Originally Posted by ChuckT
Is the wedge the same "pizza" thingy? They look the same to me, but maybe I miss the finer differences.
I am pretty sure most people here can make very very slow parallel turns without their skis forming a pizza. I was told "pizza" was for absolute beginners and have long tried to banish it from my skiing. However, when terrain or condition gets kind of above my head or some fear sets in, I automatically, subconsciously slow down to a crawl and make a pizza. This pizza thingy (not sure if it's the same as the wedge here) is the most defensive movement for me. Funny thing is that it doesn't make me turn better or with any more control. I always do better by stopping, consciously think about it and make turns by retracting, hopping... and ski at a certain speed while keeping the skis parallel. Not pretty, maybe tiring, but more controlled than trying to pizza down. So, I really don't see the value of the pizza. The wedge, I don't know.
I don't even see it as an "engine compression test" a la the pivot slips since every beginner can do it. As an analogy, I am pretty sure I can jump on a bike of my size with training wheels and pedal around. Although my riding won't be as smooth as someone who has spent a lot of time practicing with training wheels, I can legimately claim I (anyone) have many of the same movements of Tour de France cyclists. Yet, we would all laugh if we see any cyclist "train" with training wheels. So, instead of perfecting the pizza, shouldn't we just move on to the fries as quickly as we feel comfortable?
I don't do too many wedge type lessons any more. When I teach the beginners my focus for them is on the edge release of the inside ski to initiate the turn. I try to get them do this through a minor directional movement achieved through a slight extension. IMO there should be some counter and tip lead appropriate for the pitch and speed of the turn. While I am looking for this, I don't emphasize it to the student. What I do emphasize is edge release through extension and steering or guiding of the feet. This steering comes from femoral rotation, but I don't emphasize that to the student. If I can get them to face more or less down the hill with their upper body there will be upper/lower body separation and the femoral rotation is the natural outcome. I also like to see the smallest slice of pizza that I can get a beginner to use. The larger the wedge, the higher the opposing edge angles and the harder it becomes to flatten the inside ski for initiation and the harder it is to steer that ski through the turn. It's important that a student doesn't "learn" that the wedge is a device to control speed. The wedge as I teach it is strictly for lateral balance. Speed control comes from turn shape and line selection.
When I teach beginners this way, I usually see the skis spontaneously matching at the bottom of the turn before too long. Many students will be making a basic parallel turn on green slopes by the end of the day. It's funny that I'll get some students who "think" they're doing it wrong when the wedge starts to go away. I get some students, hockey players, dancers, and such, who never use a wedge. I agree with Chuck that I am not interested in my beginner students "perfecting the pizza" or the wedge Christie. I want my students moving around on snow, having fun, and exploring new terrain safely. The wedge is good for lateral balance at turn initiation and will tend to spontaneously reappear when a skier gets into terrain that is too steep or scary. I am not too bothered by this as long as the skis are matching at the end of the turn and the primary means of speed control is turn shape. What the wedge is not good for is speed control on a steeper slope. I am annoyed by some of the kids instructors who allow their students to ski in the flying wedge straight down the fall line. This will work on the greens at JH, but will never work on our blues as they are too steep for this kind of nonsense. IMO the wedge becomes a dead end technique when it becomes associated with a means to control speed.
I find it interesting that a lot of what I just described as my focus for teaching beginners are the same things I tend to teach to my level 8 students who are looking to ski bumps and off-piste. We don't use a wedge at the upper levels, but I am still looking for an edge release into the turn using flexion or extension and a directional movement down the hill with the CM. I'm still looking for speed control to be achieved through turn shape and tactics. I'm looking for upper/lower body separation and some angulation. My emphasis for the lesson is different for an upper level skier vs a beginner, but IMO it is the same stuff. I didn't always see it this way, but with more experience teaching and a deeper understanding of turn mechanics I now truly believe that the movements in a properly executed wedge turn are basically the same as in an upper level parallel turn.
IMO the only people who "need" to spend a lot of time "perfecting the pizza" or wedge Christie are ski instructors and other serious students of skiing.