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Photo Analysis: Old School vs. New

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Here are a couple of photos of me skiing, one old and one recent, that I thought would be fun to post for some comments and analysis regarding old school technique vs. new with modern equipment.

The first photo was taken 18 years ago in 1987 at the US Army Europe Ski Championships in Garmisch Partenkirchen, West Germany. I was 21 at the time. The skis were brand new 200 cm K2 5500’s (86-64-74). I remember choosing those “all mountain skis” over my two year old 200 cm Fischer RC4 Super Competition Slalom race skis (84-64-74) because of the fresh edges and better bases. The slalom course, as I remember it, was a rutted up ice rink by the time I had made that run. I like the gnashed teeth and the look that I am determined to kill that gate... too bad I was probably late and missed it.

The second photo was taken a few weeks ago at a Colorado resort that will remain nameless to protect the innocent Bears I was skiing with that day (notice the nice photo retouch). The run was a perfectly and freshly groomed blue cruiser and the snow was incredibly soft and carveable. The skis are 181 cm K2 Axis X (107-70-97) in their fourth season. I must admit that I was a total cheese-ball when I noticed the photographer in the middle of the run and headed straight for him with a big grin and the best turns I could put together.

Comparing a race photo with one on an easy blue cruiser may not be fair but have at it anyway. Old school vs. new is there much of a difference?

post #2 of 12
Really, really interesting post. First, You are a really good skier. You have had a exciting experiences on skis. How many US amateurs get to compete in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, one of the historic cradles of ski racing? Wow!

Second, because you were a racer, you were ahead of your time. You were carving and generating high edge angles when most rec skiers could only skid. In fact, back in the day, some experts warned rec skiers not to "rail" (carve) their skis. Also, racing technique has always been a lot simpler: start your turn above the gate, get the skis on edge hard, get them on the other edge hard. You are clearly, then and now, a fine athlete who could get the job done functionally. And in racing, that's all that matters.

Third, you were (and are) also part of that natural elite that Witherell and Evrard identify as the 10% of skiers who are naturally aligned on their skis. The alignment, racing technique, and your strong skiing skills have you doing what most rec skiers couldn't even comprehend back then, I think.

But, the new skis allow almost everyone to do what only good racers could do in the "old school" days, namely, carve. Racers now can do a lot more, as you know, with even higher edge angles and much higher speeds than even 10 years ago. You are a lot more relaxed on the new skis. I know from my own experience, it is much easier to ski them.

Very cool idea to show these photos!

Btw, what do you think in your own comparison of yourself then and now?
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
I never really thought of a few of those things.

First, I knew Garmisch was a historic ski area and I was happy to be able to ski at an Olympic site but, now that you mention it, I guess it is cool to have raced on the same course that so many great racers competed. I guess I should thank Uncle Sam for that. I was not much of a racer though I did compete a little at the club level during and after high school. I actually preferred skiing the bumps. The funny thing is, at that time, it always seemed that there were as many Americans in Garmisch as Europeans.

“Ahead of (my) time?" Several years ago, when the carving and shape skis started hitting the market, I always wondered what all the hype was about regarding putting skis on edge. Coming from the East Coast, it was something we learned out of necessity in order to ski the ice. I guess I always thought more people actually used there edges. Looking at skiers, today though maybe things have not changed that much even with the new equipment. What percentage of the skiing population is actually laying down railroad tracks?

As far as the “natural elite” goes, I’d say the alignment and balance comes from a lot of time on ice skates and playing hockey. That more than anything probably contributed to the edging skills then and even more so today.

What do I think? There is no question that I ski better now. I think that is only natural. The modern equipment helps especially in difficult off-piste conditions but experience and further instruction has also contributed.

What I find interesting in my skiing, and the main reason why I posted these pictures, is because I still employ a lot of “old school” technique with the modern equipment. How many other skiers are doing this? Are the “old school” methods of pressuring the boot and ski, weighting and un-weighting still being taught or utilized? Whatever happened to stepping out of one turn into the next? Still done? (With some fat skis on groomers I still do this.) Is there really that big of a difference between old school and new?

