Wedge note

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Wedge note

Postby *SCSA » Tue Apr 20, 2004 8:08 am

Morning folks!

So I'm at Vail this past weekend, sneaking peeks at the gang. As I earlier noted, they spend a lot of time working on this new version of the wedge they seem to have come up with.

It seems the gang has come up with some new fangled version of the wedge turn (wedge christy?). They claim it teaches skiers edge control. From the trees, it looks like the same wedge turn used in the "Carving video" put out by what's her name (Ellen??). I have no idea if it works or not. But I did watch ski instructors doing it and I watched all the examiners talking about it.

First of all, I can't fathom how anyone in their right mind would teach skiers moves that point the tips at each other. :roll:

But here's something else.

I can picture skiers practicing this wedge move. I can picture skiers practicing it for hours. But I can't see skiers doing it the way the gang says to. Seems to me the gang has come up with a version of the wedge that only they can do! That only the examiners know how to do! I don't think skiers can do it. I don't think instructors can do it, I don't think they can explain it. And, I think all the hours that skiers will spend, trying to get this move right, all they'll end up doing is making a better wedge turn.

Progress? What progress?

Here's the test. Let's get 2 groups of skiers on the hill. One group will concentrate on DTP, the other will concentrate on this wedge turn the gang is so proud of. We'll take before and after video. At the end of the day, we'll see which group progressed faster.

I know where I'm putting my money. :wink:

Postby Harald » Tue Apr 20, 2004 11:25 am

SCSA, you could not be more correct. When I was on the National Demonstration team they had us practicing the same way for hours, useless Wedge Christies that no one wanted to learn, maneuvers that only the best skiers could produce, there were no two demo team members that could do the same Wedge Christie on the same day. How do they expect regular skiers do learn to ski this way? These are useless exercises produced to keep simple minds occupied. Yes, they have come a long way in the last ten years, but it?s by going in circles.
By the way, for those that missed it, this post is a dig on TTS and the US organization that perpetuates them.

Postby *SCSA » Tue Apr 20, 2004 1:36 pm


I watched them. That's how I came to my conclusion.

First, one of leaders would do this long explanation. Then, he/she/it would do the wedge. They could do it, but I'm telling you. Everyone else that did it, well, it looked like a regular wedge turn to me. :roll: Then, they spent so long on it, I bet no two of them could do it the same way!

But what the heck is going on here? Why, are people still wasting time on this bs stuff when they could be focusing on direct parallel? It makes zero sense to me!

Yes. I believe that skiers can't do this move the way the gang wants them to. Or, if they can do the move, it'd take them...gawd knows how long to get it "right"?:!:

So yeah, sure. Maybe a few skiers can learn this move. But if it takes them hours or days, wouldn't that time be better spent learning balance, the weighted release, or moves that actually matter, in all mountain skiing?

Sure it would!

Can anyone out there tell me where the wedge matters in all mountain skiing? No one I ski with ever uses it, that's for sure! Guest, you seem to be a purveyor of wedge turns. Where does it apply?

Companies like HSS, Eric D., Peter Keelty and Lito, are teaching great concepts. Giving skiers what they need to excel. Meanwhile, the gang is trying to do wedge turns better. :roll:

And they're the leaders? You've got to be kidding. :roll:

Here's one for ya. On Sunday, one group was on Prima, taking their bumps test. I rip down past them ALL, then stop and look up the hill. One female yells down and says to me, "Excuse me. But I'm taking my exam. Would you mind if you didn't ski until I'm finished?" Ya know, like she needed Prima all to herself. :roll:

I just looked up at her and smiled with my big ole teeth, "When are you guys going to quit teaching skiers the wedge?" She answered back, "Well, you gotta start them somewhere." Then she took off for her test.

It was at that point that my antagonist side kicked in. :P :lol:

So I let her go, even gave her a big start. Then I took off, taking a way harder line. I still waxed her and I'd been drinking beer half the day!

:arrow: Wedge turns, schmedge turns.

Postby milesb » Tue Apr 20, 2004 1:56 pm

You know, I asked that question a few years ago, and never got an satisfactory answer, so I dropped it. "If most instructors can't tell the difference between a gliding wedge and a braking wedge, how is the student supposed to be able to tell?"
Why teach beginners something that is so difficult that level 1 and 2 instructors have to intensively train and practice to do it right?
Maybe when I used to teach kids to play guitar, I should have had them attempt a B flat bar chord on their first lesson!
But hey, what do I know? Wedge away!
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Postby *SCSA » Wed Apr 21, 2004 6:38 am

milesC says it good.

