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What do you do with first day adult skiers who can't hold a wedge?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

This thread is for seasoned instructors who teach adults a wedge for their very first straight runs and very first turns to the right and left.

(This is not a thread about whether the wedge is a good way to teach beginners or not; please do not post if you want to argue about that.)

 

You must run into adult students sometimes who simply cannot hold the wedge.  

They can't keep their ski tips pointed inward when doing a straight run on extremely low pitch terrain.

Or they can for a very short distance, but they are very ineffective in getting those two skis tipped to even a tiny edge.

When they try to tip the wedged skis to big toe edges, the skis go parallel or wobble in all directions and the wedge is lost.

If they keep them pointed in a wedge, they have no control over whether they are on the big toes edges or flat, or whether they are balanced equally on both skis or not.

The skis wobble from parallel from wedge to diverging tips, completely out of control.  

 

1.  Do you have ideas about WHY this happens?  Boots sloppy big?  Skis exceedingly wide underfoot?   Lack of foot/leg proprioception?   Lack of foot/leg strength?   Fear shutting down the mind's control over feet and legs?

 

2.  What do you do?  Do you ever send them back to the rental shop?  

 

3.  How long does it take for you to get them to a successful first straight run in a wedge?  Is your beginner lesson long enough for you to get these wobbly skiers successfully to their first wedge turns?  How long does it often take?

 

4.  If your first-turn-beginner-terrain has a long flat run-out with no cross-traffic where the students can coast to a stop, or if it has a gentle uphill at the end that stops them, then please mention this.  It matters.  But if you have to teach a braking wedge from the very start because there's no way your students can stop safely otherwise in their first straight runs, please say that too.   
post #2 of 27

Wrong equipment is often the case, but unless we're talking about very long skis or totally out-of-size boots (I mean, totally), I think that the predominant issue is with their ability to pivot the legs.

post #3 of 27
Our lessons are from 10-3. We have a beginner area that is fenced in so other skiers can't just ski through. There are 2 tubes and a regular chair. This year, Terrain Based Learning features were incorporated into our beginner area.

Beginner students get their boots fitted as part of the lesson so rarely do we have to deal with boots that are too large. I have sent people back to the rental shop. The shop also has shims if people need those.

I try to do a lot of boot work and static work to teach movements that create the wedge. I do this in 2 parts. One, rotating the legs (turning the front of thighs toward each other) and two, spreading the legs. This teaches leg rotation from the beginning and is not the "push your heels out" wedge.

The longer lesson allow us to spend as much time on the flat/shallow hill as necessary. Sometimes, people need to get used to sliding without doing anything before they can do a wedge. Not trying to rush things seems to be important.

I have skied backward holding their tips together so they get the feeling. This has worked well.

There are people who will not be willing to go unless they know how to stop. I do introduce the "emergency brake" concept. Once people are confident they can stop, they relax and are much more willing to go.
post #4 of 27


We have a fenced beginner area with an uphill backstop. The first thing I do generally is to demonstrate to them that if I just straight line I will stop when I get to the other end. This gives me the tool of confidence to work with.

 

When I get someone with trouble holding a wedge, I stop trying to wedge. (we're not allowed to ski backward so I can't hold their tips as I would like to do.) I work on straight run to J turns to a stop to build comfort, and to develop some feel for how the skis work for them. When they are doing that I go back to wedging usually with success.

post #5 of 27

Other instructors have touched on embracing the gliding feeling. That's a great first step. If they can't glide relaxedly, they're not going to be able to balance through the wedge. 

 

If they're leaning back, they'll have no pressure against the tips and lose all ability to steer. Wobble city ensues

 

If they're just total jelly legs and completely lack lower body awareness, you'll have to build enough functional resistance so they're stable, and no so much that they're rigid. How about having them use their poles to support themselves, lift a ski slightly off snow, stick your pole in the snow, and have them resist against the pole? You can move the pole back and forth a bit to give them a feel for the stabilization they'll need. The learner's job is to stabilize their leg to keep it from wobbling. (use a crappy rental pole for this so.) Watch out for locking up their joints while doing this. 

post #6 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by skier31 View Post

<snip>

I have skied backward holding their tips together so they get the feeling. This has worked well.