For me, the difference between putting today’s skis on edge compared to straight skis can be as simple as rolling them or tipping them over. Before, I would have to pressure and weight the ski hard before putting it up on edge and then un-weight at the transition of the turn. (I still find it fun to crank it up now and then as it tends to throw me out of one turn into the next.) Tipping was definitely not an option and maybe that is why “ some experts warned rec skiers not to ‘rail’ their skis.” Take a look at the old picture. I am on that right boot and ski hard. Again, that may be due to the situation and conditions as I still pressure and weight the skis. However, I do think it is done to a lesser degree and is more refined and subtle throughout. This is probably where I have noticed the vast improvement in the new equipment over old. It allows you to dial in those inputs more and get better feedback. Also, the “swinging” sensation of today’s skis under the body or having the skis continuously on edge is something that I did not or could not achieve with the old skis.
post #4 of 12
This only prooves that the wide stand was also used in the retro days and that a near close stance is fully dooable today!

I like both picktures. Thanks for showing them. Nice story as well....
post #5 of 12
An excellent idea and nice pics, CornB.

Not so easy to compare, though.

As we know, skiing gates, let alone racing, is very different than comfortable cruising on a pleasant groomer. They are almost two different worlds.

good skiing for a young soldier and occasional racer on non-race skis. Both skis are on edges and, surprisingly enough, there´s no A-frame with your inner ski engaged and your shins almost paralell: very good and modern for 1987!

The upper-lower body coordination is not perfect: there´s some counter in the hips (standard for 1987) but your shoulders rotate into the turn. Your left arm hangs down and is somewhat behind. I´m not sure if you´re late or not – we don´t see the next gate and can´t judge your line.

You seem to be somewhere between the old slalom style and the then relatively new crossblocking. The position of the left arm might be the rest of the old technique, you feel it´s appropriate to attack the gate frontally but you probably didn´t have the chance to train the crossblock (you also don´t have the appropriate gloves, guards and you race in classic poles).

Btw, I don´t see much of the ruts you mention in your post. We either have ruts or an ice-rink but both?
The relatively wide stance tdk6 comments on is no surprise for me. There´s plenty of evidence for legs apart during the 75 years of alpine racing.
I have a poster showing the Arlberg ski god Hannes Schneider in 1930 (the visitors to At. Anton might know it – it´s being sold there): perfectly wide, legs apart, a modern inside knee without A-frame – amazing!

I also have some pictures of Czech racers training for the 1939 World Championships: they are wide again.
(You could also find another racers or another situations with a narrow stance and legs fairly together, e.g. the Olympic GS champion 1976 Heini Hemmi nad many others...)


It´s skiing in a different situation. Your racing days seem to be long over and you are a smooth technical, stylish skier („Schönheitsfahrer“ is the term a German-speaking instructor would probably use).

You seem to know how to use the shape of the ski to carve a turn. Your legs most probably work independently though they are „traditionally“ realatively close together (yes, HH would be happy to see this. Why not: it´s good modern skiing if not by racing standards: you´re not racing anymore).

Both pics are nice but not good enough for a comparison „old“ vs. „new“:

- your (racing) „old“ is not typical of 1987 and it contains more „new“ than was usual back then

- your (non-racing) „new“ contains some „old“ aspects

A perfect comparison old vs. new would have to show the same person in comparable situations, e.g. a racer back in 1987 and still racing in 2005. The best example of this kind would probably be the Worldcup oldie Freddy Nyberg: born 1969 he was 18 in 1987 and already a good racer, in 2005 he´s still one of the top in GS.

I´m sure that some of the still racing Bears also could present a comparable picture of „then“ and „now“.

I also appreciate the elaborate comments you´re giving.

Btw, Garmisch with Zugspitze is worth it. I have never skied there but I go there on my way to the Alps and back home 20 times a year and I like it there.
post #6 of 12

great idea

I flipped one of the images over to "point you in the same direction" to try to more easily compare the two images. Its very difficult to try to comment on the differences, so I thought I would focus on the similarities! Still no luck. I could imagine you in the old shot coming into that turn and going out of that turn several different ways. Tough to comment on the skiing in that respect. (the danger also in MA using photos, but, to heck with that, this comparo is still a great idea) I like what the others see in that you do not employ that "knee to boot" stance that was popular back then. your legs and feet are tipped the same amount. Little did you know then, that would become sought after now! Guiding those 200 mm boards around through those gates was no small "feet". Nice skiing!

