Direct to Parallel?
February 24, 2005
What is everyone's opinion on teaching direct-to-parallel skiing?
My wife took a single ski lesson a while ago, and after two hours she was barely able to make a wedge turn, couldn't link turns, and had trouble stopping. This year I convinced her to come back out to the slopes, but she insisted on trying snowboarding. She was slightly better at it; although she still had trouble linking turns, she did turn well and stopped somewhat reliably. She told me that snowboarding was more intuitive, since she is a fairly good ice skater.
Based on that, I decided to give her a direct to parallel lesson (I know, never teach your wife!). It went amazingly well - in an hour, she was racing me down the beginner slope and complaining it was too slow.
Anyone else seen cases where parallel skiing has been more intuitive than wedge skiing? Do any resorts in this area teach beginners to carve as a matter of routine?
I firmly believe in it. At the risk of offending all PSIA instructors (this is why I dropped out of ski instructor training) I think the usual wedge-stem-parallel tranbing harms most skiers and is only a marketing game for ski schools. The bogus "shaped turn" is crap and counts how many angels are ont he head of a pin. When I first learned to ski I totally realized this and stopped all lessons with conventional school. I read and trained myself, and then only enrolled in special clinics for race training, which I believe are better than any ski school in the USA. As a candidate in ITC (Instructor Training Course) I was riddiculed by my "superiors" about my alignment with Warren Witherall and Olle Larrson, two \of the greatest coaches on the Earth. I have no respect for PSIA and I will no doubt get a lot of flack over this but it still will not match the harshing I got from ITC. The End!
I have been skiing for over 25 years and I have had the opportunity to teach quite a few people how to ski. That being said I had encountered three people who I went directly to parallel. With the advent of the shaped ski and having the beginner on a short length allows an athletic person to accomplish this feat. Keeping them on very modest inclines is the key.
Teaching turn shape is neither bogus or crap. I admire the way racers ski and acknowledge that Warren Witherell is a genius. That being said, I love it when ex-racers show up to learn how to be ski instructors. They know it all and won't listen to anybody. Well, they may be great skiers, but they don't know sh*t about teaching skiing.
I've been involved in several efforts to throw out the wedge progression and go direct to parallel. Trust me, if we, as instructors, could get direct to parallel to work consistently, we would do it.
There are two fundamental reasons why repeated efforts to succeed at direct to parallel have failed. The first is that most people aren't athletic enough to do it. The second is that everybody's brain is wired to resist what must be done to make parallel turns - move your center of mass DOWNHILL across the skis to change edges. Of course, kids in a racing program don't have either of these problems in abundance, so they can race for a while, graduate out of racing, decide to become ski instructors and then lecture everybody on how much they know better.
Well my friend, if your job is to teach 4 ladies from the Korean Methodist Church Weight Watchers group to ski, direct to parallel aint gonna do it.
Besides, wedge turns teach people "rotary" skills - i.e. how to steer. Even the shortest shaped skis have a pretty big turn radius if just laid over on edge. So direct to parallel does have the drawback of not teaching rotary.
The wedge progression is not bullsh*t. Properly taught, a wedge turn is not that different from a parallel turn. The problem is that PSIA gospel breaks down here in practice if not in theory. The first is that people take their first ski lesson and don't come back for more unless they really really want to. The second is that a lot of instructors don't teach proper movement patterns in a wedge turn.
So Crush, I agree and disagree. Direct to parallel is possible and would be better. The number of people who can actually do it is limited. The PSIA progression is not flawed in theory but it is flawed in practice.
Crush where did you take ITC? Doesn't sound like a friendly place to work.
I agree with Otto. In my short teaching time (2nd season), I've tried to teach the PSIA way. Some people get it, some people don't. I adjust my lesson to try and fit my student. If that means teaching some habits that another instructor will have to try and break later, then so be it. I'd rather have a beginner learn how to get up and down the beginner slope. If they can't, they may never ski again and will never have the chance to learn the love of skiing like we have.
The are many reason for wedge turns in begining phase of skiing, IE speed controll, a very stable platform, and easy way to initiate turns. One thing alot of PSIA instrutor do do is teach a wedge that is too big(AKA the power wedge) this does not promote turning, and will wear the student out very quickly, and for some adult they still will not be able to stop.
I have found in very short time as a instrutor(1 year about 100 days on snow) the teaching shouldler a width stance , with emphasis on turning to control speed, instead of wedge size is the best for the majority of the populition in the middle atlantic.
One thing about the PSIA is and the amecian teaching system is they are just guidelines, the instrutor has the abilty to change the lesson to meet the students need. And DTP does work on very small percent of people, hockey played and those that have ice skated alot. But other who are taught that way will have rotation probable that will be way harder to cure than just teaching them the right way to begin with.
Hidden Valley Ski School
I'm surprised at the comments that direct to parallel is only for athletic people, since my wife is anything but athletic and took well to it. On the other hand, being an ice skater means she's already accustomed to parallel turns and rotary motions.
I'm not advocating direct to parallel as the only technique -- I'm not teaching my three year old that way, for example. But I do think the average adult is capable of learning that speed control can be achieved simply by turning up the hill.
But I do think the average adult is capable of learning that speed control can be achieved simply by turning up the hill.