<snip>

I like this ^^^

 

Backing up to static, I might have them do the "I'm the king of the world" pose from Titanic, making sure their *hips* move forward, not simply a break at the waist.  This sometimes takes some convincing, and they believe they are mirroring you but they are still hips over or behind feet, not in front.

 

Sometimes people mistakenly want to push their knees together - something to look out for / remedy.

 

Brushed half-wedges in a flat area can also help get the "tips in and heels out" feeling.

post #7 of 27
Flatwork LF. I know you teach abbreviated (less than all day) lessons but a few years back TPS included a study about pre ski flatwork drills / activities. An hour spent prior to sliding might seem long but the learning curve once on skis is accelerated significantly when compared to a rush to a wedge lesson plan. Herringbones and sidesteps especially help introduce edge engagement and balancing on an edge platform. Obviously we are teaching for transfer here. This makes the choice of activities very important. In general they are mobility drills but that list include gliding / scootering on one ski, gliding in a swale, as well as the standard walking in circles / follow the leader stuff. All prior to commiting to riding on both skis.
As far as wedge first progressions verses DTP, or a hybrid of both, a student armed with the skill set learned doing sufficient flatwork generally can perform any of them equally well. But again knowing which works best for your hill needs to be a first consideration. Not so much a particular philisophical opinion.
Edited by justanotherskipro - 2/23/16 at 1:06pm
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 

One hour and a half.  That's it for my hill.  

Dogma/philosophical doctrine has nothing to do with it.

I'm looking for great ideas that work fast.

In a group lesson, leaning over and holding one adult's ski tips together might work but I haven't tried it yet.  I'll keep that in mind, as long as this adult doesn't weigh 200 lbs! (:eek)


This has worked:  pulling each individual across the flats, me on one end of a pole or poles and the student on the other. The student's task is to hold the wedge, and brake with extra edging and wider tails when I ask him/her to (please, don't argue with a wide breaking wedge; they need this to combat initial fear since we don't have a flat run-out nor an uphill run-out.)

 

But some folks can't even do that.  I have them walk on the insides of their feet (big toe edges) while pigeon-toed in boots only; fine!  But put the skis on and all edging disappears.

I watch their feet and cannot for the life of me figure out why they don't tip the skis.  They just don't.  And with the skis flat, they can't keep them in the wedge, or their tips cross.

I get them to stand forward, and I get them to stand aft; we try it centered.  I have them stand upright with belly button in front of toes, and then I ask them to haul way back on their heels.  I get them to bend over and hold onto their knees.  Forget dogma.  I'm willing to do whatever works.  They are on vacation; they want to have fun and go down the hill.  Nothing works with some people.  Why?  

 

Some can't stand in a wedge in boots only, on edge, static, not even for a minute.  This might be a range-of-motion issue with them; not sure.  Then it's definitely time for direct-to-parallel.  I'll need very good luck on an icy day with a large group!

 

I think it's often the boots. Or they are just weak.  Or they have zero awareness of what their feet are doing.  Or they are afraid of pointing their toes towards each other. 

One strong young man in his early 30s told me after a failed lesson (never could do any controlled foot pointing of any sort) that he was afraid his feet would do the splits, so he couldn't bring himself to point the toes together.  He tells me this at the end.  Go figure.


Oh, here's an idea that might work.  On the flats, I'll have them stand on left edges.  I'll stand beside their left side and pull their outstretched arms/hands towards me.  They should find that the edges hold them in place.  Then I'll stand in a wedge on inside edges and have them try to pull me with poles.  I won't move.  Then we'll reverse roles, and I'll try to pull them using poles.  They should feel that those edges won't let them move.  Then we can practice flattening the skis SLOWLY and bringing them back up on edge SLOWLY, with them simply standing there in a wedge, not moving, on the flats.  If they can do that, then I'll pull them with poles in a wedge and we'll go from there.  

