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To Wedge or Not to Wedge (Continued)

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Bob Barnes, please continue on a new stream, the old one is just too long.

You get into a lot of detail, and I think that's great, but to a degree we're discussing minute semantics. Truthfully, a great teacher may use several different approaches to teach the same thing, depending on the student(s). As long as the instructor gets the student(s) to understand, feel, and be able to execute basic skills, then they have succeeded. They have succeeded in both making sking more fun and offering the possibility for acheivment of a higher level of competency in the future. I think that's what it comes down to. In the end, we ski because we enjoy it, right?

GF<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by GF (edited December 27, 2000).]</FONT>
post #2 of 14
Wow, what a fun Thread to read through. Although, long. These are the conversations Ski Instructors have. I am amazed to have non-instructors get into these types of conversations. Magnificent. Skiing will never die as long as people like you care this much about the sport a the turns.

GF, you could not of asked a more relevant question "In the end, we ski because we enjoy it, right?" Absolutely!
But as an instructor I teach on a powder day, because I enjoy having my students "enjoy it" and have a passion for it. Hopefully as much as this group enjoys it. And that brings me ultimate enjoyment for the sport of skiing, and ultimately living.
On the last post, in the first Thread it was asked of Bob (I hope no one is offended if I share my perspective):

<You say that the wrong way to do wedge turns is to push the tail of one of the skis outward. How, then, does one get into this position? Unless you are going straight down the fall line, it seems that the only way to get the skis converging on opposing edges is to move the tail of the uphill ski outward.>

When making a wedge turn, the wedge size stays roughly the same, unless alterations in speed, line or the combination of the two is desired. Perhaps you speak of changing the wedge size when you refer to the pushing out the tails. If that is the case, there would be forward pressure on the skis (somewhere in front of the foot {forward leverage}) and a twisting of the skis around that pivot point. This not desirable in the long term for any skier, especially recreational expert and above.

I believe that in a well executed wedge the pivot point should be underneath the arches of the feet.
As with a properly executed "abducting cycle" such as used in a wedge change-up(smaller to larger wedge). When the feet and legs move away from the center of the body, An internal rotation of the femur takes place on the outside leg. This causes the ski to twist around its pivot point (underneath the foot) causing the tip to move inward and the tail to move outward. If demonstrating this "statically" on the snow, the impression would be that of a bow-tie. During a turn, it may look like the tail is being pushed out. But I can assure that in a well executed wedge turn that is not what is happening.

IN SHORT: A larger wedge is created, by having the feet move laterally from hips and an internal rotation of the femur.

Now, fortunately a wedge change-up is not a wedge turn. A wedge change-up is an excersise to improve skiing, not skiing.
In a wedge I like to incorporate the internal rotation of the femur, from the previous exercise. (BTW, the same internal rotation of the femur that I use when making high-speed carved turns, skiing bumps, powder, whatever. Granted I use that rotation at a different place in the turn depending on my intentions).

This brings me to your second question, which is a dandy.
<Is the gliding wedge a static position, to be used throughout the whole turn? Or can the skier change the edge of the inside ski at the end of the turn so that the edges are not opposing?>

The gliding wedge TURN is dynamic series of movements, albeit not always apparently so due to the speed at which they are being performed. Assuming the skier is just crusing down the hill with no intention to alter speed or line from previous turns, the size of the wedge does NOT change significantly, if any. Even though the wedge size in not changing (in that Frame of Reference of the skis) both skis/skier legs must be constantly moving to keep that orientation during a turn. So to the observer the skiers moves are Dynamic, always moving. From my frame of reference as the instructor/facilitator I see dynamic movement. Similar to what I see with someone skiing good parallel turns.
Lastly, because my long-term goal for the skier may not be to ski perfect wedge turns, but rather to have both legs move in unison. I would like them to move their edges toward a non-opposing orientation, at a point in their development when they are comfortable to do so.

