any of the first six posts were off-topic at all. Of course, discussion of whether they were or not is most definitely off-topic, so this will very likely be my only post on this topic that you have raised.
First of all, the title that Dean (original poster) chose clearly implied a question about "differences" between wedge (snowplough) and parallel--very likely based on the common assumption that there actually are fundamental technical differences between the two. That is a common myth that I would like to dissuade and that, frankly, must be replaced by a basic understanding of the principles of basic turns in general, if we are to make genuine progress. Second, I agree with JASP that before we address up-down movements (or any movements, for that matter), we must make sure that we first agree on the purpose of those movements. Eliminating a movement without first eliminating its need (purpose) is a certain recipe for failure. Eliminate the need, on the other hand, and many errors will extinguish themselves spontaneously! I do agree with you, however, that if Dean's mention of wedge ("plough") vs.
parallel was merely to describe his level and progress, then he is on the right track. I maintain that any "debate" between wedge and parallel betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of one or both terms. There should be no "debate"--but whether we think of the wedge turn and the parallel turn as fundamentally different techniques, or merely as identifiable milestones of progress with the same fundamentals on the road from beginner to expert (as I do), how to get to "parallel" is still a natural and legitimate question for novice skiers--wouldn't you agree?
In any case, to adhere to the instructor's creed (that I mentioned in my first post) of introducing new skiers to the skiing of experts, rather than teaching some sort of "beginner skiing" technique that will require fundamental changes when the time comes to move toward "expert," it is critical that the "first turns" (whatever name you want to give them) involve the very same fundamental principles of "expert turns." Beginner turns must be the embryonic form of expert turns--not some different animal. Certainly, not all wedge turns are created equal in this respect. So the best "guidance on parallel turns" we can provide is to make sure that your first turns--which are likely to display some degree of wedge--are right in the first place. If they are right, they will evolve to "parallel" as you get better at them. If they are not fundamentally right, no attempt to "force" the superficial characteristic of "parallel" on them will make them anything more than just lousy parallel, dead-end "things" (cannot bring myself to call them "turns").
A little technical aside follows, for anyone interested; skip it if all you want is advice on "what to do":
The only "differences" between a genuine, contemporary offensive
wedge turn and an offensive
parallel turn are a matter of degree--intensity, speed, skill level, confidence, and so on. The differences many people obsess over--particularly "parallel" vs.
"wedge" ski alignment and inside vs.
outside edge snow contact are merely superficial characteristics that--WHEN THE PRINCIPLE MOVEMENT PATTERNS ARE CORRECT--will spontaneously evolve into better and better turns (ie.,
parallel) with skill, speed, and confidence. Converging skis in a "real" wedge turn (or wedge christy--which is presumably what Dean implied by "plough-parallel") are merely the outcome of both legs not turning at the same rate, which will improve with skill, and with a little added speed that will help reduce pressure on the inside (downhill at the turn start) ski. More speed also entails more inclination into the turn for balance (as on a bicycle), which contributes to BOTH skis tipping further toward their right edges (in a right turn). Some people make it a much bigger deal than it is whether a ski is on its big-toe or little-toe edge, but I suggest that a more useful way to look at it is to think of edge angle on a single continuum involving tipping movements to the right (clockwise as viewed from behind) and to the left. In other words, think of "big-toe edge angle" as merely "less little-toe edge angle," or vice-versa. What matters more than where on the spectrum you are at any moment, is in which direction are the tipping movements occurring
. Essential to grasping this perspective is the realization and understanding that as skis tip from one edge to the other, the moment of "flat on the snow" is not all that significant (contrary, perhaps, to popular belief). What matters most is not which edge of the ski is in touch with the snow, but whether the ski edge holds or releases its grip. In a "proper" wedge turn (exactly as in a "proper" parallel turn
), the new turn begins the moment the edge of the downhill ski releases and allows gravity and--as needed--steering efforts to guide the tips of both skis down the hill, into the turn. Failure to release that edge before starting the turn is the critical, fundamental error (for offensive turns) that results in a "pushoff" initiation, which (if not intentional) is a fundamental error in any offensive turn, both wedge and parallel. Pushoffs cause the tails of the skis to twist out into an increased skid to start the turn--what I call a "negative movement," a movement literally in the wrong direction if your intent is to change direction. (Negative movements are appropriate if your primary intent is defensive--to slow down, to "stop going this way," but they are counter-productive the moment your intent is to "go that way." Search EpicSki archives for much more on this!) If you push first one tail out into a skid, followed by the other tail, you make a "stem christy." If you push them both out simultaneously and at the same rate, your skis will stay parallel, but they will still resemble a real offensive, expert's "parallel" turn only in the most superficial way possible.