He's right! Look at all the preparation someone has to do, just to do the darn thing. And like he says, if "the pros" can't even do it right, or it takes them hours to practice it, how do they expect a beginning skier to do it? Or, let's say it took a beginning skier 4 or 5 days to get it "right" (whatever that means). They're still no closer to parallel! Skiers pay for a lesson, then are taught movements that they'll most likely never get right! How could they? There's no book to study from, no video to watch!

I'll submit right here right now that teaching the Gliding wedge is whooey. All it does is teach skiers to do wedge turns better.

Gliding wedge? Blah bla blah.

I can't even believe what a lousy product that is. :roll: They might as well be leading skiers around in circles.

Wedges to learn edge control

Postby John Mason » Thu Apr 22, 2004 10:04 am

Pierre up on Epic posted a thread about this and described that a wedge gives a basis of stability to try with one ski how much of an edge one can actually do.

I worked with a first time skier, my brother in law warren, and by the end of the morning he was edging to turn. He was comfortable on the blues. We didn't wedge once. We went to the other side of the mountain and found ice ridges of grooming and we still needed to get down even though his edging skills and balance at this point would not be able to handle these more narrow "groomed ice" trails. We had already worked on sideslipping with lower foot being the accelerator and upper foot being the brake, so we just did that all the way down. So even in a case on a first day where many would say you must wedge, it was safer and easier to not wedge at all.

Anyway - you can do side slip drills to learn and feel how edging feels to very extreme angles. You can do railroad turns in a traverse. I personally still don't see a teaching value to the wedge. I like what HH and Lito say about sking in that when you get down to it improving in skiing is all about improving balance. That does not happen with wedges or wide stances.

You see the TTS crowd, often the same people espousing the wedge as a teaching tool, also eschewing any "negative movement". Well, the wedge is of course the biggest "negative movement" ever to happen to skiing.

I have also seen people argue, what are you going to do with a busload of beginners. They'll say you have to use the wedge. I don't understand this. It's hard to ski in a wedge, not easy. You also don't have much control. If you are wedging and gotten comfortable with it, what happens once you encounter your first slightly steeper terrain and your wedge is not warped enough to stop you? (usually this move is accompanied by the paniced beginner vocalizing some interesting sounds)

In PMTS you learn to stop by turning uphill and by controlling your edge engagement. This is easy for beginners to learn and much easier than wedging to stop. Wedgers can also be taught to steer uphill to stop, but often they learn to stop by digging their wedge straight ahead in deeper. Just more and more negative movements that have nothing to do with real skiers and real skiing.
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Postby mechanic » Thu Apr 22, 2004 1:08 pm


Think about this scenerio. A thousand beginners, fifty instructors, one acre of teaching terrain. Things are so tight your classes ski tails are interspaced with the tails of the class behind you. You have a patch of snow ten to fifteen meters long and five meters or less wide to work with. You have one to one and a half hours to make these people as safe on the hill as possible because as soon as the lesson is over they are heading for the lift to join several thousand others on a couple hundred acres of slope. And did I mention that they are all middle schoolers. That is aproximately the situation at the resort where Pierre works. Given that scenerio I don't really see a way to get around teaching a breaking wedge. Can anyone here come up with an alternative to what they have been doing given the numbers and the limited terrain.


Postby Ott Gangl » Thu Apr 22, 2004 1:54 pm

mechanic, I have instructed on the same hill as Pierre. Thanks for describing the real life scenario.

John, sometimes you are so full of it I have to chuckle. First of all, rarely do folks take a lesson the first time out. Or the second time, or the third time. They finally take a lesson because they can't go on by themselves anymore, having tried the leaning stuff while standing bolt upright, they fall over. So they try bending over from the waist and throwing their behind back and forth and that doesn't work too well either.

So they watch the five year old coming down the steeps in a wedge and they try it. Lo and behold it works somewhat, enough to where for the first time they enjoy skiing. But that doesn't help to get ahead on their own so they take a lesson. I have had hundreds of them in my 25 years of teaching, and believe me, if they were able to do a correct gliding wedge it wouldn't have taken long to get them parallel.

But instead their strong leg is straight and highly edged and that ski is tracking and the weak side ski is nearly flat and that ski is sideslipping and even in that wedge the skis wont turn without body rotation. In general, a big mess.

To paraphrase: " Oh Lord wont you send me a never-ever student". They are easy to teach.

But neither do first time skiers, or golfers, or bowlers,etc. take a lesson. No, they get the bad habits first on their own, trying to learn from books or magazines.


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Hi Ott

Postby John Mason » Thu Apr 22, 2004 3:30 pm

I think it would be interesting for people to share their experiences working in just that situation. Warren was an adult, but I would think kids pick up things even faster.

