That wedge-parallel paradox, redux redux redux....
|Either way, as a student who's squandered money on lessons under varying instructors and philosophies, I think that Chuck should pick an instructor he wants to emulate and stick with it.
Sharp Edges--I do agree with your concluding paragraph there, and I feel your pain from suffering through poor ski lessons. It is as big a concern for me as for you.
Regarding the fundamentals and "quintessential elements" of wedge turns and parallel turns, I also agree that they can
be night and day opposites. But they need not be, and they should not be. It is true that, on the surface, and to the casual observer, the most obvious characteristic (the geometry of the skis) is different. I don't know that I'd call them "opposite," but there is an obvious, observable difference between a wedge and parallel ski arrangement.
But there is more--so very much more--to the picture than the arrangement of the skis, and it is "the rest of the story" that my document digs into in depth. If you really are interested, be sure to start with the section that discusses the critical dfference between "principles" and "characteristics." It is the underlying principles, not necessarily the superficial characteristics, that must remain the same.
Here are some of the critical similarities (principles) shared by basic wedge turns and basic parallel turns, as defined in my document, and as required to pass the PSIA-RM exams.
- Neither involves an intentional wedge (!) (keep reading)
- Both involve the offensive intent to control line, rather than to brake (skid intentionally).
- Neither involves intentional skidding.
- Both get speed control from tactics (line), not technique (skidding).
- Neither involves pushing or twisting the outside ski out to start a turn.
- Both begin with a release of the edge of the downhill (new inside) ski, that allows the tips to drift or be actively steered down the hill into the turn.
- Both involve smooth tipping of both skis into the new turn following the edge release, and smooth "untipping" of both skis as the turn finishes, ending in the release of the downhill ski.
- Both involve gentle brushing of the outside ski, not intentionally, but due to the turn being of a radius tighter than the skis can carve by themselves (with beginner-level movement sophistication and forces).
- Both involve femurs rotating in the hip sockets--with some active (muscular) input, due to the tighter-than-the-skis-can-carve turn radius defined for these maneuvers.
- Both involve a naturally, functionally, open (not "wide") stance.
- Both involve exclusively what I call "positive movements"--movements in the direction of the turn (in a right turn, nothing intentionally moves left....).
(It should be noted that these descriptions also apply to more advanced, high speed, dynamic parallel turns--which is the key point here!)
And what are the differences?
- Wedge turn speed is lower and hill angle usually considerably less.
- The tails are slightly wider than the tips in the wedge turn (unintentionally).
- The inside ski never gets fully flat or rolls to its little toe edge in a wedge turn (this is not intentional--like most unique characteristics of the wedge turn, it is simply due to the beginner-level tipping skills and very low speed).
- The range of motion and accuracy of movements may be slightly higher in basic parallel turns.
That's it. So, how significant, really, are those differences? I maintain that they are entirely superficial, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the "quality" of the turn.
And the real key here is that, if the wedge turn is done correctly (incorporating all the "similarities" bullets above), it will evolve seamlessly, and without any intentional changes, into good parallel turns, simply with the addition of a little speed, confidence, and skill.
The fact is that spontaneous wedges occur even with highly skilled skiers when they go slow enough and make tight enough turns, while obeying the principles I outlined above. And this fact is not disputed, even by Harald Harb, proprietor of the PMTS "Direct-to-Parallel" school. He writes: "The proponents of PMTS Direct Parallel unequivocally understand and acknowledge that a wedge stance may result, even when skiers are taught "Direct Parallel". Often, the torque created through leg alignment twists the skis to a wedge."
Harald is dead right here. (Why he writes this in a defense of his emphasis on "parallel" is a mystery to me.)
(And by the way, what is that "torque created through leg alignment" if not another expression for "active rotary"?)
This unintentional wedge that "results" from good movements is a wedge turn, pure and simple, and that's all a basic wedge turn is--nothing more, nothing less. It marks a level of skill development--the first milestone along the road from beginner to expert. It is NOT a "step in progression." It is NOT something we teach (we teach the movements and principles I outlined above). It is simply an easily identifiable outcome, at a very early level of skill development.
Why does any of this even matter, then, if we don't "teach" wedge turns? PSIA gives these unintentional wedges a name--"wedge turns," while PMTS prefers to ignore them and focus instead on "parallel." So what?
Well, exactly! Like I said, the "debate" has little substantive foundation. From good instructors, students will get good lessons. Period. Other instructors are more likely to focus on the superficial than the real fundamentals.
But consider the student, intent on learning to "ski parallel," taught by an instructor wearing a "no plows" pin. He learns his lessons well, makes all the right moves, and...that spontaneous wedge happens. Naturally, he thinks he must have done something wrong, and tries to "correct" the "problem." This will, of course, involve some kind of "other" movements--typically pulling the inside tail out to match the outside ski, and probably also moving the entire body toward the outside of the turn to avoid falliing to the inside. These "negative movements" violate a core principle of good, basic turns--they are movements in the wrong direction, polar opposites of the movements of experts in more dynamic turns.
So the student's attempt to be parallel results in a turn superficially similar in appearance to, but fundamentally very different from, the offensive turns of experts.
Which would you prefer? Turns that superficially resemble expert turns while differing fundamentally, or turns that share the critical fundamental principles of expert turns, yet look a little different to the untrained eye?
It is for these reasons that PSIA still recognizes the wedge turn--not because it is some kind of important pillar or foundation of its technical model, or a critical step in a progression. Simply because it "happens," even with the best of movements. And instructors should be able to demonstrate it accurately for that level of student, if only to eliminate the problem of students trying to "correct" a problem that doesn't exist with movements that are actually mistakes, just so they can be "parallel."
So any objections I may have to "direct parallel" are not technical--there need be no difference whatsoever there, as I've described. And with today's great little learning skis and manicured learning terrain, the "wedge turn phase" may indeed become so brief that students and instructors don't even notice it. But I object from a marketing basis! "Parallel" is a superficial characteristic, and focusing too much on it can detract from what really is important. It can discourage students who are actually doing great, simply because they think that unintended wedge must be a mistake. It can frustrate newer instructors for the same reason, causing them to actually teach dead-end movements in the name of "parallel."
I hope that helps explain further the apparent paradox that (good) wedge turns are fundamentally identical to the parallel turns of experts, while many parallel turns have virtually nothing important in common with those expert turns.
ChuckT--are you still with me? if so (sorry!), now you can see how over-emphasis on "parallel" and "carving" can--and often does--actually backfire and lead to more skidded, out of balance, unwanted defensive habits. Again, the bottom line is--if you want great instruction, you need to find a great instructor. No "system" will substitute, and poor instruction is not always obvious--to either student or instuctor!