I believe, the last point you make is the basis for this discussion as well as many others, and includes the spinning off of new teaching systems.

<However, isn't skiing on opposing edges the real problem that people have with wedge turns, and not necessarily the convergence of the skis?>
My answer here is nothing new, and the previous 72 posts probably prelude to my respose. But I will mention several things that stick with me:

1) In a few years my son will begin riding a bicycle. I will use training wheels. Why? A)Because they provide a larger base of support. Even though the rider may begin to rely on them. As this may happen, I will adjust the TWs.
B)Perhaps the rider's biggest fear (as well as the parents) is tipping over and crashing. If I can alleviate that fear the rider will enjoy riding more. Lower struggle, more enjoyment.

2) I will keep the brakes on the bike. Why?
A)because if they have them, they can use them if needed. THERE IS SKIING, AND THERE IS STOPPING. STOPPING IS NOT SKIING. But sometimes stopping can be pretty handy.
B)Perhaps the rider's biggest fear (as well as the parents) is not being able to stop and crashing. If I can alleviate that fear the rider will enjoy riding more. Lower struggle, more enjoyment. AND HOPEFULLY A DESIRE TO SEEK FURTHER IMPROVEMENT.

And isn't that one of the reasons we all keep coming back for more.

Jonathan Lawson
post #3 of 14
Pierre oh!,
so true. I got a good chuckle from your stage progressions. The rest of what you said was pretty much on as well.

j from Breck
post #4 of 14
Non instructors: Get a copy of Bob Barnes' Encyclopedia of Skiing. Then if someone goes Techno, you have a reference book!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #5 of 14
A thought, Does it bother you guys that so many non instructors post on this board? Kind of means that you're working, without getting paid. Guess that's why the PSIA board made it almost impossible to log in without a certification #.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #6 of 14
I'm not an instructor, but I would imagine that those instructors on this board post to non-instructor initiated threads because they truly enjoy teaching. Besides, 99.9% of teaching is finding a way to convey a basic concept in a meaningful way. If several instructors reply with their own explanation, each describing the same physical action in a different way, then I think everyone benefits. The student gets an answer he can apply, and the instructors get to add to their bag of tricks. My most recent lesson was so effective because the instructor could approach problems from several different directions and give me solutions that were meaningful.

Besides, if I could learn to ski well from reading a message board or a book I'd never take lessons at all. I need the trained eye of a professional to point out my faults and lead me to the most efficient solution. My goal is effortless skiing- that magic time when you don't have to think, but everything clicks. I've brushed up against it a couple times, and it's more addictive than crack cocaine. I'm willing to shell out the bucks for someone to help me get there.

Of course, that might just be me...


185cm Volant Epic, Marker 6.2 SC, Lange F6
post #7 of 14
Actually, Pierre, you left out a 3rd progression, which appears to me to be the most common.
Gliding wedge turn to wedge christy. No more lessons. Skier skis on steeper terrain, wedge christy turns into stem christy. Skier skis on even steeper terrain, stem christy to windshield wiper turns. Skier skis still steeper terrain, hop turns.
If this is the most common scenario, which I have good reason to believe it is, I think that it is irresponsible to teach the wedge at all, if there is any kind of alternative available which does not depend on further lessons to keep the student from going down the wrong path*. According to Weems and Wigs, Harald Harb, and even an article in PSIA's TPS archives, there is such an alternative available now. http://www.psia.org/Education/TPSArt...hortshapes.asp http://www.psia.org/Education/TPSArt...ll99jiminy.asp
Pierre, I realize of course that your tightfisted, shortsighted employer (Did I miss anything? ), would not pony up for these kind of things! But I have brought a few people into skiing in the last few years, and I have made the decision on where their first day should be by seeing what kind of rental equipment is available, especially boots!

* Of course, there are some who will say that this is the whole point of teaching the wedge!<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by milesb (edited December 29, 2000).]</FONT>
post #8 of 14
Pierre eh,

Right on! The basics have become just that because the define core movements in the sport. I have learned that even after we think we have advanced beyond them, going back to those core movements can diagnose problems.

