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Four years ago the ski school at Kitzb�hel, Austria tried to reduce the dropout rate among its pupils by starting them on a smaller ski—six to eight inches shorter than the standards. The Kitzb�hel instructors were delighted at the results.
Then, four years ago, some of the members of the outing club at Brattleboro, Vt. began to make short skis of their own. The idea was further developed by Taylor, a part-time ski instructor, who designed a 5-footer and had 350 pairs made.
Like the Kitzb�hel instructors, Taylor found that those pupils who tried the 5-foot skis were easier to teach and that they quickly developed through the novice and intermediate stages to join the ranks of the advanced skiers.
"This all started me thinking," said Taylor. "I wondered how short you could make a ski and still have it work. So I started experimenting."
By the time he was through experimenting last spring, Taylor had come up with the radical, short-short ski (see drawing at right), just 32 inches long which he called the Shortee Wedeln ($19.95). He passed several pairs out to friends. Suddenly, intermediates who had been unable to ski well even with the 5-foot model blossomed into advanced form. "You can do anything you want to with the short skis," says Taylor, "because they will turn with one-tenth the power needed to turn standard skis."
Eventually, the pupil acquires enough technique to want to ski faster. Then, of course, he must move up to the standard-length ski to get the stability needed to stay upright at higher speeds.
"We found," said Taylor, "that the skier can use the short ski to build up the correct form and the confidence to execute the advanced turns. Then he gets on the long skis, gets them going a little faster and they will do the same thing as the short skis were doing for him."
It sounds almost too good to be true, but Taylor insists that anyone—even a class A racer—can improve his skiing with a day on short skis.
"And beginners," said Taylor, "have never learned so fast. I found that most people are natural skiers if you give their feet a chance."