|I dont know if I'm the only one that read it this way, but it seemed to me that Bob was saying that in certain circumstances any skier will wedge. Regardless of his ability level, and even if he is trying not to. Its just another move and nothing to be afraid of.
You are right, Epic, and I am frankly surprised at how resistant some people have been to this notion! Nolo has alluded to it as well in her post above--the wedge happens, whether we teach it or not. So let's make sure that we identify and work with good movement patterns, allowing human nature (and biomechanics) to take its course!.
Human nature is what it is, and no geometric relationship of the skis is going to change that. I'm surprised to have to actually emphasize what I would have expected to be so obvious, but not all students respond the same way to the same stuff!
Si--you contend that people will get "stuck" by their natural instinct to defend themselves, so they shouldn't be "allowed" to, for their own good. First, this is absolutely NOT necessarily true! Second--and most important--yes, a few individuals may thrive when you take away their safety net and "force" them to perform without it in a frightening situation. Those are the ones who will improve by quantum leaps and bounds--to use the Stepping Stones analogy.
But those individuals are the minority! It is hardly guest-centered--and very much NOT EFFECTIVE from a learning perspective--to increase someone's already-paralyzing anxiety by forcing them to, for example, balance on one slippery foot when two doesn't seem to be enough! There are psychological reasons why a wedge, with its stability and potential to control speed, is a very helpful maneuver for beginners. At the very least, the wedge opens up a great deal of terrain that would be inaccessible to a new skier for a long time, if he had to rely on complete, parallel, non-braking turns to control speed.
AND there are mechanical reasons why the movements and anatomical arrangements involved in the wedge are far preferable--far more similar to the movements of advanced turns--than a typical parallel stance (especially a locked or one-footed parallel stance). These are the wedges in my illustrations here--they are not defensive. We've discussed these things many times, and like Epic, I'm starting to wonder if I'm wasting my "breath." But I'll try again, for what it's worth!
Si--your concern about creating bad habits is valid, and your points well-taken. Please explain, though, why you think, despite the biomechanical reasons (which I will expand on again in a moment) and the wealth of experiential evidence to the contrary--that it makes sense to "force" beginners to increase their anxiety, develop INAPPROPRIATE movement patterns, and try to balance on a narrow two-footed or one-footed stance--when EXPERTS find this difficult at best, and when it encourages negative movement patterns and tactics that contradict good skiing in the first place! Not to mention the frustration of failure!
One more time.... Here are a couple scenarios for turning, with a novice, yet athletic, comfortable skier starting in a parallel traverse across the hill. I'll try to keep this simple, but it's going to be detailed, and thus fairly technical(be warned!)
Let's set the stage: In a traverse on "comfortable" terrain, with a natural, athletic stance, both skis are tipped on edge, with the downhill ski, if not both skis, tipped at or beyond the "critical edge angle" required to hold. Because of the relaxed, balanced stance and the effects of gravity, there is more weight on the downhill ski (just as there would be more weight on the downhill tires in a car traversing across the hill--it's natural, unless we fight it). To simplify the discussion, let's say the skier is going from right to left, with the right ski being the downhill ski. He's about to make a right turn, down the hill. What are the options?
(Let's assume that he is COMFORTABLE pointing and going down this hill, that there is no fear or defensiveness. This is hardly a safe assumption, in most cases, and I still find it hard to believe that anyone would even consider "forcing" a frightened student to turn downhill, without a safety net, and without brakes! But we'll remove the psychological barrier, and the beneficial defensive uses of the wedge, for this discussion, focusing purely on the mechanics. Despite his comfort, though, the "comfort zone" is small, and his speed is necessarily low.)
************************************************** ***********Turning Option 1) "Right tip right to go right."
Regardless of the actual instructions used, the student's intent is to GO downhill, and his focus is on turning both ski tips down the hill. Since it is in the way of the left ski, he MUST initiate the movement with the right, downhill, ski. Because he's standing mostly on it, and it is tipped on edge to hold in the traverse, he must reduce this edge angle until it releases, and he can steer it with his leg. So (consciously or not--who cares?) he rolls his foot and ankle toward the "little toe" edge. The ski does NOT need to be completely flat to release--it simply needs to flatten beyond the "critical angle." As he rolls the ski off its edge, the "kinetic chain" of causally related movements moves his entire body down the hill as well, into the turn, beginning the "crossover" move that will result in his CM taking its shorter line to the inside of the path of his skis.
Once the edge of the downhill ski releases, our skier guides both skis down the hill into the turn, using active, muscular steering movements of his feet and legs. His intent is NOT to make a wedge--it is simply to make a TURN--right tip right to go right. But a wedge happens. WHY?
Remember--he's standing with most of his weight on his downhill ski. That ski is still somewhat on edge as the turn begins (it is all but impossible to completely flatten the downhill ski at initiation from a traverse, at very low speed, without falling too far into the new turn, and there is NO force yet pulling the skier's weight to his outside ski).