Just like the exercise that we worked on the other night the "Dynamic Wedge" will expose any edging weekness that you have.

Still trying to get out of the toilet!



PS: Are at BW this weekend?
post #9 of 14
Pierre, I just returned from Bretton Woods, a smaller resort in New Hampshire. They are very much in accordance with your progressions. From the wedge christie, they went into a drill which they call 2 flat 2. Starting with both skis edged uphill, then to flat, then to both skis edged downhill. Felt totally natural.

I've decided to eliminate windshield wiper turns completely. Even in those situations where I need to "survival ski", I'd rather use a gliding wedge. Sharp stem turns IMHO, will eventually produce the same problems that ballet dancers used to have with forced turnout. The feet are forced into a position that is not supported by rotation at the hip. The resulting torque is detrimental.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #10 of 14
Since I'm one of the guys who have been against teaching the wedge at the beginning, I think I'd like to respond to clarify. After all, I'm a student not a teacher.

First of all I definately would not "poo-pooh" wedge turns in any way. I would gladly take a lesson from either Bob B or Pierre eh if given the chance. Many of the suggestions on this and other threads I have either tried or am going to try. Pierre, as the wedge was taught to me several years ago for stopping purposes, I have never tried it on a steep black/blue run and never thought about it. At this point in my development I believe it would be useful in learning. As a learning tool it definately has it's place. I just don't think it should be a beginning move. Beginners get stuck in it as a safety tool and many people I know then use it every time they get scared. As a lifelong student I'm stating that this is not what the wedge should be used for and therefor should not be the initial platform taught. I, for one, originally being an unfrequent skier, got stuck in just that mold. If you begin sking regularly and frequently, I believe your focus will never be on the wedge as a safety platform so it wouldn't matter etiher way how you started.

I am curious though. Bob and Pierre, I've read of your interest in the Beginner's Magic program that Wigs and Weems are writing about but I haven't read anything on whether you two think that it really has merit and would possibly try it with beginners. I didn't see where either one of them recommended eliminating the wedge entirely, just not starting out with it. This is exactly where I've been coming from but they just stated it more eloquently and from a teacher's perspective. So, if this thead proceeds anywhere, please don't come from a point that we, or at least I, think the wedge is not useful and should be eliminated. I only believe, and I think I have a little support here, that it shouldn't be taught initially as a first step. By the way Pierre eh, are you still talking about moving West? Bob B, I think I might be a little late I guess I waited to long. Hope you're still around.
post #11 of 14
Pierre eh!,

>>Ok guys, I got something for all you skiers who poo-pooh the wedge turn. <<

You make some very good points in this post, Pierre eh!. But I would hope that anyone who is on a blue or black run would be beyond a braking or gliding wedge. If they are on these runs, it might be because they were taught a wedge in the beginning and decided that's all they needed. I'm sure you've had folks that come to ski school for their first day on skis, and learn the wedge progressions. Then you don't see them again except for maybe when you take a free run after class. And when you see them, they are on runs they shouldn't be on, and all your work teaching the gliding wedge has now turned into a full blown braking wedge. They do this because it's all they know. Most of what you described refers to a braking wedge. In that position, one can't do much of anything because they are out of balance. Anticipating any kind of turn in the back seat other than the brain telling you, Oh Sh@#, here we go again, is impossible.

A direct parallel approach to teaching first timers is not new, as I said in my post on Beginner's Magic. But it's time, IMHO, to revisit this progression with the new short shaped skis. Again, we here in Aspen are having great success with the direct parallel progression. Although, I can't tell a lie, I had to for the first time this season, teach a lady a gliding wedge yesterday. And it was easy for her to grasp, because she was already comfortable with movement on the snow. The main issue with her problem in the parallel was that she was over tipping her ankles and banking her turns and therefore tipping over to the inside. By giving her a wedge, she was able to clarify inside outside ski and weight transfer issues in one or two short runs. I then revisited the parallel progression, and off she went.