 

If they can't edge the skis in a wedge or while standing with skis parallel, while standing there on the flats and not moving, it's back to the rental shop they go for either narrower-underfoot-skis or smaller boots, or both.  

post #9 of 27
Play tag, or whatever will make the self locomotive movements happen. Skating on the flats, scootering, etc. Another option after that is sidesteps and herringbones uphill because it serve two purposes, it gets them up the hill to do the downhill glides you want them doing and it teaches them the foot to foot edge skills necessary to climb there in the first place. An advantage for you is you are not dragging them around while everyone else stands around watching. That doesn't mean tug of wars are a bad thing though, pair off students and go reciprocal active experimentation / guided discovery verses the activity that teaches one on one heel digging in actions. It is a shift in focus and class management but over time it releases you to coach everyone as well as them to coach each other.
Sadly, the culture of one hour lessons sets the expectations higher than they should. Learning to ski is about self discovery and you can only expect students to do so much in an hour.
post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

Flatwork LF. I know you teach abbreviated (less than all day) lessons but a few years back TPS included a study about pre ski flatwork drills / activities. An hour spent prior to sliding might seem long but the learning curve once on skis is accelerated significantly when compared to a rush to a wedge lesson plan. Herringbones and sidesteps especially help introduce edge engagement and balancing on an edge platform. Obviously we are teaching for transfer here. This makes the choice of activities very important. In general they are mobility drills but that list include gliding / scootering on one ski, gliding in a swale, as well as the standard walking in circles / follow the leader stuff. All prior to commiting to riding on both skis.
As far as wedge first progressions verses DTP, or a hybrid of both, a student armed with the skill set learned doing sufficient flatwork generally can perform any of them equally well. But again knowing which works best for your hill needs to be a first consideration. Not so much a particular philisophical opinion.
j

Agreed here. Resist the urge to "get them going down hill"

I found the same thing. A few extra minutes doing flat work pays huge dividends. Walking around, turning the feet, side stepping, walking in wedges, learning how to twist their feet while balancing their arches on a piece of bamboo. Pulling them on flat ground with a piece of bamboo. Dragging them in curved directions to feel the different pressures on each foot... All this stuff while boring will make the first slide down the hill much more familiar.

I will often teach side stepping, herringbone walking, even gentle boot arcs, before we even snap on our first ski.

Just having them walk to the location where you will start the lesson will give you a chance to evaluate the physical ability of your students. Use this time to evaluate just how long you might want to spend doing flat work.
post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 

All good ideas; thanks everyone.  I've done them all, except holding the tips together down there on the snow.  I've seen it done, however.

 

I'm still hoping for the golden nugget that hasn't been shared yet.  Where is it?

post #12 of 27
How much pressure is a huge "feel" thing. Sometimes using the "stand facing up hill in a "v" " and feel how much pressure there is on the shin and inside edges will get them to realize how hard they may have to press.

Another thing is they are in a hard boot that doesn't want to bend. They have to some how be taught that it is critical they learn to press into the front of the boot, even bend their ankle some.

A new term I have been using with my children students is "squishy ankles" and it seems to do wonders with them actually articulating their ankles. And it's fun for the kids to say! Bonus! It works pretty well with my adults as well but they won't usually yell out "squish" as they make the move..
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 

OK, now that's new.  Thanks, dchan.

post #14 of 27

1--Boots are too big.  At least one shell size too big, maybe more.

2--Some people are so wonderfully flexible, especially some young women, that they can put light pressure against the boot tongues and still have their center of mass over or behind their heels.  Try telling them to stand near-straight, just flexed joints (or slump like a boy) and hinge forward from their ankles so their zipper pull appears to be out over the logo on their skis.  (Actually it may be over their toe bindings, which is good, but it'll appear to them to be way out there.)  Tell them what needs to happen.  They need to engage the inside edges of the fronts of their skis in the snow.  This is done by moving their body weight as well as positioning their feet.  Tell them what to do, how to do it, and why it works.

post #15 of 27
Herringbone up a slight rise, slide backward, maintaining the wedge. First try, only a couple steps up, increasing steps up as comfort increases.
post #16 of 27

Here's some great stuff from TBL for flats.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1-wB57JG5Q&list=PL_MwA8ayOAfhdCGH8rB-

 

I also know you said you didn't want DTP, but it seems to me that the student, their abilities, successes, failures, connections, etc. all should direct the progression.  So for some students, a wedge progression just doesn't connect and a DTP might.  Something to consider.

