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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Perfect snowplow starts (top left) with Willy in downhill position, hands at height of belt, knees flexed, body upright but relaxed. To go into plow, Willy pushes heels out, making tails of skis slither across snow into plow position (center). At same time he bends knees slightly to unweight tails of skis and put slight pressure on inside edges. Note that knees are barely more than a hand's breadth apart, not spread wide with subsequent strain on thighs. Once in good plow Willy eases heel push, puts slight weight accent on inside edges (3) in order to start the skis running back together into the normal downhill position. As an edge-control exercise, try brushing in and out of snowplow 3 to 5 times in 20 yards.

Snowplow turn, first full turn through fall line, combines snowplow (shown on opposite page) with comma, edge control learned in sideslip, and swing to slope. Willy starts off traversing slope in snowplow position (1). To turn, he pulls uphill shoulder back, shifts weight by leaning out over uphill ski (2). As soon as weight shift starts skis begin to turn. Halfway through turn (3), Willy is heading straight down fall line, speed controlled by plow with slight pressure on inside edges, left side of body in comma, left ski carving arc of turn. Once past fall line, Willy eases comma (4), moves downhill shoulder forward, finishes sequence in normal snowplow position (5) ready to start new traverse and turn.

Using terrain to help learn the snowplow turn, beginners swing through wide gully, using lift from counterslope at side of gully to unweight upper ski, help start turn.


This is the climax of your basic instruction in the shortswing. On the preceding pages you were taught the comma, the side-slip and the snowplow. These necessary fundamentals must be learned well, for in them are all the elements of the more advanced stem turn shown at right. A stem, as demonstrated below, is half a snowplow. That is, you brush outward with the tail of one ski instead of two, leaving the other leg and ski still pointed in the original direction. Now, there are only two ways to stem—uphill and downhill. Willy shows both below, as he prepares to make a turn to the left. In the right-hand figure Willy does it the old way, stemming with the downhill ski, weight on the uphill ski, uphill shoulder twisted back in a windup ready to start the powerful rotation that will set him into the turn. Obviously there is some waste motion here. Willy wants to turn downhill, but according to the old doctrine he must start by counterrotating and stemming away from the direction of the turn. In the left-hand figure he shows the economy of movement that is the essence of the new shortswing. He wants to turn to the left, so he takes his uphill ski and stems in the direction he wants to go. The right shoulder is back, not as a windup for rotation, but to facilitate the weight shift onto the right ski. Thus, with little more than a shifting of weight, the shortswing stem brings the skier down any slope, under any snow conditions, with more style and rhythm and far less fatigue than ever before.

Starting stem turn, Willy traverses gentle slope in comma position (1), downhill shoulder back, weight on downhill ski. Without shifting weight, he stems uphill ski (2) in direction of turn, pulls uphill shoulder back to prepare for weight shift. Next instant he transfers weight to uphill ski (3), and turn begins. As he comes through fall line (4), weight is on outside ski, left side of body shows comma as in snowplow, but with inside ski angled more toward fall line. Once past fall line, Willy eases comma (5), lets skis run together naturally, starts new traverse (6). Stem turn, like snowplow turn, should be used only when turning out toward the fall line, not for turn into the slope.

Finishing stem turn, Willy and Ann show perfect comma position as they complete a turn to the left. Knees, ankles are flexed, weight is on downhill ski, uphill ski unweighted, ready to stem for turn to the right.

New and old methods for starting stem turn point up dramatic departure of shortswing from old techniques. Willy starts shortswing turn (left) by stemming uphill ski and shifting weight, old-style turn by downhill stem and counterrotation. Note deep bend of uphill knee in old system puts heavy strain on skier's thigh.

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