The dramatic figure shown here swinging through a graceful turn is Willy Schaeffler, coach of the University of Denver's national ski champions. If he appears to be breaking the old rules of ski technique, he is—and more. On these pages, and in the Dec. 16 and Dec. 23 issues, Schaeffler shows, for the first time in detail, how the revolutionary reverse-shoulder technique that has swept Europe can be adapted for the average American recreational skier. Thus he opens a new era on the snow-fields in which the graceful style of the world's best racers become the common property of all skiers. Turn page to begin the first lesson.
Shortswing turn, shown in swing to left by Schaeffler, cuts out tiring rotation and up-and-down-weighting of traditional Arlberg and French techniques. Entire force for new turn shown above comes from thrust by legs and heels, with hips and upper body bent into commalike position (right) at climax of turn as counterforce for leg thrust. Shoulders, instead of leading turn, swivel in opposite direction, squaring around only when skier is ready to start new turn.
THE FIRST LESSON: PRESEASON
To anyone used to skiing with the Arlberg or French technique, the most startling new movements in the short-swing are the reverse shoulder, the heel thrust and the comma position. In the old techniques, shoulder rotation was the key to all direction changes, and the shoulder swing was a powerful movement that pulled your skis around through the snow. For example, in a turn to the left, the skier began by winding his shoulders back to the right like a sidearm pitcher getting ready to throw. Then he swung his shoulders around to the left, and the force of this rotation swung the skis to the left, with the tips pointing the new direction and the backs of the skis following along like the rear wheels of an automobile. The important thing was to keep a firm connection between the upper and lower body so that the skis responded instantly to any shoulder movement. These rotation turns were abetted by much up-and-down movement in the knees and hips to take weight off the backs of the skis. And as the skier swung through the turn, he leaned inward like a bicycle rider going around a corner. There was no emphasis on heel thrust because the shoulder swing was so powerful that any added heel thrust was likely to make the skier turn too far, leaving the skis pointing back up the hill with the skier starting a slow, reluctant schuss backward down the slope.
In the shortswing, however, everything is different. Shoulder rotation is out, and turns are made with an easy, natural rhythm. In every turn, the shoulders lag behind, following after the skis have been set in the new direction. The new turning force is a subtle outward thrust of the heels, not a violent push; and as he thrusts with his heels the skier actually twists his shoulders back in the opposite direction from the turn. Instead of bending forward from the hips, the skier keeps his upper body almost erect. And instead of leaning in toward the center of the turn, he leans his upper body out over the skis, with his knees and hips curved toward slope in the comma position.
Now, all this is pretty powerful stuff for any beginner, and perhaps even puzzling to the expert schooled in the old rotation technique. To make it simpler, Schaeffler has worked out the living room exercises shown below and on the following pages as a dry-land cram course in the new technique. By practicing these exercises you can, without even putting on a ski, get the feeling of the basic movements in the shortswing turn and get some idea why your shoulders have to be swiveled around in the reverse position and your body bent into the comma. Better still, while you work on these exercises you will at the same time be conditioning the muscles that you will use when you actually begin to ski.
On page 54 Bonnie Prudden shows two exercises that any skier ought to work on to tone up the basic ski muscles he has not used since last winter. The Schaeffler exercises, for their part, are geared directly to the shortswing. The ones below and at right are quite easy to do, and anyone who has been following Bonnie's general conditioning program can ignore the beginners' limits given for each exercise and just keep doing them until he gets tired. The ones on the next five pages, however, take a little straining, and if you suspect that you are the least bit out of shape leave them alone for a week until your skiing muscles tone up. When you do start them, begin with the dose that Willy recommends and don't increase the dose too fast.
In the Dec. 16 and Dec. 23 issues Schaeffler will strap on the skis and take you out on the slopes to demonstrate each vital phase of the new technique and show how it can be mastered. By that time, having worked on your exercises for three weeks, you will be able to move right into the shortswing classes with some confidence in your ability to make the movements in the new turn. Thus you can be sure of a full day of good skiing the first time out instead of having to waste half your time resting at the bottom of the slope.
Shortswing jump reproduces motions of new turning technique. Stand with feet together, then jump quickly from side to side. Note how heels thrust out as toes touch floor, shoulders lag behind hips, and body assumes comma position at end of each jump. Twenty times.
Change-Step jump starts with right foot in front of left, right shoulder advanced, body bent left in comma. Exerciser jumps up, switches position of feet and reverses shoulders before landing. This prepares skier for maneuvers in which legs swing in opposite direction from upper body, also conditions legs, chest muscles. Ten times right and left.