 

Mike

post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

All good ideas; thanks everyone.  I've done them all, except holding the tips together down there on the snow.  I've seen it done, however.

I'm still hoping for the golden nugget that hasn't been shared yet.  Where is it?

No golden nugget, but it's surprising how many adult beginners don't realize they need some simple functional core tension. I'll go a couple things in boots to start to active the core as well as abducting and adducting the legs just enough to compliment what the skeleton needs to do to keep us on our feet while moving. Out of skis, focus on lateral movement, then add turning the femur in the hip socket.
post #18 of 27

Our teaching area has a carpet and a beginner chair. The pitch off the carpet is OK but there is cross traffic. The pitch off the chair is steeper, enough so that it panics some people who were doing well off the carpet. I've had several adults as you've described and it has been frustrating to deal with. Up until this year our basic beginner lesson, group or private, was one hour. This made it extreamly difficult to get people glliding if they couldn't hold a wedge. We have now gone to two hours which has helped a lot.

However, when all else has failed I have found two things to use kind of as a last resort. First is skiing backwards, right in front of them, with my skis in a wedge and have them match my skis. I have them exetnd their arms and I do the same. This keeps us far enough apart to prevent potential disasters. If their still not getting it, my second option is to have them 'push thier heels out'. I KNOW, this is bad, but sometimes it is the only way to get them into a wedge type position. It seems for some people, "wedge", "A" or even "pizza" doens't compute but pushing the heels out seems to make sense to this group of people.

BTW, all of our beginner lessons are done without poles. So, hands on the knees works sometimes for adults just like for kids. This is also my go to for the first chair ride exit technique. Since they don't have poles I have them stand up at the "Unload" sign and try to bend down and touch their knees. This puts them forward enough to get down the ramp, which on our beginner chair is not at all gradual. 

post #19 of 27
Skill development is not exactly the same for everyone in spite it being the same task. Of particular interest is the commentaries about the inability of a student to hold an edge. It speaks volumes about finding a pace where these folks can find more success on those first tentative attempts on new, more challenging terrain. It is easy for outside pressure to lead us to changing terrain too soon. Not to mention students who can be impatient thanks to friends who tell them an hour lesson will get them skiing at a low intermediate level. Nevermind the fact that they are a couch potato the rest of the year.

Granted this is a worse case example but it does point out how random the group lesson world can be. Even within one group. In the end a student struggling to even hold an edge should tell us they are over terrained. But it is going to happen because changing terrain is not an exact science.
post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

No golden nugget, but it's surprising how many adult beginners don't realize they need some simple functional core tension. I'll go a couple things in boots to start to active the core as well as abducting and adducting the legs just enough to compliment what the skeleton needs to do to keep us on our feet while moving. Out of skis, focus on lateral movement, then add turning the femur in the hip socket.

Marko, that is interesting. How little functional tension can a new skier get away with? I would have guessed couch potato levels.
post #21 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post

Herringbone up a slight rise, slide backward, maintaining the wedge. First try, only a couple steps up, increasing steps up as comfort increases.


I've taught this backwards slide with some success, but just as often it instills a strong distrust in me.  

Someone in the group will be shocked, shocked that I'm starting with having them ski backwards and that person freaks.  

Not good.  

Sliding backwards is SO MUCH EASIER than sliding frontwards; some understand the dynamic of the wedge right away once we do this.  

But I once had a guy hyperventilating when I asked the group to herringbone up and slide a wee little bit backwards down.

I thought he was going to have a heart attack.  So I don't do this one very often any more.


