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History quiz

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
Let's have some fun with history. The following four "turns" are old standards that have passed out of use in skiing:

Wedeln (From Invitation to Modern Skiing (1947): "Wedeln has become a magic word in skiing. Everybody talks about it, some people know what it is, some people know how to do it, some people do it for fun, some people do it all wrong without realizing it.")

Serpentine (Same book: "The ultimate in high-speed wedeln.")

Mambo ("...a spectacular-looking maneuver that is totally unsuitable as a method of negotiating normally difficult or high-speed conditions.")

Reuel ("...a quite acrobatic and useless (although spectacular) maneuver.")

What are they and why did these exciting turns fade away?
post #2 of 37
Wedeln, which I'm told means "to wag" in German, was the ultimate heel-thrust skid. The Austrians who tried to teach me wedeln in the early 1960's couldn't convince me to bring my feet sufficiently close together. On steeper terrain, it became windshield wiper short swing. What carried over from wedeln to short swing was the quiet upper body moving down the fall line and the tails of the skis sliding across the snow.

The Serpent turn I learned from my first ski school boss, a team mate of Jean Claude Killy, was a down-motion turn off an edgeset with an anticipated upper body diving down the fall line. It was sort of the reverse of windshield wiper short swing in that the goal was more to turn the fronts of the skis into the fall line after the edgeset. The pivot point moved from the tips to under the feet.

Mambo always made me think of those speed walkers. I never thought it was attractive or elegant and never sought to learn its procedures.

Reuel is the Reuel Christy??? That's skiing the outside edge of the inside ski and hoisting the outside ski over your head. I never thought of reuel without the outside ski acrobatics, but Charleston and tracer turn exercises involve the same outside edge of the inside ski techniques.
post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 
Kneale has started us off nicely. I don't believe the Reuel requires the ski to be held that high off the snow, but I imagine the higher it is, the more difficult the maneuver and certainly the more "spectacular."

How do you pronounce Reuel?

Why are these turns (aka christies) no longer learned and practiced?

Invitation to Modern Skiing by Fred Iselin and A.C. Spectorsky could be on the shelf of your public library. If it is, check it out, particularly the last chapter: Final Thoughts on Schools of Skiing and the Dynamics of the Art.

By the way, this book claims to present the shortest route from beginner to expert: "Again, we are reminded of the German word wendig. This is the mark of the great skier: maneuverability, elasticity, fluidity, grace and power. And here may we say that these are exactly the qualities that the step-by-step technique proposed in this book will yield to the man or woman who has the will and the courage to become an expert."

HINT to question #1: Today when it is referenced, it is spelled the way it sounds.

HINT to question #2: The more things change, the more things stay the same.

[ May 13, 2003, 07:22 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #4 of 37
Originally posted by nolo:
How do you pronounce Reuel?
I pronounce it, um, incorrectly.
post #5 of 37
Over here it's pronounced Royal Christie.

Why wedeln was done wrong by so many people is that they took the word translation lietrally, tail wagging. So they set out to wag the tails by pushing them around from side to side, mostly by putting weight on them.

Tail wagging is a RESULT, not an intent of the maneuver. Correct wedeln is done with forward pressure and rotary input which makes the shovels bite and ALLOWS the LIGHTENED tails of the skis to brush out. Why wedeln was so revolutionary was that it was the first time turns, even quick ones, could be performed from the hips down without involving the upper body. Previously upper body input in the form of rotation or counter rotation was involved as turning forces.

Wedeln can be done with skis together or apart or even on one ski since it doesn't depend on one ski to work against the other.

If done well, the mambo looks very slinky and is done by rotating the upper body as far as it will go, the movement then starts to to transfer to the skis which start to turn. At the moment the skis start to turn to the right, say, the upper body is rotated to the left as far as it is possible while the skis are still turning to the right and only will start to turn to the left when max rotation is achived. Repeat. It is a snake like movement. I used to be able to do it with both poles crossed behind my neck, under the chair, natch

In the serpent the skier looks like he is going to fall on his nose were it not for the skis to catch him just in time.

