SI Vault
Schoolbells for a Pro
Bayard Hooper
December 15, 1958
Stein Eriksen, one of the world's great skiers, joins a class and learns to teach
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December 15, 1958

Schoolbells For A Pro

Stein Eriksen, one of the world's great skiers, joins a class and learns to teach

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Schaeffler then set off down through a field of heavy, crusty snow called "crud" in ski parlance. He passed through it flawlessly, followed by some of the other examiners in the group. At the bottom they all whipped out score cards, and Schaeffler waved the first candidate down. Some made it standing and others did not. Eriksen came through with Examiner George Engel skiing alongside, watching closely. Something in Eriksen's style makes even a dashing skier look fairly pedestrian, especially when Eriksen breaks into free-swinging "mambo turns" to show how easy the going really is.

"Skiing next to Stein," said Engel afterward, mopping his brow, "makes you want to crawl around to the back side of the mountain and come down on your hands and knees."

Next on the menu was a ride down the mean little drop known as The Standard. Snow started to come in that day, and in the flat, gray light, The Standard, with its rugged bumps all the way down, was a rather cheerless-looking half-mile stretch.

The instructors skidded manfully in Schaeffler's wake, trying to show form as best they could under the conditions. Eriksen skied down almost regally indifferent to poor light and bad bumps. Some instructors looked like instructors, but there were others whose descent would have warmed the heart of every skier who has ever floundered under his teacher's mocking eye. There were some real crash-and-burn nose dives.

That was the end of the free-skiing, or, how-well-do-you-ski?, examination. Now it was time for the how-well-can-you-teach? phase.

On succeeding days the examiners manned demonstration stations. At Station One the candidates were to show the proper way to teach walking, and at Station Two, the proper way to teach the snowplow—and so on. This phase was the one in which the certification people expected that Eriksen might have trouble.

In the first place, the matter of proper teaching method is a bit complicated these days. Each ski school has its own variation of the magic needed to bring a nonskier safely into the slippery world of snow.


At Arapahoe, each instructor had to show he possessed a consistent system in which the basic steps lead logically into the advanced turns. Since Eriksen is well known as an advocate of a sort of "delayed shoulder" turning not yet practiced in the southern Rockies, it remained to be seen whether he could convince the examiners that he had a logical and orderly progression of teaching tactics. Eriksen's case was complicated by the fact that his personal style carries the reverse shoulder to a point beyond the abilities of a mere expert. The examiners were half-prepared for some serious omissions on the lower end of Stem's teaching method.

To almost everyone's surprise, Eriksen demonstrated an orthodox series of steps beginning with the snowplow and introducing the delayed shoulder only at the late stages of the teaching. All the way down the mountain Eriksen gave clear and careful explanations of each step. He also showed that he was a good teacher—that he liked an audience and could give a good show.

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