I can appreciate that the braking wedge gets them down the hill. But I also believe this is not an effective way to teach anyone. On EPIC there was a stat with references posted that the skier retention rate is about 15%. In other words, of the people that try sking with a lesson, only 15% ski again. If that is true, could it be that the pain and instability of sking with a wedge is a factor? My wife has not skied again since her first wedge based lesson. She felt so out of control skiing that way. I feel out of control if I just try what I see wedging folks out there do.

I was first taught in a wedge at my lesson too. I spent a very frustrating week with some nasty falls as I crossed my tips. Wedging is a dangerous way to ski. It was fear of crossing my tips that I discovered that tipping my inside leg turned me. I was intrigued how inside leg movement was better at controlling where I was going than any active movement of my outside leg. When I got back from that first ski trip I bought all the ski books I could find. I found 4 that taught tipping the unweighted inside ski to turn as the answer to the simple question of "how do you turn your skis". Of course the correct question is "how do I make my skis turn me", but I didn't know that then.

Those 5 books are

Harold Harb's Anyone Can Be an Expert Skier 1 and 2
Eric and Rob Deslauriers - Ski the Whole Mountain
Lito Tejada-Flores - Breakthru on the New Skis
Craig McNeil's little book How to Ski the Blues and Blacks (Without Getting Black and Blue)

There were other books that focused on outside leg steering and seemed clueless about tipping with the inside unweighted or lighter leg to initiate turns.

Ron LeMasters book falls into this category. He has active outside leg steering throughout his book. I found this book interesting in hindsight as later I went to an actual race camp and did not see much overlap to Ron's observations.

Then we have some books that are in the middle - like:

The Athletic Skier and while definately into tipping to turn, has not discovered that tipping the inside leg first is a better focus and a more primary move than trying to tip legs both at the same time.

My 2nd time out skiing I had a PMTS lesson. I had found web sites that documented the normal wedge based skiing progression and it looked like that method was designed specifically either through ignorance or design to rip off the aspiring ski student as they don't have them skiing parallel till after many levels of variations of wedging. And throughout all of these progressions active outside leg steering is never diminished. I understand there is a "centerline" method that is different, but I have not been able to find any information about it.

I then had a week of sking at a race camp and we worked mainly on one ski balance with the same drills Harold has in his book and tipping to turn mainly focusing on the inside less weighted ski. Once again lots of overlap. This also was in stark contrast to the progressions of what the vast majority of people go through when they learn to ski.

Ott - I know you have been doing this gig for a long time and I always enjoy your historical pictures. One of the things Lito and HH bring up is that the new way of instructing beginners is an oppourtunity that has been made possible specifically because of the new shaped skis. It may certainly be that wedging was the only way to get people down the hill as they certainly were not going to get the skis to turn them by tipping alone on the former technology. My understanding is that back then you would need to also bend the skis by preassuring the tips to get them to carve. None of that is applicable anymore. A simple tip now turns you.

Shaped skis are not new anymore, yet the vast majority of ski schools have not changed what they teach. At least not that I have run into.

Hopefully some PMTS trainers that actually work with hordes of newbie beginning 5 year olds can say what they do with them.

By the way, personally, I view a wide stance as just as bad a "sin" as the wedge. Both deny development of balance.

P.S. Ott - I hope my observations continue to crack you up. If I can make anyone happy even at my own expense, more power to me!
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Postby Harald » Thu Apr 22, 2004 4:32 pm

Lack of imagination is the thing that holds ski areas, ski school directors and instructors back from implementing more effective movements to teach skiers. I don?t care how many skiers or beginners you have on limited terrain; there are better ways to teach skiers than the TTS. I have taught in those situations and the Direct Parallel method is superior in every way. I continue to see responses to this issue from the same folks. If you have the motivation to do a better job for your students and your ski school, you will begin to free up your sprit and resist the temptation to fall back on what you know. What you don?t know is intimidating and scary true, but embarking on a new path is also an adventure. If I was forced to teach the wedge in any situation, I would quit.

I have managed bus loads of teenagers, in a confined area at a mid west ski school, with tremendous success. A loosely designed station system is very effective for direct parallel. You have to think out of the box. I hate that term, because it has become meaningless, everyone thinks they are out of the box these days, yet they aren?t doing anything different than what has done fifty years ago. A little organization and enthusiasm also goes a long way in these situations.

Postby *SCSA » Thu Apr 22, 2004 4:37 pm

That's right!

Just fing quit! Walk up to those in charge, kick 'em in gonads and say, "Screw you and you're gawd damned wedge turns. I'm not doin it, goodbye."

A he/she/it has got to take a stand!

