SI Vault
Willy Schaeffler
December 16, 1957
The Freedom of the snow fields beckons with this second lesson of the series on the new shortswing technique by Willy Schaeffler, Denver University ski coach and head of the ski school at Arapahoe Basin. Three weeks ago on these pages Willy showed 17 living room exercises to prepare you for the supple heel thrust and reverse shoulder turns in this new method. Now he shows under actual skiing conditions how the shortswing really works.
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December 16, 1957

Traverses And Basic Turns

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There are only two ways a skier can turn—in toward the slope or out toward the fall line, the line of steepest descent down a hill. Your first shortswing turn, shown below and at right, is toward the slope—a nice, safe way to go, and one that takes very little effort. Starting in a traverse, and using the edge control and unweighting by downward movement learned in side-slipping, you add one small ingredient: a gentle outward thrust of the heels that sets the skis swinging in an arc across the snow. Starting a turn by heel push is one of the great shortswing innovations, in contrast to the Arlberg and French techniques, where the turn impulse is a shoulder swing transmitted to the fronts of the skis.

Treetop view of shortswing into slope shows downhill shoulder and hip drawn well back, body bent in comma, knees, ankles flexed to start heel thrust.

Learning swing, Ann shows hangover from old technique in bringing downhill shoulder forward. As teaching aid, Willy crooks poles inside elbows, which helps force downhill shoulder back. Ann tries it (right) and finds it works—shoulder back, she now can start her swing in the correct position.

Front view of swing to slope, done on steeper hill than rear view, gives clear look at difference between easy comma in traverse and strong comma at point of heel thrust in turn. On gentle slope, Schaeffler needed old-fashioned forward bend from the hip to get momentum for last part of turn. On steep hill, natural speed from the terrain provides all necessary forward push. Willy's position at end of swing, and all his movements through this turn, are identical to those of advanced turns to come.

Turning over bump, (below) Ann uses natural fallaway of terrain to unweight backs of skis for heel push and swing. Learning to read terrain, using natural hill contours to help turns, makes skiing much easier. Note Ann's excellent comma, shoulder pulled back in a strong reverse position.

Rear View of swing to slope shows Willy moving in slow traverse (1) on easy beginner's hill. To start turn impulse he pulls downhill shoulder a bit farther to the rear to prepare for heel thrust. As in side-slip, he unweights skis by bending knees and hips down and more toward slope. With shoulders back and comma increased (2), skis have already started to turn. Then, with outward and downward thrust of heels (3), Willy swings skis through 45� arc. Again imitating side-slip, he stops turn by edging skis (4), then easing comma to start off in a new traverse.


Once you get the feeling of edge control, you are ready for the snowplow, the best maneuver for controlling your speed in your first turn through the fall line (right). This is the most despised of all maneuvers—many experts sneer at it as a beginner's crutch, and beginners hate it because they are usually prodded into it before they have learned to use their edges, with the results shown by Ann below. With edge control, however, there is nothing for the novice to worry about. Just relax and brush out with the tails of the skis. As for the skeptical experts, Schaeffler points out that Toni Sailer used the snowplow as a brake in winning the Olympic downhill. Furthermore, the heel-brushing snowplow that Willy demonstrates below is a shortcut to the linked parallel turns he will teach next week in Part Three.

Common mistake of experienced skiers is to bend knees too far, spread backs of skis too wide. Skis must be brushed gently, not forced.

Worst mistake by beginners is to try snowplow before learning edge control. If outside edges dig in, result is stiff jackknife position (top). If unequal pressure is put on inside edges (bottom), skis will start to cross.

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