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Do you teach a braking wedge to your beginners?

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
At our mountain there is a strong split between those instructors (group #a) who feel that a braking wedge must always be taught to the beginners and those instructors (group #b) who think a braking wedge should be taught for standing in lift lines or if the student needs some special help.

The group #a instructors seem to feel that for liability purposes, beginners must be taught a sure way to stop...i.e, a braking wedge.

The group #b instructors seem to feel that braking wedges don't acutally stop a skier unless they going very slowly and teaching them a braking wedge implies stopping power and any way they learn it on their own.

There are more arguments from both sides. And people arguing about using the old fashioned snow plow style of turning for some beginners who can't seem to get "it" otherwise (last resort stuff).

so...what do you think?


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 05, 2001 09:34 PM: Message edited 1 time, by AppleSusan ]</font>
post #2 of 36
Okay...I'm not an instructor, but I have been skiing since I was 8. The snowplow remains an extremely useful tool for any number of reasons. What is the logic behind not teaching it to a beginner? And why would you only teach it as a stop? Isn't a wedge turn an effective way to teach the concept of weight shift from one ski to another? Why is there a need to jump immediately to parallel? Anyway, my dos centavos.
post #3 of 36
AppleSusan--You might go back to the thread, To Wedge or Not to Wedge, and its sequel, from October last season.

I agree with Irul--there are certainly valid reasons to teach a braking wedge sometimes, and some teaching terrain (unfortunately) absolutely requires it. The key is to make sure students don't develop the habit of riding the brakes, skiing defensively, never learing the joy of gliding. My motto has always been to teach them to GLIDE, then teach them to BRAKE, then teach them to glide again. Make sure they are in a good, comfortable, "offensive" state of mind with gliding skis (wedge or parallel--doesn't really matter) when working on those first skied turns.

A good rule of thumb, if you must teach a braking wedge, is to delay it until AT LEAST half an hour into the lesson. Don't let their first sensations and movements on skis involve braking. Once they LIKE gliding, introducing brakes will not be a problem. They'll use them when they need them, but they'll prefer gliding. And they won't be any more confused than a new driver learning that there is a brake pedal and a steering wheel--separate controls for different functions.

Furthermore, as we have often discussed, remember that there is NO fundamental difference between the movements of a good wedge turn, and a good parallel turn. As instructors, we teach movements and skills--not wedge turns and parallel turns. It is very possible to teach good movement habits or bad, in either a wedge stance or parallel. Neither stance is inherently right--or wrong.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #4 of 36
Okay, even I'll admit that there should be about 1 minute of teaching devoted to EVERY SKIER, the wedge; "Here's how you slow down in lift lines, blah bla blah".

But beyond that, teaching wedge turns is immoral and bad karma.
post #5 of 36
SCSA, I agree with the KARMA part.

That WEDGE will live on forever once you show it to em.

Let nature take it's course!
post #6 of 36
I was taught to teach last winter, in Vermont. Was taught the Perfect Turn system, wedge, not snowplough. Stopping was turning. I was horrified! (From Australia, our system is still very Austrian. First, you stop!).
For some weeks, I worked in a crafty narrow snowplough...some later called it a "carving wedge". I didn't realise what a real wedge was. Later on, I was taught the proper wedge, with the pivoting middle of the ski, whole leg movement, and was converted to the whole idea.
When teaching privates late in the season (adults for the first time), I found I could teach complete beginners to ski in 1 hour, using the pure wedge, with no brake.
Like Bob says, they grew to learn the feeling of gliding, rather than defensive inching along.

Back in Australia, it was back to Snowplough. First thing they do is glide (in the snowplough position) into a little rise. Then, they learn to stop using the harder snowplough.

I taught kids and adults, and am convinced that their progress was slower with this system. In Vermont, I could have a group of beginner kids for 2 hours, and they mostly had reached level 3 by the end of it: strong linked wedge turns on green terrain.

The key to teaching the wedge (US) system is in my opinion understanding the full stance and movement: it's not just a narrow snowplough: it's a pivot from the hip-socket. Having some good terrain to start helps too. At Mount Snow, on the flat they arranged the snow into some gentle lumps for us, so we could take the student to the top of the lump, and have them glide down it, into the next lump, and stop. Teaching them to turn to stop worked very well here too.