So, Dean, back to you! Assuming that your goal is to develop a fundamentally sound basic parallel turn, and not just a lousy parallel braking skidded turn, here are a few of the fundamentals I suggest you focus on:
- "Parallel"--a false goal!
Don't worry too much about whether your skis are exactly parallel or not--it's really the least important characteristic of great turns, and obsessing over "parallel" is more likely to introduce unsound movements and habits in your skiing as you pursue a hollow goal.
- Movements, not positions...
Focus on tipping movements--toward the right or toward the left--more than which edge of your ski happens to be in contact on the snow at any moment. In other words, think "direction of tipping movement," rather than focusing on the tipped "position" of your skis. In the transition from a left turn into a right turn, both skis should be tipping (not necessarily "tipped") toward the right, and the new turn will actually begin the moment the downhill ski releases its grip on the snow--which will happen when it is still gently on its uphill ("big toe") edge. (For anyone who does not get this, think of what happens when you sideslip down a pitch: you release your edges, but your uphill edges remain gently in contact with the snow.) As your speed, skill, balance, and confidence increase, you will incline your whole body more steeply into the turn for balance, as on on a bicycle, which will contribute to stronger tipping movements of BOTH skis into the turn. At the same time, increased skill with tipping movements in your feet, ankles, and legs ("tip the right ski right to go right") will also contribute to the "corresponding edge angles" that characterize true parallel turns.
- Let go of the mountain!
I repeat--focus on releasing the edge of your downhill ski to start a turn, allowing the tips of both skis to turn into the turn, rather than pushing or twisting the tails of both skis out into a gross skidded, braking "turn." And do not worry whether a slight wedge happens at first. It will get better!
- Up & Down--WHY?
To your question about "up and down" movements--as JASP has suggested, releasing the edge of the downhill ski by reducing its edge angle to start the turn will eliminate the need to extend that leg and push away from that ski, or to extend and "unweight" your skis to pull the edges out of the snow. Extending (getting taller or "longer") as you release the edge is sometimes an option that allows you to relax for a moment, but it's never a requirement in a basic, fundamental turn. And in many turns, particularly at high speeds, in moguls, and in some deeper conditions, the habit of extending and pushing off to start a turn will be a big mistake!
- Turn your legs, not your body
Keep your upper body, from your pelvis up and including your arms, very still as you initiate your turn and guide your skis through the turn with your legs--femurs rotating in your hip sockets. This leg rotation will result in what we call "countering"--legs and skis turned into the turn relative to your upper body, much as the front wheels of a car steer into a turn relative to the chassis of the car. Beware of the very common natural instinct to try to twist your skis around by first twisting your upper body into the turn, then "forcing" your skis to follow. That's called "rotation," and it is a sure-fire route to defensive, skidding habits, whether your skis are in a wedge or parallel.
- Positive Movements--Right Tip Right to GO Right!