There is a place for the gliding wedge. For that matter, also the braking wedge. And it should be introduced at some point down the road where it might be needed. But, IMHO, not at the beginning. Why, because it's just something I have to un-teach later. When we were using the wedge progression, my goal was to get them into a parallel as soon as possible because I know that the new skier will be more comfortable in steeper terrain in a parallel stance. After getting to this point to where they were linking turns in parallel down greens and easy blues, I very seldom saw anyone in the classes use a wedge except for maybe the lift-line.

So with the direct parallel approach, we seem to be moving our new skiers to the wonderful world of blue much quicker. -------Wigs<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Wigs (edited January 03, 2001).]</FONT>
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Bob and Pierre,

I agree completely that there is a huge difference between wedge christie and stem christie. My comment regarding semantics was directed towards the fact that many people were choosing different words to say the same thing. However, they were making it seem as if it was something new and different.

Bob, your technical knowledge is well above the majority of skiers in the country. Please don't misunderstand my comment. I appreciate your expertise and your posts.

post #13 of 14
Pierre eh!,

Your mention of the lack of rental equipment would present a problem. It is important that we work with the right equipment while teaching this direct parallel progression.

>>We don't lack for students. We teach 3000 per day on less than 4 acres of suitable terrain.<<

That is amazing!!! That about half of the skiers we put on the mountain on a medium busy day here. ------Wigs
post #14 of 14
Hi Wigs and everybody, now that I'm back I would like to clarify some things about the two ski areas in which Pierre eh! teaches.

They are both owned by the same couple, the Ludwigs, who treat their employees with grace and respect, and are centrally located between Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and a whole lot of smaller cities. There are well over two million people living withing an hour's drive of the areas. They have contracts with over 400 Jr. High and High school ski clubs, each putting about 40 students on the slopes once a week.

Many individaul ski clubs, learn-to-ski schools run by newspapers, radio/TV stations, ski shops, etc. bring groups once a week.

There are Tiny Tots, Jr. Racing lessons, NASTAR, club racing programs with racing lessons, and zillions of just individual skiers taking lessons.

Since the ski areas were opened in 1962-63, they operated from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.. with some modification lately.

And, except for privates who pay for longer lessons, ALL LESSONS ARE FOR ONE HOUR.

With only 370 instructors available, longer lessons would strain the resouces of both teachers and students. Students on contract come at 3 p.m. and leave at 7. p.m., whereupon the late shifts students arrive to ski the next four hours. With only four hours to be there, students are unwilling to spend more than one hour in class, especially since most of them spend a half hour getting their rental equipment on and another hour to eat and get coffee and socialize and return their equipment. So their total time on skis is two hours, half of it in class.

Pierre can teach all season and may never see the same student twice, unless he is assigned to the same school group on the same day each week.

So there is terrible pressure on him to take these people, and if they are novices, to teach them in a group of about 15 to safely get down a gentle slope without hurting themselves or others.

If one of the 15 falls and has trouble getting up even after having learned how, the instuctor must ski down to that student and help him/her up, then step back up to the class, all this robs precious time from that ONE HOUR.

These instructors work miracles as it is just teaching the gliding wedge and wedge turns, allowing the skiers to turn up into the hill to stop. Teaching the direct prallel approach with students falling more often just wouldn't work in this situation.

And for those of you who think they teach too many lessons on this limited real estate, I ask you: should the area say, sorry, you can't learn because we are full up this year, come back next year?

If I rambled too much, sorry, but I just want to let folks know that there is a vast difference between a destination resort where people go for a week-long ski vacation and ski areas near metropolitan areas where people come to ski in their lunch hours or after work or with ski clubs.

I'm passionate about this because I taught for 25 years in this situation and was always envious of the instructors Out West or East who had the luxury of small classes and long hours to teach a group, often all week long.

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