One now/then POSSIBLE similarity is that your are staying with the skiis a little too long at the end of the turn. Your inside hand hangs back a touch and your outside hand MAY tend to come back across your skiis causing your upper body to over rotate at the end of the turn. (do your tails ever wash out a little?) note: its so hard to tell by a photograph....Im making leaps and jumps with assumptions here....The MA exercise is good fun, though, if you dont mind....Only you will know if we are seeing anything that you have actually felt or not...

One POSSIBLE stance issue in the NOW shot MIGHT be that your hips are getting a bit out of alignment due in part to a little too much tip lead and a slightly narrow stance. If your inside foot was back a bit, and your feet were 3 inches wider, I think you would have a more aligned skeleton. The GOOD part is that you look very relaxed. your athleticism, as Nightcat mentioned, shows and it looks like you are very centered over your feet.

This is a great idea to compare old and new.....got any more pictures?
post #7 of 12


Of course these are static pics. I think most people looking at these pics would see a different "look" to them.

In the first pic your weight is more over both skis. The stance is wider. The body is inclined with the skis in more or less a right angle.

In the second pic, your weight appears both from the way your body is curved (c shaped - upper shoulders much more level than the earlier pic), not straight as a result, to be much more over your outside ski. Comparing both pics also, to my eye, looks like the inside ski is bent in pic 1 and not so bent in pic 2. This is also an indication of a change in the pressure relation between the two skis in the two pics.

I'm a pretty new skier, but this difference I see with the resulting more balanced look and better edge angles in the 2nd pic, would be true on whatever equipment you were skiing with.

So, to summarize, I see a change in the stance width and the pressure relation as a bigger difference in the look of the skier than any equipment created difference.

You could ski with either style on todays skis and have the same look as you do in the photographs. imo

Another way to compare the pics is:

Edging can be created by counterbalance, inclination, or counter and any combination of same. You can also use Knee angulation but the other 3 methods are safer and skeletally stronger. In the first pic, your edging is from inclination mostly. In the 2nd pic its counterbalance, mostly.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

From what I remember (it was a long time ago though I could be recalling another race at Garmisch) the course was both icy, as I chose the new K2’s for that reason, and rutted as the next day, during the GS race, I was DQ’ed on my first run when I blew out of a binding after hitting a large rut even though I had the DIN cranked up.

I posted some pictures back in December of me skiing some bumps at Snowbird on my second day of the season this year. The reason I posted those pics was to get some tips because I knew I was getting lazy and dropping my hands. They were falling way behind me after the pole plant, especially my right, so I tried to remember the old tip of “holding the lunch tray” and the old “Roundtop Roll”. The hand positions in both of the above pictures are a result of this. The Roundtop Roll was a pole planting characteristic of many regular skiers at my old home mountain of Ski Roundtop, PA. Instead of planting the pole directly in front of us we would use what I guess can best be described as a “cross blocking” technique where we brought the planting hand more in front of our bodies’ center before the actual plant. This trait did indeed come about during the time that hinged gates were introduced to the racing world. Also, I was very fortunate to be able to take several clinics back in the early eighties with the Ski School Director Jonathan Jenkins. Hand and body position along with pole plants were a big thing with his ski school back then so I’m sure the Roundtop Roll was an offshoot of his teachings. Funny thing, a few years ago at Alta I rode the lift with a guy from Roundtop and we made the following run together. He was an old racer and clearly had a well defined Roundtop Roll. It’s a style thing and whether or not it’s correct technique does not matter to me as I will continue to try and utilize it as a way of keeping my hands and arms more in front of me and as a fond acknowledgement to my early skiing days.


