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Technique History Trivia

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Warren Miller has this wonderful book called SKI & SNOW COUNTRY, the golden years of skiing in the west, 1930s to 1950s. It features the photography of Ray Atkeson.

On page 64, there is a picture of a group of recreational skiers somewhere east of Portland. Looking at the equipment, it has been conjectured that the photo was taken in about 1934.
Everyone is in a crouched position. If you did not know better, it would almost look like they were doing a poor imitation of a racers tuck.
But according to Miller "The deep crouch technique was for self preservation so your body was already close to the ground when you fell."

On page 85 there is a photo of Willie Helmig at Mount Hood, Oregon. This picture gives a whole new meaning to the idea of being foward on your skis! According to Miller, "in the 1940s, extreme foward lean was important because the tips of laminated wooden skis twisted away from the side of the hill and wouldn't hang on to hard snow." He also comments that a carved turn was something people tried to do, but the equipment would not let them.

In Alf Engen's book "For the Love of Skiing", there is some interesting stuff about the history of ski instruction. Apparently, after World War 2, the US Forest Service had a big influence in developing a certifying process for instructors.

At the time, instruction was 'all over the map". Some areas were teaching Arlberg Technique, which emphasized rotation of the upper body. Others were using French technique developed by Emile Allais, which emphasized the lower body. In the late 40s, a technique called Reverse Shoulder promoted twisting the upper body in the opposite direction of the legs and skis.

A Forest Service official let it be known that if consistancy of technique could not be agreed upon, they would do their own certification of instructors in areas operating under special use permits.

To solve the problem, a teaching technique was developed at Alta called the American Technique. Then, in 1961, the PSIA was born.
post #2 of 8

Mental note:
Find out more about the history of technique.

Just confirms what I know. There's never anything new. Look at the fashion industry. Bell bottoms and hip huggers are back in.

Now looking at skiing. The reverse shoulder is in, so is a narrow stance. Nobody really gets it, except for my man Ott, but the way Stein skied way back then is really where it's at today.
post #3 of 8
SCSA and Lisamarie, ski technique is all about what the equipment will allow you to do.

It's the same with most other sports. Indy cars go faster, not because of better drivers alone, but because the equipment allows faster speeds. The same with inline skates. No one even thought the tricks possible with the four-wheelers. I could go on.

So the way we ski today is because the present equipment allows us to do so, it lets us do very advanced carving without giving up all that skis could do before.

Body rotation and reverse shoulder etc. were all turning forces, what is meant by that is that the skis of the time needed some force to break them lose from their naturally built in tendency to go straight.

So by crouching and winding you body up, then quickly straightening to a near jump while unwinding would transfer that powerfull motion to the unweighted skis and yank them around into an turn initiation. That was rotation.

As ski design advanced, less power was needed to initiate a turn and the reverse shoulder was developed. In it the twisting of the upper body one way and the lower body the other way created a reaction at the unweighted ski level which sufficed as a turning force.The shoulder was kept reverse, in the "comma" position, (because it looked like a comma) so it was ready to unwind for the next turn. That was the reverse shoulder technique.

At that point, to do what we do now would not make a ski turn. Putting it on edge and stomping on it would just make it go straight on that edge because the skis were long and stiff. But once they broke lose from their edges using the above techniques, the skis could skid all the way around a turn. Mostly on fairly flat skis.

Then, in the early sixties with the event of metal skis by Head and others and fiberglass skis by Kneissl, skis could be manufactured which had a softer flex lengthwise without increasing the twist of the shovels and tails. Now we could initiate turns by unweighting and then coming down on the outside ski with more edge and very hard forward pressure on the shovel of the skis which would bend them to make the turn, but was also allowed by having a higher, stiffer, double laced boot and bindings with a lot less slop in them. All advancements in equipment.

And now we just put the ski on edge and stand on it and it initiates a turn by itself. What's next?

So you see, style and technique is driven by whatever the presently owned equipment demands to perform adequatly.

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Exactly, Ott. What is really interesting about both these books, is that they speak a good deal about how equipment design affected the ski style. I probably got a taste of that last season at Bormio, when everyone, including the instructors were in straight skis an rear entry boots.
It's fascinating to observe the evolution of technique.
post #5 of 8
Have you seen any of the films of Stein in a race course, SCSA?

The stylish approach he depicted in the commercial movies was nothing like the way he skied to win medals.
post #6 of 8

Nope, can't say I have. But I've seen him in a few movies. I just think the guy has super skills. And then when you figure that he was doing it on straight skis and leather boots -- wow!
post #7 of 8
Dick Durrance has a wonderful technique...Vorlage!! If you read anything from International Ski History Assoc,( or my other favorite, New England Ski Museum ( the videos for FREE at the Loon Mt location), you'll pick up a lot of the history stuff.

Vorlage means lean forward. If you have seen "the man on the medal" pictures of Durrance, he is so far forward it is amazing.

PSIA-E has a 2 day clinic on History of Skiing. You go through trying to ski like the good ol' days. it's fun.
post #8 of 8
There is no doubt that the equpment is the key to the change in skiing style and movement.

One spring day a few years ago a friend of mine (an instructor) pulled out his old leather boots, Kneissel White Stars (205 cm) with cable bindings. I skied behind him on his first run. His first turns were a disaster, but as the run progressed he adapted his moves to the equipment and eventually was able to move down the hill quite well. I think I witnessed the evolution of ski technique in reverse as he tried various things to make the ski work. It was quite an experience.
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