I'm a total convert to this: teaching people to rely on the brakes slows them down (ick, a pun).
post #7 of 36
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>there is a strong split between those instructors (group #a) who feel that a breaking wedge must always be taught to the beginners and those instructors (group #b) who think a breaking wedge should be taught for standing in lift lines or if the student needs some special help <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If it ain't broke don't fix it.
post #8 of 36
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>there is a strong split between those instructors (group #a) who feel that a breaking wedge must always be taught to the beginners and those instructors (group #b) who think a breaking wedge should be taught for standing in lift lines or if the student needs some special help <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If it ain't broke don't fix it.
post #9 of 36
Thread Starter 
The argument at our mountain is not whether to wedge or not to wedge but whether to teach a breaking wedge in addition to the gliding wedge.

Our technical directors emphasize a small gliding wedge. Small linked turns (shallow deviations) and then wider and wider linked turns...all in a gliding wedge(see Ant's description ).. A braking wedge and the snowplow turn aren't used for turning

I will often ask my students what they think they ought to do to stop and almost all of them demo a braking wedge. (Somebody...not me...told them that) We then try various ways to stop, including turning into a stop. And we talk about what happens if you try to stop at high speeds while trying to brake with a wedge (or we watch someone in a braking wedge coming straight down the hill). Gets harder and harder to turn ...so you can't stop with a braking wedge and you can't stop with a turn.

Last year, after using really short shaped skis for a couple of years for low end skiers (neverevers up to level 3 and 4 or so), our mountain started asking the instructors to have the students do even more work on the flats and slightrises/downhills by stepping and skating into turns, figure eights, big 8's and really small 8's. And students really took off. Many of them were going in and out of parallel skiing ... from the top of the beginner slope...by the end of their first lesson (about 1 1/2 hours).

My feeling is that too many lessons emphasize the braking sensation unnecessarily. Yes some students may need that ... but I think it is "lateral" learning. Teach the braking wedge when a student is having difficulties not as part of the normal set of exercises. Show it to them when they are ready to stand in the lift line if they haven't already figured it out. Give them context (lift line) for using it.

I think that learning a braking wedge can impede the learning of steering the inside ski.

post #10 of 36
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by AppleSusan:

I think that learning a braking wedge can impede the learning of steering the inside ski.


Let the chorus sing-HALLELUJAH!!!
post #11 of 36
What about when you're teaching little kids?
post #12 of 36
Thread Starter 
Some you have noticed that I kept misspelling braking wedge (eg. breaking wedge) and were kind enough to insist that I not fix what ain't broke.

Thank you all for providing me with spelling support. I even went back and fixed breaking to braking in my first post but just noticed that even my followup spelled it both ways.

Now....what do I do with kids. You notice how many of them brace and end up in a huge wedge? And most of them insist on using the wedge to stop.

My biggest weakness in teaching is with kids. My experience is limited and usually with the kids that are ready to move on from wedging, often a little older so wedging isn't the physical lifeline they once needed.

One of my comments in the earlier posting is that a braking wedge should be actively taught to those students who seem to need it and not as a normal part of every lesson. Many students figure a braking wedge out on their own. I just don't think we should bless it by formally teaching it, especially not as a way to stop when going speeding down a hill.

If the student is having trouble standing on flat skis or making a gliding wedge or needs a little bracing (as in small children) sometimes the braking wedge is very useful. Just as with the stem christie, a braking wedge shouldn't be thrown out with the bathwater. It should still be taught when and if a student needs it.

I think we need to emphasize turning as the preferred method for stopping and slowing. And in doing so we can teach a proper turn ... not a z-turn with a traverse. And in teaching turning we also help them develop steering of both feet and that a turn doesn't necessarily end just as they start to come out of the fall line.

Yes..beginners have an awful lot that they are learning this may just be too much for them at one time. But if you were take a few classes and leave out the braking wedge as part of the normal lesson, you will find that only a very few of the (adult)students need to have the braking wedge actually taught to them.

post #13 of 36

I don't teach a braking wedge as such but I do point out that a wider wedge is a slower wedge and that at low speeds on gentle terrain a wide enough wedge will bring the skier to a stop but that it won't work on even slightly steeper terrain or if the skier has any speed at all. They all figure out just how much breaking the wedge gives them on their own and I don't want to encourage defensive skiing. All are taught a turn to a stop and must be able to do this before we leave the beginner hill. I also point out that the bestway to avoid running into something is to turn and miss it rather try to stop with a wedge before you hit. The fun in skiing is in going not stopping.

post #14 of 36
Setting: The spine of the Bridgers, no passing zone, about 2-3 feet at the widest point.