I tell my adult (and kid depending on maturity) to turn up the hill to stop. I show them. Typically, one of the other students in the class will demonstrate it also. But their are a lot of people, for various reasons, that have problems with this rule. It may be they skied last 10 years ago (and had the snowplow firmly planted in their minds), they just have a natural tendency for fear, or they are mentally distracted. Mostly it is the fear factor. Once they get over the fear of moving on skis, you can work on them trusting that turn.
Well put Otto. I have been teaching for over 14 years, skiing for 26. DTP is one method I have been able to get to work on occasion. More frequently since the proliferation of shaped BEGINNER skiis. But, when you get some 300lb person who has never seen snow before, DTP probably will not work.
Also, the proper wedge size is barely a wedge at all.
I have to agree there... Based on my experience, if someone has learned to snowplow, no matter how long ago, they're going to have to go through the stem christie progression before carving. I remember when I was taught as a kid; the snowplow was a safety net. Whenever I got scared, the tips went together. It took some work to get over that.
It does seem like the wedge is useful in some situations with limited room (very narrow catwalk?) for maneuver and stopping situations (like in a lift line). Anyway, I'd say after a quick lesson on wedging and getting it - move on to parallel with the new shaped skis, seems fairly intuitive. On the other hand, i suppose one could argue that all that fancy footwork pays off in the end as you can better control your feet independently in situations where you aren't on perfect slopes ( of course you could say skis should act as one unit always but in highly variable slope conditions there seems to be a tendency for two skis to take slightly differing lines from time to time, and you should be aware you can control each ski and get them back 'together'??). But if you don't go there ever -- why bother?
I don't think anyone would ever suggest that it's a good idea to *never* learn the wedge. However, unless someone has a problem learning to parallel turn, I wouldn't teach it until after they're comfortable skiing. Otherwise it seems the risk of having it become a crutch it too great...
yes there are folks who seem to have such trepidation toward sliding, even slowly downhill, that they seem to get stuck at the wedge. I don't know what to 'bout that really.
I don't think it's just fear. I've been skiing with a neighbor kid who never gets his feet out of a wedge, although he frequently complains that a particular slope is "too slow." On many occaisions I've seen him use his poles to push himself forward, while maintaining the wedge. I'm convinced that his previous instructor had taught him that was the "proper" position for skiing, and after a year of skiing that way, he's having trouble unlearning the habit.
To repeat something already said the best wedge size is one that is barely visable to shoulder width. I teach a wide wedge to stop but quickly move to a narrow wedge and turning to a stop from there i progress to linked complete(key word) wedge turns.
Wide wedges do not promote turning at all and is one of the hardest habit to break in student, they really dont relize how much it is hurting there skiing and legs.
i have skied with 3 women in my life who are essentially stuck in a wedge turn style. they all have the same problem -- first they won't bring their feet together, they sit WAY back on their skis, and they are terrified of what amounts to the tiniest bit of speed increase. All these things seem related and amount to fear of loss of control (a normal fear!). Its hard to figure out how to undo each one to build some confidence for them to learn to ski in a more controlled and graceful manner -- that's a heck of a lot more fun too (less fearful as well!)
I think this thread is about ready to die, but I've always enjoyed beating dead horses.
Those three women are, in my mind, perfect examples of why I'd prefer to teach the wedge to newbies only if they proved unable to learn parallel turns first. Once they've been taught that a wedge can slow them down, they make really big wedges and refuse to do anything else. After all, they're scared, and they "know" that making a smaller wedge will speed them up because the instructor said the wedge will slow them down!
What makes it a feedback look is the fact that the power wedge *does* slow them down, but it also greatly reduces control. Since they never feel the joy of control, they never get over their fear. Since they never get over their fear, they never reduce the size of the wedge.... and so forth.
Therein lies the problem - with the possible exception of very young children, nobody should ever be taught to use a braking wedge for speed control. Wedge turns are not evil, but a braking wedge invariably results in people skiing with their butts way back and edge angles that prevent turning. FWIW PSIA does not advocate teaching a braking wedge.
I'll pitch my two cents in.. I was a "wedger" until about 9 years ago when I was wedging down a blue at T-line and killing my quads. My friend skiing with me kept insisting that I get my skis parallel. I kept insisting that I'd lose control and rocket down the slope. Once I finally gave it a try, I of course discovered I had MORE control vs less. Anyway I've been working on cleaner/smoother parallel technique ever since! It's hard to get past that initial fear but once you do, you never look back!
I learned to ski 6 years ago at liberty when I was 10. They took me through the wedge and I did that for the morning. However, I played alot of roller hockey, and I started to realize by the afternoon on my first day that I could just turn like on blades and hockey stop at the bottom or when I got too much speed. The next few times I had been skiing I guess I sorta figured out how to parrallel turn. It would have been easier for me I think just to start out parrallel skiing. Anyways, just my opinion, what do I know.
You hit on a key point Aaron. I think Roller Blades are great for skiing, and the concept of carved parallel turns. I confess that I've never been on roller blades, but watching my kid, he seems to have learned good independent leg action, weight shifting, and a balanced forward stance from "blading". Of course, if you sit back while roller blading (at least on hockey skates, without brakes), you'd better have a helmet....
My kid moved to carved parallel turns very quickly, simply by my telling him to step on his left ski (to turn right from a slight wedge) and vice versa. Within minutes (literally), he could control his direction, and the wedge just disappeared.
As an inline instructor, I love teaching skiers! They tend to pick it up very easily, and I can use skiing terms to explain things to them. I teach how to use skates to improve your skiing, especially short turns.
I feel the same teaching skiing to rollerbladers.