Edited by LiquidFeet - 2/24/16 at 6:43pm
post #22 of 27

It's possible that these students learn through feeling more than by watching, doing or listening to how a movement is done.  I've had some luck with the following:

  • On a flat area of snow have the student stand with their skis parallel.  Then, by hand, move the the students ski tips to the right and left.  As you move the tip to the right the tail moves to the left.  Tip to the left, tail to the right.  The pivot point is under the foot.  Have the student focus on how their leg feels while you are moving their ski and leg.  Placing a ski pole grip under the arch of their foot should make this easier.
  • Ask them to make the ski tips move the same way.  Help them a little at first if necessary.
  • After they have some success moving the ski on their own place a ski pole a couple inches to the side of the ski tip.  Ask them to move the ski tip to the pole and continue to push the ski tip against the ski pole.  Point out that they should be able to feel the muscles that twist their leg and their big or little toe, depending on the direction of the movement, pushing against their boot.  For the best results have them do this with right and left skis moving each ski tip to the right and left against the ski pole.

Now that they know how it feels to move the ski you can go back to teaching the lesson as you normally would.

 

No guarantee this will work but it's worth a try.

post #23 of 27

You might try an abbreviated Tony Forest progression.  Just enough of a pitch to slide, set up 2 ski poles ~3' apart. 2-3 seconds sliding time down from that toss a glove on the snow making an isosceles triangle. another 2-3 second sliding distance, another set of poles. Set up as many Triangles as you can, finishing with a pair of poles. Looks kind of like this....

 

           p                  p                  p                  p            Have your students start at the first set of poles skis pointing straight down, as they approach the glove the turn both their skis 

   >>>          g                  g                   g                      out to go around the glove, then steer them back together to go between the next set of poles. After a few passes you will find    

           p                  p                  p                  p            the spacing that works for your hill. The key is not so far apart they pick up too much speed straight running, but not so close                                                                                       they don't have time to steer their feet together.

 

In the slow approach to the glove make sure they turn their toes out rather then push their feet apart. As they pass the glove make sure they steer their feet together rather than pulling them together. I find having people do static bowties in the snow first without, then with skis, is enough of a drill to get people to feel how to turn their feet. I will admit at times I'm kneeling on the snow next to their foot twisting the boot with my hands so they can feel how their foot turns. Why it works is that in approaching the glove they turn their left foot left and their right foot right. As they approach the poles they have to turn their left foot right and their right foot  left. Because they've now turned their feet both ways you can start to offset the last set of poles and have them steer both feet to a turn. By defining the distances I've found few people who aren't helped by not giving them enough time to make a big move letting them slide their skis out into the splits, or cross their tips. We used to run 400+ grade school kids a week through the whole course* with few who needed any further demonstration/exercises to get a solid gliding wedge turn. Now I pull it out once or twice a year for the people who can't turn their feet without also changing their stance width or especially can turn their toes out but not in again. Usually I'll put down a glove, 1 set of poles, the other glove and if the fear of sliding is really bad I'll set it up on the flat and tow or push them through so they can feel steering in motion.   

 

 

 

 

*(It's too late to write up the whole thing, if anyone is interested I can do it some other time).                              

post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

Marko, that is interesting. How little functional tension can a new skier get away with? I would have guessed couch potato levels.

My running joke for first timers is, "ever see an octopus ski?"
post #25 of 27
So what should we do? I believe the answer is to accept the idea that some folks need more time and practice than others. Patience with that slower pace is the key. We may want to present the same idea differently but at some point there is only so much we can do that.
post #26 of 27

Golden Nugget:

 

While the student stands in a wedge on flat terrain, hold the ski tips and move them slowly apart. Repeat this movement while asking the student to find the muscles to stop you. Normally, it only takes a few moves before the student can stop you pulling the ski tips apart.

 

During this process you will see the student try different things (such as moving the knees in or out) before finding the correct muscles.

 

Return to the slope, repeat the move and then ask the student to keep those muscles engaged during the slide. The student almost always holds the wedge and the emphasis changes to simply preventing the tips crossing.

post #27 of 27

Skiing backwards and holding their skis in the wedge for them has usually worked for me when the regular steps don't gel with the person.  It takes some a couple trips down the carpet run, but they usually get it as you ease back off the grip more and more.. like the kid riding the bike they will take over without realizing they are taking over.

 

I saw this thread title and thought of Aspen Extreme and Dexter's first and LAST private lesson..

 

"You're HIM?"

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