Situation: A line of enthusiasts.

Emotional content: A tentative traverser in front of you.

Solution: Braking wedge.
post #15 of 36
Ohhhh: BEGINNERS....

Well, ya gotta learn it sometime or stay off the high traverse, please: granite below!
post #16 of 36
I have developed a comprehensive beginner progression (called Pathway to Parallel) that is less reliant on the wedge. E-mail me at arc2arc@execpc.com and I'll send a copy with anyone who wants one. I produced this as part of a PSIA-C Ed Staff task force that was exploring alternatives to the traditional braking/gliding wedge based beginner pathway. I consider the braking wedge a valuable option that belongs in the "laterally learned activities" catigory, but not and efficient foundational platform from which most skiers should learn to ski.

post #17 of 36
I teach Direct Parallel. Our SSD raised heck if he saw anybody teach wedge. I would teacf a braking wedge in the liftline and there were no problems. On the hill, we teach to use gravity; step back up the hill to control speed. It works quite well. On narrow cat tracks, we teach to use the uphill ski as a brake by tipping it to the little toe edge. The more braking, the more tipping.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 06, 2001 08:56 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Rick H ]</font>
post #18 of 36
Right on, Roger!

What's the applicability of stem turns? I understand that Euros teach them, certify them, etc.

Would you give us your take on defensive moves in general and their place in the skiing curriculum?
post #19 of 36
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by nolobolono:
Right on, Roger!

What's the applicability of stem turns? I understand that Euros teach them, certify them, etc.

Would you give us your take on defensive moves in general and their place in the skiing curriculum?

This is exatly my point with the above post by me and in the attempt with the THREAD " In the begining there were TWO STICKS"

The Technology has made it easier to ski, our instruction must adapt to take advantage of that.

Wedge or Stem are nice to increae your base for stability. However now with shorter skis may not be necisary, just a WIDER stance to gain same purchase.

I really do not think UNLEARNING the stem or wedge is all that detremental BUT I do feel and witness that IF we TRY and TEACH the WEDGE students are actualy going parallel and then turning the skis in to ACCOMIDATE the INSTRUCTION.

Is this not BACKWARDS?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 06, 2001 09:10 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Dr.GO ]</font>
post #20 of 36
The point that seems key to me, and which you make, is the equipment variable: If the skier is on a shorter shape ski, a direct parallel approach makes sense. Most beginners rent, and most of the rentals at the area where I teach are, sadly, not shapes. (They may have improved matters and I don't know about it yet.) I would hazard to say that at the majority of U.S. nondestination resorts this remains the case.

Consequently, beginners are typically sent out on short straight skis with less built-in turn. The contrast in teaching a beginner with a short shape and a short straight ski can be dramatic. The objective is to get the beginner turning. If the wedge is more likely to produce a turn than a wide parallel, that's what the instructor is going to choose.

Another thing to consider is the popularity of ski swaps, where it's a lot easier to find a longer straight ski than a newly minted shape ski, and the price difference can be convincing to a non-experienced buyer. I went to the largest ski swap in Montana last year, where I listened to the sales staff advising buyers to go about 20 cm. longer than I would have recommended.

There are still a lot of straight skis on Montana slopes (and I realize we present something of a special case, but it feeds my experience), and a lot of 2- and 1-stem turn initiations are apparent among the recreational public skiing today. Whether this can be attributed to instruction is questionable, in my opinion. I would be more apt to attribute it to adaptation and survival.
post #21 of 36
RickH said: "On narrow cat tracks, we teach to use the uphill ski as a brake by tipping it to the little toe edge. The more braking, the more tipping."

I cannot believe that in an attempt to avoid the wedge, the PMTS system would actually have you believe that using the uphill ski to control speed is the better solution. This must be the strangest thing I have heard in a while. :

And for those that are against teaching the braking wedge, I have to ask you how would a beginner, that inadvertently ended on a black diamond run, negotiate it? You think such a skier will glide it, or do parallel turns or brake with the uphill ski? Of course not. There are only 2 realistic options: walk/sidestep it or use very defensive snowplough turns. Of course, such a skier should not be on black diamond runs, but it happens quite often.

So my suggestion is that instructors equip the students with basic "survival" skills as soon as possible. Especially since 90% of students will stop taking courses after they learn the basics.
post #22 of 36
Point well taken.

Then again I hear so much about Guest Centered Instruction would this not be a case for KNOWING your audience and teaching for it?

