|It baffles me, actually, that we are even debating the "virtues" of a closed stance. As others have pointed out, this is a VERY old debate, and until Harb pulled the closed stance out of moth balls, I don't think there has been any "serious" debate on the subject for years! The ability to vary the stance width to whatever is most functional--narrower in bumps or powder, for example, is clearly important for versatility and virtuosity. But forcing the stance narrower than "natural," or worse, locking it together so the two skis become one, completely ignores the modern ideal that form follows function. Now that skis are finely tuned, highly engineered tools, we MUST follow this credo if we want to take full advantage of them!
We've discussed stance width at length before. There are very real liabilities to the closed stance! Here's a summary:
Problems and liabilities of the Closed Stance:
* It takes effort to force the legs together--energy that could be put to better use unless there is some real NEED to keep them together. It ain't natural!
* It is impossible to use the legs independently of each other when they are "as one" (obviously).
* "Clamping" one leg to the other prevents either leg from making the rapid, fine-motor edging and balancing adjustments that truly high-performance skiing demands. Remember your first aid classes? Splinting one leg to another is a pretty good way to prevent it from moving.
* Knees and ankles, especially, lose their freedom of movement.
* Truly locking the boots together hinders lateral balance adjustments, and prevents the skier from balancing on the inside edge of the outside ski when inclined into a turn--think monoskier. The "long-leg--short-leg" thing, which Wacko described as "vertical separation," eliminates this particular problem.
* Most importantly, when both skis rotate around one pivot point, we lose the extremely important rotary mechanism of "independent leg steering." As I have described several times, without this mechanism, we are restricted to turning the skis with gross movements of the upper body (unless we avoid rotary altogether--hint). Upper body rotary causes skidding and cannot be used to steer continuously.
* A very narrow stance eliminates the "safety valve" provided by the inside ski in the event that the outside ski loses its grip and slips away. If one goes--they both go.
* You can't make a wedge with your feet locked together--even when you need it.
Those are REAL downsides to the narrow, locked stance. What are the advantages, if any? Why does Harald Harb advocate it? I speculated on this a few days ago, in another thread. Harb's progression relies on a very active weight transfer (shift of balance from the old outside ski to the new one between turns). A narrow stance allows this weight transfer to happen more smoothly, without the big lateral shift of the body uphill that would be required with a wider stance. Try it: standing up with feet spread wide, balance on one foot, then the other. You had to move sideways, and it was probably pretty awkward. The closer your feet, the less movement the rest of your body must make when you shift from one to the other.
Is this an advantage? Or does it just point to another underlying problem? I argue the latter. I say insisting on an active weight transfer--a distinct "step" to the new ski--is an error, partially compensated for by the narrow stance! Practicing this active transfer--stepping, stemming, skiing on either ski exclusively--is great for balance and versatility. But real performance turns do NOT require an active, complete weight transfer. Like a car, in linked turns the weight will transfer naturally and smoothly to the outside ski (wheels), flowing through an instantaneous moment of "neutral" (equal weight) at the transition. This weight transfer will occur as the skier moves INTO the new turn--in SPITE of this movement into the turn, even. This flowing, downhill "into the turn" movement stands in stark contrast to the movement UPHILL required to make an active transfer to the uphill ski.
So again, I suspect that the narrow stance is a correction for the error of basing the turn transition on an active weight transfer. By minimimizing the disruption of flow that this move creates, the narrow stance masks a glaring error in the PMTS progression. Just as it requires deep sidecut skis and proper alignment, PMTS needs the narrow stance to prevent its limitations from being exposed.
As a whole, the "lift and tip," "don't use rotary," "force a narrow, parallel stance" system works together. I've said it before, and I'll repeat: as an EXERCISE line, it has merit. But as "the way to ski," I still see it as a system of errors, compensations, and omissions. (Please, Wacko, take no offense: even the very best exercises have something "wrong" with them--otherwise they wouldn't be exercises--they would be skiing!)
So stance width is clearly a matter of personal choice. Anyone who thinks a locked stance "looks good," and who thinks such things are important, should by all means practice it. All expert skiers can do it--very well, too, or they wouldn't be experts. But most don't, except when it is functionally useful (again, a narrower stance is arguably advantageous in bumps and powder). Personally, I think the truly locked stance is ugly. Any aesthetic elegance of the stance itself is completely overshadowed by the inelegance of the movements that result. Skiers with locked stances invariably either force their skis into vulgar skids with gross movements of their hips and torsos, or they carve very long, uncontrolled arcs.
Please note that I am not insisting on a WIDE stance! Provided that the skis and feet can act independently of each other, that neither interferes with the other, and that the feet act in support of each other, the best stance is the NATURAL stance. For some, this will be fairly narrow, depending on anatomy and alignment.
It is not necessary, then, that the skis be far apart, only that they be KEPT apart. Ironically, to carve turns while balanced on the outside ski, we actually HAVE to pull the feet strongly APART, all the way through the turn! The moment the skier stops actively pulling the skis apart, the forces of the turn will pull the inside ski toward the outside ski, interfering with its carving action. Think of the skis as two jet fighters flying wing-to-wing through a turn--what happens when the inside plane stops turning and goes straight? And what turns that inside ski? If it's tipped and pressured, it might carve. But if it has no pressure, the only thing that turns it is the skier, actively pulling it into the turn, away from the outside ski. Skiers who pull their feet TOGETHER are completely missing this point!
If the descriptions we've heard of your skiing are accurate, Wacko, they all make sense! Narrow stance, moderate skidding in most turns, tipping ("banking"), but strong in bumps--these all fit together. Congratulations on your progress so far! I think, though, that continued insistence on that narrow stance will hinder your progress at this point. Your "most important movement" may well now be to explore the virtues of different stance widths!
More snow in the forecast (maybe) for Monday. Anyone going skiing? I might be able to make a few runs on Tuesday.