Postby Ott Gangl » Fri Apr 23, 2004 7:23 am

Harald, the trend to teach direct parallel is gaining foothold all over in all teaching systems worldwide as they recognize the potential of the new equipment. And even with the wedge based instruction for first times I see them skiing parallel, at least somewhat, by the third or fourth time out. It is the fear of going too fast and losing control that makes beginners use the wedge, even if they never ever had a lesson, and as you know, the majority of skiers on the mountain at any time have never taken a lesson, by far.

As for teens, I see incredibly excellent skiers who came out of the school programs, most mogul and freestyle participants are teens or just out of their teens who often have only skied three or four years. And many of them never had a lesson.

And John, skier retention of about 15% really has nothing to do much with ski instruction. Most dropouts just came with their friends to try it and did't like the cold, the cloggy and uncomfortable boots, as one lady told me, she couldn't feel elegant in the skiing getup, and a zillion other reasons.

Once they decide to take a lesson they are at least semi-commited to stay. I bet the bad lessons aren't one percent of the defection, I have talked to several regular skiers, after suggesting a lesson to them, and they said they had a bad lesson so they just never took another one and are quite happy to slodge along however they can.

Very, very few skiers are as involved with skiing technique as you are, most don't cre if they ever will carve or how they make a turn as long as they are having fun. Just look, the happiest skiers are that group slithering down a green run laughing and hooting and hollering. That is really what skiing is all about, fun, just like dancing, it is the joy of body movement.

Not to say that better skiing isn't more fun, but fun can suffer when the quest for perfect technique becomes religiously compulsive.

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I know it's anecdotal but..

Postby John Mason » Fri Apr 23, 2004 7:35 am

Most the people I know that I talked to this year that have tried sking but won't any more are not as you describe. The typical story is they went with a group like high school or junior high or church youth group and went to a ski resort and had the low cost introductory lesson. They had a bad experience and never will go skiing again.

So in my circle of contacts the people that tried skiing with an intro lesson vs the people that never had a lesson, the people with the lesson have a worse retention rate. I find that most odd.

I don't know the stats overall, but I think that even my anecdotal stat is revealing. When I ask these indivduals why they didn't like it as I try to convince them to try it again, the problems they describe "knees hurt" "felt out of control" "kept crossing my tips and falling", etc. These impressions of skiing all relate to them being started out with the wedge.

Of course, if any industry or business is going to improve, there has to be some sort of measurement put in place. While my story is anecdotal, the ski industry, the large resort schools, normally don't have a survey or quality system in place. These schools have no idea how many budding skiers, potential life long skiers, just move on and never ski again. I wonder how many dollars they lose with this teaching approach. They appear to judge their ski schools by bottom line dollars only and ignore the potential growth they could achieve by increasing their skier retention rates by changing how instruction is done.
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Postby Ott Gangl » Fri Apr 23, 2004 8:00 am

Be honest, John, in the many lessons you had in the last year, how many of them were group lessons with 15 to 20 students and how much individual attention did you get in that one hour lesson?

The kids coming out on the bus for the most part are there for socializing and consider the hour spent in class as a neccessary pain that interferes with their socializing. Even while in class they tell jokes instead of listening and wave to their friends on the chair or flip snow at each other with their ski shovels or try to push each other over.

Although they have four hours at the area, they spend the three hours left after class in the lodge creating mayham and eating junk food and enjoying the unsupervised time with each other, after all the adult supervisor with them, mostly a non-skier, can't watch everyone.

And since school programs are prepaid in the fall anbd are non-refundable, these kids come out to get their five lessons and once a week skiing for the season, so mid-season dropouts are rare.

15% will be back, hopefully not more since the area is overcrowded already.

edit: I just want to mention that in past years beginner injuries while falling in parallel were that they put their knee out on the side they were falling and dug that knee into the snow while they were still moving forward and the knee had stopped.

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Postby Harald » Fri Apr 23, 2004 8:26 am

Otto, with all due respect, I know the figures and I know the results of the surveys that NSAA did, as PMTS, I and Bob Hintermeister, just presented this and our own research to the International Congress of Skiing and Science. I will post Bob?s abstract and also my abstract, which is on ski simulators on this forum at some point. The mid west ski areas actually have better results at retaining skiers than the western, Colorado, Utah etc. resorts.
The average of 1.5 skiers returning for every ten in a beginner class is bad. This is directly attributable to a number of things. Some of the reasons for this horrible return rate are poor rental equipment, poor ski instruction for the type of rental equipment.

Many ski schools teach a wedge on shaped skis; this just doesn?t work, especially at altitude where the leg muscles are always fighting the turning into each other (converging) capability of the skis. Schools would be better off to teach wedge or TTS on straight skis.


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