Except for wedeln, those maneuvers are useless show-off skiing.

Kneale had it right, are we showing our age

post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 
The book came out in 1947, Ott. Were you teaching skiing at that time?

The authors deplore the reverse shoulder action: "The trend to wedeln--which has become a virtual fad--has done much to advance the cause of reverse shoulder action." They blame this on what they call the "purposeless wedeln," the mambo. "Since reverse shoulder action is part of this dance on skis, the public has come to think of wedeln and reverse shoulder action as inseparable."

My hypothesis is that the wedeln was ultimately sacrificed by skiing gurus in order to put down the gross reverse shoulder action that was transferred from "mambo lessons" to the wedeln. As it happens, the result of reverse shoulder, "with the inside shoulder leading the turn, puts the upper part of the skier's body a half-beat behind the skis." In other words, we don't wedeln no more because it had a strong tendence to create "terminal intermediates" in the back seat and skidding. You can't do that in difficult terrain and conditions, so you can't become an expert.

The last few paragraphs about human nature and learning are as relevant today as then. In fact, the entire book is entirely relevant to modern skiing, even though it was written in 1947.
post #7 of 37
Mmh, let me see, a wild guess.

post #8 of 37
I see that Ott was quicker better....

[ May 13, 2003, 09:07 AM: Message edited by: Matteo ]
post #9 of 37
Yes, it was referred to as ROYAL in my neck of the woods too. I continue to use it as an exercise for advanced balance development along with other old time favorites such as outrigger turns (watch the knees!) and fun but less beneficial worm turns. Taking air and landing in a royal christy is a challenging balance drill modification. All these classic techniques are great exercises for developing upper level versatility even today.
post #10 of 37
A question:

What role do you feel equipment development had in deeming these techniques obsolete and ushering in new approaches such as for example was clearly the case with the advent of jet turns?

[ May 13, 2003, 10:13 AM: Message edited by: FastMan ]
post #11 of 37
Thread Starter 
Two points stand out for me:

1. Intermediate plateau is not an inherent or inevitable condition of intermediate skiers, but results from learning fads or shortcuts.

2. Although functionally useless, the tricks of the earlier era were spectacular and drew people into the sport. "Mambo lessons" were great marketing. Unfortunately, the mambo itself was a dead-end.

The question is, can good skiing be marketed as strongly as fad/shortcut skiing? Can the prospect of learning the fundamentals ever have the same mystique as the flim-flam promises of instant gratification?

Which brings me to a third point, which is to reiterate something Iselin and Spectorsky said about "the man or woman who has the will and the courage to become an expert." Not everyone can become an expert skier. One has to have the will and the courage to do it. Will and courage have to do with character, and, sad to say, the quality of character in contemporary American society is hovering near historical lows.
post #12 of 37
>>>The book came out in 1947, Ott. Were you teaching skiing at that time?<<<

No, nolo, I started teaching in the late 50s. I have the Iselin/Spectorsky book titled "The NEW Invitation to Skiing" of 1958 vintage and they seem to have had a kinder look at wedeln in that book.

On page 193 and 194 they show four sequence photos each from the front and the back and there is no counter rotation involved.
Page 196-197 shows Anderl Moterer wedeln in his typical racing style, breaking at the waist.But there is also no rotation/counter rotation involved.

The Austrian counter rotation/comma position= angulation was used as a turning force and a means to set the edges. Even the early PSIA American Technique used counter rotation as a turning force. For those of you new to this: after finishing a turn on one set of edges there was a crisp down/up movement at the top of this movemnent and the start of the back-down movement there was an edge change, a lead change and a sharp counter rotary movement which would give rotational input to the skis and start them turning.

I have put my perpetual wedeln on shaped skis, shot by Bob Barnes, here to show that there really isn't any time to counter rotate, and also a picture of me demonstrating the correct counter rotation turn Austrian style which basically was a 'initiate then park and ride' kind of turn, and early American Technique turn.

