Because a good picture is worth a thousand words, as instructors we owe it to our students to show them the best demonstrations possible. We do not demand perfection or detailed understanding from our students but offering them a clear mechanically accurate image is important. As a side benefit, your personal skiing performance will improve proportionately to the effort you put into making accurate movements in your lower level demonstrations.
I am assuming here the proper mechanics have been taught and learned in a wedge turn which will progress quite easily into christie turns.
The wedge christie demonstration is a stark contrast to a traditional “stem” christie of the sixties and seventies. The stem is a defensive braking maneuver where the Center of mass does not flow across the feet, rather it is moved inside the new turn by stemming the foot away. In contrast the wedge christie demonstrates a constant flow of the Cm between turns in an offensive non braking manner where speed control is derived by progressively steering the skis across the fall line using gravity more than friction to control speed.
As defined in our guidelines the wedge christie is a turn begun in a wedge and matched somewhere after the fall line into a skidded arc. This presents two challenges for the demonstrator. First we must match the skis into a skidded arc and secondly we must open from said skidded arc into a wedge while initiating the new turn. This is where many instructors fail this demo.
While we tend to focus on the match, I find if we can efficiently nail the turn transition the matching becomes more spontaneous because of the accurate movements begun in the initiation. Here is where mistakes are made and many times the demonstration becomes a “stem” christie instead of the contemporary wedge christie. Let’s begin from a skidded arc which the defines the christie. From a skidded arc there should never be an edged platform created with the down hill ski. Our skis should flow smoothly from one curved path to another without any traverse! If the demonstrator gets too far inside the turn finish it causes a platform and traverse which consequently tempts a stem opening. More accurately, from the skidded arc, the skier should by releasing the turn with both tips turning down hill which open into a wedge without ever engaging the inside edge of the down hill ski to create a platform from which to stem. So in effect the down hill ski continues it’s skid with it’s direction changed by releasing the edge angle as the new outside ski is simultaneously steered down the hill out of the christie into the wedge position. The whole demo should be kinda slithery or greasy on the snow. Our tracks should look like knives spreading butter on bread, with slight edge engagement. By releasing the downhill ski’s grip on the slope we allow gravity to help pull the tips into the fall line. Remember the dominant skill at this level is rotary, more specifically foot and lower leg rotary. Fulcrum turning rather than rotary push off! While both tips steer into the fall line the outside ski turns at a faster rate than the inside creating a converging position of some degree.
On the spectrum of skill blending from pure pivoting (ie: pivot slips) to pure edging (ie: railroad tracks) this demo should be closer to the middle of the pivoting vs. carving ends of the spectrum. Having conducted a few level II skiing preps and exam modules this season, I see the majority of candidates over edging this demo and finishing the turns in a traverse and consequently, initiating with a stem.
Let’s look at the description and priorities of a Wedge Christie as defined in our manual:
Slightly faster speed than wedge turns with smaller wedge.
Turn initiated by opening both skis into a wedge with slight extension.
Balance over outside ski
Inside ski changes edge and is steered to match after the fall line.
While these descriptives leave much room for interpretation, if we look at good mechanics and the goal of teaching the movements of parallel turning, it becomes clear what the most appropriate actions needed are to promote fluid offensive turns.
Slightly faster speed with a smaller wedge. This descriptive helps to promote a christie holistically. By simply increasing the speed and/or narrowing the wedge we naturally decrease the edge angle of the inside ski allowing it to be steered much more easily to a match if the skier is in a good body position and using lower leg steering.
Turn initiated by opening both skis into a wedge with a slight extension. Remember a wedge opening is NOT a stem opening! If the skier opens into a wedge position with a stem from an edged engaged downhill ski they have blocked the fluid crossover we are looking for in the Centerline demonstrations. This is a defensive braking movement vs. the fluid offensive “GO” movement of a “release” of the old turn. The opening should come from both skis skidding in a curved path, to the new outside ski being steered down the fall line to create a wedge opening. This steering action of the new outside ski should be accompanied by a slight extension of that leg which facilitates the release of the downhill ski which also turns downhill but at a slower rate.
A detailed explanation of flexion is not discussed in our manuals however it should be noted the flexion in the wedge and wedge christie demos should be a lateral movement of the hips to balance against the slight turning forces generated. This means the outside leg remains rather long while the inside leg is flexed slightly while the skier remains balanced over the outside ski. This facilitates a slight counter of the pelvis. Consequently, the subsequent extension is a simultaneous steering and extension from this shortened leg to move with the center of mass over the feet while simultaneously releasing the downhill ski’s grip on the snow, permitting a very fluid initiation into the new turn. Again, the trigger is the release of the downhill ski's grip permitting inertia to help redirect our mass.
Balance: The demonstrator moves with skis, to remain over the sweet spot of the skis throughout the turns permitting the most efficient access to rotary, edging, and pressure control movements.
Rotary: The demonstrator uses a fulcrum turning mechanism to turn feet below a stable quiet pelvis. The femurs rotate in the hip socket facilitated by a slight flex in the ankles, knees and hips. This results in an obvious counter at turn completion which facilitates the initiation phase by using the anticipation release of the old turn.
Edging: The demonstrator uses just enough edge angle to keep the skis on a curved path without excessive skidding. This allows for maximum guiding efforts from the rotary skill while not permitting an edged platform to be created. The new turn is initiated with a release of downhill ski’s edge (deflection), complimenting the simultaneous steering & extension of the uphill leg to send the tips down the fall line.
Pressure Control: The demonstrator uses a fluid and continuous transfer of pressure from one ski to the other through a series of turns. The weight shift should be passive yet simultaneous with the release movement of the down hill ski rather than any active shift. Rather than the torso actively shifting out over the outside ski, the skier releases the pressure built up beneath the downhill ski which begins the new turn and a consequent weight shift to the new outside ski. As the deflection from the downhill ski is reduced with the release, turning forces are created under the new outside ski simultaneously and the direction is changed.
All of the movements in a good wedge christie are the exact same movements of a good parallel turn and expert skiing! ...and isn’t this the goal?