So that downhill ski is much harder to turn than the uphill ski. Add that this novice skier's edging (flattening) and steering skills are only rudimentary at this stage. As he tries to turn BOTH skis down the hill, the uphill ski turns more easily, and more quickly, resulting in a slight ski convergence (wedge).
I repeat--this skier is NOT trying to make a wedge, but the situation makes one extremely likely. This is exactly what happened to top-drawer instructors in this scenario in the clinic I've described (a couple times). SCSA--you asked for evidence that "the wedge happens." Is this not highly convincing evidence--when even a die-hard, "direct parallel," avoid-the-wedge certified and skilled PMTS instructor makes one when trying to make a parallel turn? Is it not revealing too that, rather than being offended, he expressed joy at his new-found understanding? What more evidence do you need?
(For the record, MY intent here was to help these instructors make--and understand--a "certifiable" wedge christie. Even PSIA instructors invariably struggle with demonstrating this maneuver, usually because they are "trying" to make a wedge christie! I created a scenario where a wedge christie was inevitable, and told them to try to make parallel turns. Voila--perfect wedge christies, providing all the necessary evidence to demonstrate that THE WEDGE HAPPENS. I've done this many times, with instructors up through trainer-level, and I'll do it again. I am not making this up--it is not theory or hypothesis. It is repeatable, empirical EVIDENCE!)
In any case, if highly skilled instructors doing everything "right" discover a wedge, who in their right mind would "demand" that beginners avoid it?
(And remember--this wedge has NOTHING to do with the "other" reason for a wedge--that it is a useful, defensive tool that all good skiers use when needed. We ALL need security, and especially early learning experiences need to be FUN and not anxiety-filled. Why would any instructor, at this fragile and critical stage, try to INCREASE a student's anxiety? Like the wedge, anxiety happens too!)
Anyway, let's get back to our turning skier. He continues to move down the hill, with that gentle, inevitable gliding wedge. His body (center of mass) moves appropriately into the turn, helping to increase the edge angle of the outside ski, and helping to DECREASE the edge angle of the inside ski. As he approaches the "fall line" (straight downhill), speed builds, and gravity's pull increasingly aligns with centrifugal force to conspire to pull the skier out of the turn. So he moves ever farther INTO the turn to counteract and balance, and his weight distribution moves increasingly toward the outside ski. That inside ski becomes progressively lighter on the snow and flatter, and therefore easier and easier to steer. At some point, the inside ski turns more easily than the outside ski, and the same "right tip right" effort causes the skis to match--to become parallel.
The outside ski, as pressure and edge angle build, increasingly carves the turn shape, as the skier continues to steer the inside ski actively through the turn to completion.
This is the wedge christie,
described and defined. If the speed is even slower, the skier more timid and less skilled, he may never reach the point where the inside ski lightens and flattens enough to match. The result--despite the very same intent and fundamental movements--will be a wedge turn,
start to finish. As confidence, speed, and skill grow, the "crossover" will be more distinct, as will the active tipping of the downhill (inside) foot to help release the edge, and the same intents and movements will result in a basic parallel
turn. They are all, again, THE SAME, arising from the same offensive intent to "go that way," and involving the same fundamental movements, combined with increasing skill and with the changing dynamics of increasing speed. Wedge turns, wedge christies, and parallel--they are THE SAME.
************************************************Turning Option 2--"Parallel at all costs."
Our athletic, novice--and let's even allow him to be "fearless" (at low speed)--skier is in his traverse across the hill to the left again. For whatever reason, he wants to avoid the wedge described above. (And I'll grant that one LEGITIMATE reason would be that he absolutely WANTS to be parallel at all costs. As long as he WANTS something, with full awareness of any potential negative consequences, a good instructor should help him achieve his goal. As follows
The wedge WILL happen, of course, if he follows the focus I described above, despite the movements being fundamentally identical to those of expert skiers in parallel turns. So he must change tactics.
What caused the wedge above? Remember--it resulted from more weight on the downhill ski, and some edge engagement, combining to make the downhill ski harder to turn than the uphill ski. So let's eliminate these two factors.
To eliminate the pressure on the downhill ski, the skier could step to the uphill ski and lift the downhill ski off the snow (if he has the balance--let's assume he does). This would work! But as we have discussed, it involves a move of the body (CM) UPHILL, in the wrong direction (the wider the stance, the moreso). And it results in the CM being directly above the uphill support foot--hardly the "centripetal position" required for a turn, where the CM must travel INSIDE the arc of the support foot. (This movement, and the resulting position, are the polar opposites of the movements described in the wedge christie.)
Still parallel, but our skier hasn't turned yet. What can he do? He can either stand on that uphill ski, which is pretty flat on the snow, and wait patiently while gravity pulls him into a long, gradual turn. Or he can twist the ski to turn more tightly, in the process pushing the ski away from his body to create the required "centripetal position." It takes one hell of a confident, athletic, beginning skier to remain smoothly in balance on that slippery uphill ski racing down the mountain. And even so, because gravity alone determines the turn shape, the skier is not in control of it, so this "patience turn" is at best NOT the "perfect turn" we're looking for.