Wow, you are very perceptive and have a sharp eye! The inside hand may be hanging back a bit but you should have seen the pictures of me earlier in the season. The outside hand is definitely coming up in front of my body to do the good old Roundtop Roll. My right hip is undeniably but intentionally out to the right of my body. As I admitted earlier, I was being a total cheese-ball for the camera and was trying to strike a pose with my right side as low and close to the snow as possible. The result was the inside ski coming more in line with and closer to the outside ski. Ninety five percent of the time my stance is wider, particularly off-piste, but the perfect groomed conditions, and me tweaking my hips, has allowed for or resulted in a closer stance whether intended or not. As far as the upper body over rotating, I’m pretty aware of that, thanks again to Jenkins’ clinics, and tend to be pointing straight down the fall line most of the time. From what I remember of the latter run, I was laying down some tracks so the only time my tails wash out on groomers is when I want them to. I usually like to do this on steep groomers (33-38 degrees) where I do stay with the skis way longer than needed at the end of short radius turns. Again, it is a style thing and I don’t do it all the time but sometimes it is just fun as Hell to feel the skis make a complete turn across my body almost to the point where they are beginning to turn back up the hill. Yea, it may look a little weird when I do it but it sure is fun.

Thanks for all of your tips and observations. I appreciate it. The post has taken off in a different direction than I expected as I thought more comments would be made comparing the differences, if any, between old vs. new technique in general. But, it has been fun to read what you have to say about my skiing while comparing the two photos. From what I’ve gathered, my old photo was pretty modern for the time and putting both skis on edge, particularly without an A-frame, was not something a lot of skiers were doing back then. That’s a little surprising but again, I’ll have to chalk that up to my experiences at Ski Roundtop as a large percentage of the good skiers there in the eighties were more than capable of doing this. I was just trying to copy them.

post #9 of 12
It would be a clear misunderstanding to assume that until fairly recently racers were A-framing throughout the skiing history.

I have an Arlberg retro-poster over my computer showing the legendary Hannes Schneider skiing in 1930.
He´s nicely squared, in a wide stance with both skis on edge and with his inside knee inclined to the slope in a surprisingly modern way.

I also have a copy of a newspaper showing Czech national team racers in 1938. Again, no A-frame, wide stance etc.

Otoh, you can also find photos of other racers proving A-frame and legs together.
I can also remember the damage our edges did to our ski boots in the 70´s. Nowadays it´s no problem whatsoever - our technique has changed.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by checkracer
It would be a clear misunderstanding to assume that until fairly recently racers were A-framing throughout the skiing history.

I have an Arlberg retro-poster over my computer showing the legendary Hannes Schneider skiing in 1930.
He´s nicely squared, in a wide stance with both skis on edge and with his inside knee inclined to the slope in a surprisingly modern way.

I also have a copy of a newspaper showing Czech national team racers in 1938. Again, no A-frame, wide stance etc.

Otoh, you can also find photos of other racers proving A-frame and legs together.
I can also remember the damage our edges did to our ski boots in the 70´s. Nowadays it´s no problem whatsoever - our technique has changed.
I believe you.

I think the only misunderstanding I may have had is my belief that more skiers, besides racers, were capable of putting both skis on edge with the old straight skis. I came from a school of thought that said you have two edges on each ski so use them. Is that a modern thought? I don't know. But if it is, there were a lot of people at little Ski Roundtop in Lewisburry, PA that were ahead of their time.
post #11 of 12
Good for you Cornbread.
You can always tell your grandchildren how ahead of your time you were.

You will be right but I´m not so sure if they would dig you for that.

Just use the still many skiing days before the only thing would be to show the photos and tell the stories.
I´m doing the same, alas with some age handicap. :
post #12 of 12
Originally Posted by checkracer
It would be a clear misunderstanding to assume that until fairly recently racers were A-framing throughout the skiing history.
It would also be a clear misunderstanding to assume that todays racers are never A-framing.
Take a look at pickture # 10 @ http://www.bodemillerusa.com/BodeMiller.html
Its not a very radical one but its still clearly visable. The A-frame is a result of applying edge to the ski by rotating the leg from the hip joint and since weight is almost totally on outside ski at that particular moment there is no need in edging the inside ski as much. The transaction is quicker and its a little bit safer as well because you dont risk your inside ski to catch an inside edge and have it pass on the other side of the gate to produce an omelet.
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