BTW, did you know that A.C. Spectorsky was a business partner of Hugh Heffner and Playboy, and was listed as vice president for many years?


post #13 of 37
These things are still fun to do (and even exciting to learn to some). I wind up teaching royal christies and mambo at couple times a season, usually because someone caught me playing with them.

I seem to remember that we even played with some of that stuff in my group at the ESA.

Bring it all back, it is still fun. But beyond that, as Pros we can better understand where we are and where we are going if we seek a clearer understanding of where we have been.
post #14 of 37
Thread Starter 
FastMan, I think the tool has everything to do with the technique used to get it to work.

Ott, the authors like the purposeful wedeln very much; they decry that the purposeless Mambo confused people into thinking that skidding is good skiing.

It occurs to me that we Mambo with the sole intent of having fun. Bob Barnes has often stated that we carve with the sole intent of having fun too. It further occurs to me that ski lessons that have the sole purpose of teaching Mambo or Carving have serious side-effects in that inexperienced skiers tend to throw an anchor into them as "the way to ski" which severely handicaps their wendig and versatility, which pretty much sentences them to life as an intermediate.

Conversely, adding Mambo and Carving skills to the total package only makes the skier stronger.
post #15 of 37
There are correct moves and incorrect moves in skiing. Versatility is to be able to use both the correct AND the incorrect moves to ones advantage whenever needed.

And playfull moves as discussed here help to prepare the skier in case an unothodox move is required.

It pains me to see skiers trying to bully some difficulty terrain skiing paralell at all costs because they think moves like stemming, stepping, slipping, checking, hopping, unweighting, rotating, etc. are 'incorrect' and end up crashing.

And to the recent learners anything except carved turs at all times will look wrong. Sad.

post #16 of 37
I always thought it was "Royal Christy". Both Rudi Wuersh and Arthur Furrer, pioneers of freestyle, hot dogging etc were instructors at my local ski area in the early 60's. Both liked to show off by doing the Charleston under the lift, off the slope, through the trees, groomed and untracked etc. The maneuver may not have much in common with mainstream skiing but the fact they could do it surely had something to do with the fact they were both incredibly versatile skiers.

Come to think of it, the last time I saw Rudi Wuersh he was skiing out from under the waterfall below the Lip at Tuckerman's, doing a "Reuel Christy". holding a beer tray (with beer bottle) aloft in the palm of one outstrched hand' performing for a film crew who were making a beer commercial! How many could do that?

[ May 15, 2003, 04:29 PM: Message edited by: arcadie ]
post #17 of 37
After working with a young German girl this winter, I was kidding with one of our older instructors when he asked how it went, "German is good but she can't wedel" .... A younger instructor thought there was some sexual reference intended. [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img] We then both broke into some rusty (but fun) wedeling. Since then, we have had to give a few demos so there may be some hope for a rebirth.

It is a bit harder with the shaped skis and occasional tip clash can be expected....
post #18 of 37
Ooops. That middle picture, with the guy leading with the hip, that's how I first learned to ski! I still do it sometimes, too. His equipment looks like my first stuff, and the stuff everyone was wearing then.

Reuel Chrities were once part of every successful instructor's Bag of Tricks. I love seeing people do them well, the tail of the ski generally ends up above the skiier's head.
post #19 of 37
That guy is our very own Ott in all three pictures. The day he did the wedel demo for Bob he had a kicking case of pneumonia. In addition, the day before he'd had his clock cleaned by a boarder. The guy is tough as month old jerky.

[ May 21, 2003, 06:05 AM: Message edited by: Rusty Guy ]
post #20 of 37
Wasn't "Reuel" the name of a real person who invented this turn? Seems to me that knowledge came to me in some after-ski bar some time in the hazy past.

I think that's a practice that we should really develop--naming it after the person.