The other alternative--the pivot/tailpush of the flat uphill ski, with its resulting gross skidded entry, doesn't much resemble our "perfect turn" either, does it? It is difficult for even an advanced skier to balance on a skidding ski--nearly impossible for a beginner, so he's likely to either fall to the inside, or to have to continue the gross twisting movements of the support foot in order to keep it beneath him. And those twisting movements, without the "fulcrum assistance" of the other foot, must originate from the upper body, at best.
But AT LEAST HE'S PARALLEL, by golly!! All fundamental movements, tactics, and intents of good skiing have gone out the window, but at least he's parallel, the way he wants to be. And he's on one foot, kinda' like an expert--not exactly balanced there, but he's on one foot. It's a win, I guess. But I'd like to strangle the person who planted in his mind this notion that "parallel" is so important, and that the wedge is evil! This thought will stunt this person's growth as a skier in many, many ways!
How else could our skier make a parallel turn, under these circumstances? A more active tipping action of the downhill ski (foot and ankle) to flatten it and release its edge more completely will allow him to steer it as described in the wedge christie--without creating a wedge. A LITTLE more speed will help immensely here, just as it makes turning a bicycle easier. Shorter skis with deeper sidecut turn more easily and more tightly on their own, helping to create the "dynamics" of higher level turns at a lower speed. Focusing on this tipping movement, developing the confidence for a little speed, and a little encouragement from the instructor, will move the skier very quickly past the "wedge christie milestone"--so much so that it may never show its face! These days, with the equipment available and effective teaching, "direct parallel" is so close to a reality that, for practical purposes, we may be there.
To be fair, I believe that this last paragraph actually describes the intent of the PMTS progression--and that my description of the grossly skidded twisting parallel turn above is NOT. The so-called PMTS "phantom move" at initiation is a very applicable focus on this tipping (flattening) of the downhill ski to make the complete release that facilitates a parallel initiation. Further, it encourages the "kinetic chain" that, done skillfully, results in the necessary "centripetal position" of the CM for a turn. I do--adamantly--object to actually LIFTING the downhill ski and actively transferring weight to the uphill ski prior to initiation, for reasons that I hope I've made clear above (and elsewhere). (Lifting a ski, balancing on one foot, and so on are great balance exercises--but as pre-requisites for a turn, they cause many problems, as I've described.) SCSA--you have many times quoted your PMTS trainers saying that "lifting is learning, releasing is expert skiing" (or something to that effect). I say, if releasing is (part of) expert skiing--which it is--then what's the point of "lifting" for beginners? It just causes problems!
Without this "lift" move, I find actually very little else to object to about most "direct parallel" teaching progressions--except the misleading focus on parallel itself! As I described (I hope) above, a focus on movements--not on parallel or wedge--will create parallel turns when they are appropriate.
All right, enough! I have tried very hard here to explain (again) the biomechanical reasons why a wedge may appear in good skiing, even when the skier is offensive, balanced, moving "perfectly," and not trying to make a wedge. The OTHER reason for using a wedge in teaching--the defensive braking function that it makes so easily accessible, and the extra stability that a wider platform makes available, are benefits when they are needed. Yes, they can become detrimental habits, but no more insidiously so, or more necessarily, than any other bad habit (and for my money, far LESS insidiously than the bad habits introduced by an inappropriate focus on parallel turns with weight transfer). There are skiers who SHOULD be taught to avoid the wedge, and who have learned bad "dead end" movements from inept teaching with the wedge--but no more so than those who have learned dead-end movements from inept teaching AVOIDING the wedge.
It is indeed a delicate line, Si, between creating the security and comfort necessary for learning, and avoiding the "leap of faith" that the true "dynamic balance" of high-level skiing requires. You are absolutely right here--this point is not insignificant, this problem is not uncommon, and I am very aware of it. I agree with you! But its solution points to the very essence of the art and science of effective teaching! The problem is not solvable simply by avoiding the wedge at all costs.
These things all support my biggest contention--that truly effective ski teaching is not so simple that we can expect new instructors with only two or three days of training to accomplish it! Yet that is the reality of many ski schools. New, inexperienced and inadequately trained instructors teach the vast majority of beginner lessons in ski schools across the U.S. Only the customer can change this, because those inexperienced instructors come at a bargain rate for the resort, maximizing their profits, yet ultimately shooting the industry in the foot!
Efforts to create fundamentally sound, simple, universal progressions--"cookbooks" to help novice instructors succeed more consistently--are great! This is what PMTS purports to do, and it represents much of what PSIA and others strive for. But ultimately, these efforts cannot substitute for the experienced, skilled instructor who really knows what's up.
Bob Barnes[ July 09, 2002, 03:10 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]