Related to the previous point, focus on guiding your ski TIPS INTO the turn (with your legs), rather than twisting your tails out. "Into the turn" is a positive movement, in the intended direction. "Tails out" is the opposite. These leg movements can be gentle and "passive" or active and forceful--or anywhere on the spectrum between, as needed in any particular turn. Again, of course, the downhill ski's edge must release its grip before you can guide its tip into the turn, so focus on the sensations and movements of your downhill foot (the "inside ski" of the new turn). For tipping movements, think "tip the right ski right to go right." For turning movements, think "turn the right tip right to go right." Overall, "right tip right to go right" is a pretty good mantra for getting everything started on the right foot and moving in the right direction in all offensive turns (at least those to the right--you'll have to figure out the left turns yourself). Keep in mind that the active, skillful, and accurate steering of the inside ski tip into the turn is the basic movement that will eliminate the wedge and ultimately keep your skis parallel. (Conversely, pulling the tails together to make them parallel--which may seem like the more intuitive thing to do--is a negative movement that merely results in a parallel "turn" that is expert-like only in the most superficial of ways!)
- INTENT DICTATES TECHNIQUE.
ABOVE ALL--first and foremost--make sure that your intent when you turn is, actually, to make a direction change--to GO where you want to go, not just to control speed. INTENT DICTATES TECHNIQUE. If the little voice that says "turn now" speaks only when you need to slow down or avoid something ("not go there"), you will never succeed with these movements that I've described. When you let go of the mountain by releasing your edges and guide your ski tips down the hill, you will--of course--gain speed. Make sure you actually want to turn down that hill and gain speed, because that is what is about to happen! If your intent is defensive, the movements of offensive turns are all wrong, and you will not (and should not) make them. Great turns are about gliding, flowing with gravity as opposed to fighting it. There are certainly times when we need (or want) to fight gravity, to brake, to control speed, and we need the techniques to match these purposes as well. But if your goal is to make a better turn, you absolutely must first make sure that your intent is pure offense! Right tip right to go right. The most important word there is...GO!
- The GO! Factor (skiing's best-kept secret, and the missing link in most skiers' turns)
So beware of your state of mind, your comfort level, your intent, and your tactics. Try these movements on very gentle terrain at first, where speed control is not an issue. Since you must want to go faster when you start an offensive turn, make sure that you've slowed down enough BEFORE you start the turn, so you won't feel the need to brake during the turn. That usually means to "complete your turn" more than you may be used to--to continue the previous turn further around the arc, across, and often even back up the hill a little before releasing the edge and diving into the new turn. The only time I ever want to go faster is when I feel like I'm going "too slow"--so "too slow"--not "too fast"--is the critical, essential pre-requisite state of mind that underlies all great turns, whether you are a beginner or a World Cup racer.
And that, my friend, is how you make a great turn! If you closely watch the "Wedge Turns" video clip that BillA linked to, you will see all of the movements that I've just described, as well as the tactics (line, completed turns) that keep me from needing to brake. You can see the edge of the downhill ski let go as both skis turn right to start a right a turn--just as they would (should) in a good parallel turn. You can see the legs rotating in the hip sockets, resulting in the "countered" position I described. You can also see the "lead" of the ski tips changing from turn to turn, again due to the legs rotating independently of each other in the hip sockets. And you can see that there is no need for any "up-unweighting" type of movement, although there is sometimes a gentle relaxing to a slightly taller, relaxed attitude during the transition. Conversely, in the "errors" segment of the clip, you can see upper body rotation--torso and arms twisting into the new turn before the skis start turning--resulting in the downhill ski edge NOT releasing to start the turn as the uphill (new outside) ski tail twists into a harsh skid.
Note that every bullet point above describes offensive turns at any level--not just wedge turns. Practice the fundamental movements and tactics, and keep in the front of your mind your actual intent when you make a turn, and your skiing will improve steadily. "Parallel" will come quickly and effortlessly, and then soon it will be the last thing that concerns you.
Have fun, and please keep us posted on your progress. Ask questions, explore, experiment. Question everything (including everything I've said)--challenge "conventional wisdom" and distrust dogma. You will be a great skier!