In other words, you MAY have in the same class some one with their own NEW skis (excellent BIG side cut carvers) and others without. That may be a bag of tricks issue or a redirection of the class. Now I know that as a ski school director or the LINE UP DUDE, that we sould attempt to group these skiers based upon their needs. And I have looked at beginers with their own equipment VS rentals as a segmentation. (observing that IF they spent $$$ on thier own equipment then they may be a bit more serious about instruction then thosewho are renting that day) SO I would attempt putting these students in seperate classes. However the Level of skier is the first priority.

However the point that both of us are seeing is that the Quality of the Equipment MAY change the Instruction!

I take that as an agreement!
post #23 of 36
Dr. GO:

I completely agree with you. Also, I would never teach any class as an assembly line process. I actually LIKE to have the challenge of many different student profiles in a class at any level. Otherwise I might get BORED and quit teaching.

The main reason I teach instead of free skiing all the time is because I think I might get BORED just free skiing without the challenge of teaching private lessons to a group.
post #24 of 36
A question occurs to me: what about little kids and the wedge, both braking and gliding? I seldom see kids under 7 in a parallel, and I have known kids who could wail (how do you spell that word?) in a wedge down some black diamonds when they were still in kindergarten.
post #25 of 36

After reading the appendix in Lito Tejada-Flores's new book, an over reliance on wedging often leads to the bad habit of stemming.This bad habit is one of the main reasons for the 'intermediate skier rut," which often is established when first learning to ski, because of an overuse of snow plow stops, and wedged turns. The snow plow and wedge turns should be stepping stones to proper edging, with the edged turn or hockey stop being the way to stop, based on slope and conditions.

For very young skiers they seem to have their own special way of coping with getting down the hill. They often lean back and have no attention span for verbage, but sometimes will mimic what you do.

We need to have patience with them until they are ready for formal instruction.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 06, 2001 02:52 PM: Message edited 1 time, by wink ]</font>
post #26 of 36
TomB, your confusion is understandable. The "Phantom Drag" method is what RickH is mentioning, and it's really neat...

Check out these links:
Phantom Wedge Closure http://www.harbskisystems.com/olg2.htm
Phantom Drag Garland http://www.harbskisystems.com/olg3.htm

By "dragging" the little toe edge of the uphill ski, you can get an amazing amount of speed control.

Keep the outside ski a little flat, so it keeps slipping downhill. You can sideslip down the hill, very slowly doing this. Think of your legs opening up at the knees a bit, like a skinny "O"... It's different, but it works. I can phantom drag real slowly sideways down a very icy and steep slope... if I want to...
post #27 of 36
SnoKarver, what the heck are you talking about with your skinny O's :? Just playing, but that's a pretty strange way to sideslip. You have it a bit wrong though... the Phantom Drag and the Phantom Drag Garland are to get people out of the wedge, not to act as a brake in a sideslip. I know that originated from RickH's statement "tip more, brake more" but I have to agree with TomB on that one with a big : on how just tipping the uphill ski will slow you down as RickH stated. That JUST tipping mentality is to carve, not to slow down. You can carve your heart out on a cat track, but it won't slow you down. You can only slow down during carving by skiing that familiar slow line all the way around and back uphill .. no room to do that on a cat track!!!
post #28 of 36
The few times I've accidentally ended up on a Black Diamond, I found wedge turns pretty useless. Unfortunately, the first "survival" skill I ever learned was the traverse, and as I said on a different thread, that is truly a dead end move. I think the sideslip should be taught as early as possible. But i do agree that a gliding wedge is more useful than a breaking wedge, usually.
post #29 of 36

I think I have done that Phantom Drag for years I didn't know that it had a name. I always just thought of it as defensive move and I looked better doing it than wedging.

post #30 of 36
IMHO Bob B is correct-teach 'em to glide, step out of the glide, make small deviations from the glide, learn (in theory, at least) how turn shape will control speed.
HOWEVER, and it is a big however, reality has a way of intruding on the purity of our intentions.
The step-up, at my resort, to a beginner drag lift which is quite narrow and crowded and relatively steep means that the students, for safety, need a security blanket. This consists of the confidence that they can STOP. At this level of skiing, the braking wedge is the easiest to understand, and implement.
It might offend the sensibilities of some purists, but, on a Saturday morning with 10 beginners on a VERY crowded slope, it is a safe, effective manouver. Sorry PSIA! [img]tongue.gif[/img]
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