I'd like to make Nolo Christies. Or go out and "do the Barnes". I went to ski school and bought the Ott.

And you shoulda seen Stein do the mambo.
post #21 of 37

"The Ott":



Here's the animation of Ott's classic wedeln, a few years back at Copper Mountain, from the now-broken link in Ott's post above.


Best regards,


post #22 of 37

Quote from Ott-

"BTW, did you know that A.C. Spectorsky was a business partner of Hugh Heffner and Playboy, and was listed as vice president for many years?"


Maybe this is how the term "ski bunny" or "snow bunny" was coined? ;) ;) ;)


Or maybe it was one of the first connections between ski instructors and the female skiing public....  ;)

post #23 of 37

The calendar and always heart warming birthday greetings is missed on epic. 

post #24 of 37

Wasn't "Reuel" the name of a real person who invented this turn? Seems to me that knowledge came to me in some after-ski bar some time in the hazy past.

Reuel was an instructor and often had very large classes (60 to 100) at a time.  His technique involved pivoting from the tips of the skis.


  The word "wedel" is actually an Austrian term which means root.  More specifically a root which twists and winds.  The term wedelin is used as a verb, or action of twisting and winding.


The Mombo is turning using both rotation and counter rotation of the upper body.



post #25 of 37


Originally Posted by weems View Post


Wasn't "Reuel" the name of a real person who invented this turn? Seems to me that knowledge came to me in some after-ski bar some time in the hazy past.


weems, are you thinking Ruade Technique?  I just took the History Comes Alive course and we "performed" some Ruade turns.  This is a mid 40s ski technique.  Its from the French "horse kick."  You traverse, wind up, kick the tails up in the air while leaving the tips on the ground, rotate your arms and shoulders around to turn, land and follow through.


I think you need to be kicked by a horse to properly execute the move.  But given the equipment of the day, it was a quantum leap in ski technique.

post #26 of 37

Wow--it's cool to see this thread revived, isn't it?


Note that there is difference between "Reuel" and "Ruade." The "Reuel Christie" (usually pronounced "royal christie") was a just-for-fun turn made on the inside ski, with the outside ski lifted high behind you, knee usually bent such that the lifted ski was more-or-less horizontal and upside-down. "Ruade" is the "horse kick" turn described above.


Ron--it appears that you and Ott disagree on the origin of the term, "Wedeln." Ott has long told us that it is German for "wagging," as in the tail of a dog. You two may need to fight this one out. (I hate to tell you, but my money's on Ott!)


Best regards,



post #27 of 37



I think you need to be kicked by a horse to properly execute the move. 


Cool, something new to add to the quiver.

post #28 of 37

Thanks for the clarification Bob.  I learn something new every day.  Love it!

post #29 of 37


Originally Posted by weems View Post


Wasn't "Reuel" the name of a real person who invented this turn? Seems to me that knowledge came to me in some after-ski bar some time in the hazy past.



Named after the Austrian Dr. Fritz Reuel.  The German phonetic "eu" is pronounced like "oy" in English.


The advanced way of linking Reuel Christies is Reuel into a crossover.

post #30 of 37

Holy moly, what's old is new again. Yes Bob, back in Germany when we  learned wedeln it was explained to us that as in a dog's 'wedel' (tail), the skis whould move back and force under you while the the dog's body/your body should stay still.

The wedeln is done on comparatively flat terrain, green and easy blue, and as the terrain gets steeper up to black it becomes a short swing with an ever increasing edge set. It differes from the modern short turn in that the is no lingering on the edge set lest it throws the body out of it's trajectory of going straight down the fall line, the edge set is more like a check with a rebound and retraction of the skis for a cross under and edge set.

The modern short turn actually involves a turn.

The royal christie under the chair just said "I can do do it ,can you?" and best done past a standing intermediate class., same with the mambo and Serpentine. The serpentine was actually revived by the fad of ballet skiing in the 70s.


Thanks for bringing up memories in this old man.



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