Two years ago a dramatic change swept through American skiing. Willy Schaeffler, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's contributing ski editor, introduced his modification of the new Austrian shortswing style in these pages (Nov. 25, 1957 et seq.). Thereafter, two out of three skiers on the hill were either trying the shortswing or talking about it. But the ski teachers who developed the Austrian shortswing under Professor Stefan Kruckenhauser did not stop experimenting in 1957. The theory and technique of shortswing today has been carried further. In collaboration with Kruckenhauser and Friedl Wolfgang, Clemens (Miki) Hutter, a young Austrian Ph.D. (currently an instructor at the Sugarbush ski area in Vermont), created a new and exciting learning technique called Sprungwedeln. It employs quick, springing jumps to bring skiers more rapidly into shortswing's final stage, Wedeln—which is a series of swiftly connected shortswing turns that marks the accomplished recreational skier. Late last winter Willy Schaeffler explored and confirmed the thesis of Sprungwedeln: that leg spring plus countermovement of the upper body versus the lower body is the heart of shortswing. Then Schaeffler set to work expanding and modifying Hutter's exercises to meet the needs of American skiers. At left, Schaeffler demonstrates a basic learning maneuver in Sprungwedeln: a Sprung, or abbreviated leap with pole held in the hands. It looks startling. It works effectively. Sprungwedeln, Part I, begins at right by commanding the skier to hold his poles in both hands while he concentrates on the spring and countermovement that will lead new and old skiers alike to smoother skiing.
Snowplow ballet: the first step
Snowplow ballet is a practice maneuver that has several purposes. The first is to teach you how the upper body swivels in opposition to the lower body as the turn progresses. One of the common mistakes in shortswing is to bend sideways over the outside ski to make the weight-shift, ignoring the counterswivel of the upper body that should take place. In snowplow ballet the poles are held well out toward the ends and always kept parallel to the ground. The arms then swing in an exaggeration of normal shortswing arm movements. The position of the hands at the ends of the poles forces the outside shoulder back as long as you hold onto the poles. The second purpose of the snowplow ballet is to make you get your weight over the outside ski. Normally, a jab of the pole can cover up failure to shift the weight. Deprived of your pole as a pivoting device, however, you cannot go through a plow ballet turn with too much weight on the inside ski. Third, by repeating the ballet cycle rapidly, you will learn that the weight shift from one leg to another is initiated, not by lifting your weight with the pole, but by a straightening of the weighted leg.
ove slowly down fall line in the snowplow position, thighs nearly vertical. Knees bend forward and inward to edge skis. Poles are horizontal, waist-high.
o turn left, poles swing over almost parallel to right ski, body bends from waist to throw weight to right ski. Knee turns inward to increase edging of right ski. Left ski just brushes over snow.
s soon as skis turn left somewhat, start right turn. Poles swing over left ski, body bends left. Left knee turns inward to edge left ski. Object of ballet cycle is to make possible rapid shifts from left turn to right turn and back.
Gentle slope is required for practice of snowplow ballet. Arrow above traces path of skier as he starts in fall line and then makes a left and a right turn. If he shifts weight from ski to ski as quickly as he should in going from one turn to another, the result is a snakelike path, and skier seems to be dancing a swift ballet down fall line.
Stem ballet: for steeper terrain
Stem ballet is practiced as a long sweeping turn on somewhat steeper terrain than snowplow ballet. The object is to emphasize correct weight shift, correct edging and finishing the turn with skis parallel. Stem ballet starts from a traverse. This means that the first weight shift is from downhill leg to uphill leg and also that all upper-body movement is complete before the skis start turning toward the fall line. The weight shift from one leg to the other is initiated through an almost invisible spring from the weighted leg. Thus, shifting weight and stemming in the stem-ballet turn become rapid simultaneous movements that tend to skid the stemmed ski into the fall line with almost the full weight of the skier on it. If the weight shift is made too slowly the stemmed ski will not skid toward the fall line and the turn will be hard to start. An even worse mistake, made frequently, is failing to put any weight at all on the uphill leg when turning from a traverse. The skier who puts out a timid stem and then steers himself toward the fall line with the weight still on the inside ski will be going too fast to shift his weight successfully to the outside ski. The inevitable result is a fall. So much for proper weight shift. Once you are in the fall line, gravity will pull you straight down the hill unless you dig the inside edge of your outside ski into the snow to steer you out of the fall line again. In order to make that edge bite deeply, you will see that you have to bend the outside knee inward under you, just as in the snow-plow ballet. Edging with the knee from the bent-leg short-swing stem position is easy. Skiers who attempt to edge while the outside leg is straight will find that the knee does not bend inward from this position and the ski consequently does not edge. The last lesson to be had from the stem ballet is that your turn should end with the skis together, thus giving you practice brushing over the snow with skis parallel, as they will be in the advanced turns to come. After running with skis in parallel position for a while, a quick straightening of the weighted leg followed by an equally quick uphill stem and upper body counterswivel will start you off on your next turn.
tart in traverse position, moving at right angles to fall line, poles held parallel to downhill ski and to the ground.
o begin right turn, uphill ski stems out, poles simultaneously swing to position almost paralleling the uphill ski.
temmed ski skids into the fall line, with skier bending from waist to put almost full weight on the stemmed ski.