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.
Heel thrust shows real source of turning power in shortswing. Stand with feet together, knees slightly flexed. In one quick motion, squat down no more than six inches and thrust heels to left or right. Let the shoulders lag, then square them off and straighten up and you will find you have turned about 45°. Since balance is tricky in this exercise, beginners should stand next to wall or chair. Fifteen times.
Ankle touch shows why downhill shoulder must be held back to allow skier to keep flexible comma position. Standing with knees slightly flexed, shoulders-squared, try to touch right ankle with right hand. It's almost impossible. Now pull back right shoulder, and body easily bends so that hand can reach ankle. Ten times right and left.
Comma bend strengthens and stretches body muscles used in basic traverse position as well as in long traverse when skier propels himself by thrusting with the downhill ski, as shown at left. Start with feet spread, arms over head. Shift weight to left leg and slowly bend left knee with right knee straight, at same time bending upper body to right. Hold for count of three. Five times, right and left.
Stork stretch is one-legged balancing exercise that reflects comma position, prepares skier for turns and traverses in which weight will be concentrated on downhill ski. For this exercise, stand with feet together, left hand over head, and slowly bend to right until left leg is parallel with floor. Hold position for a count of five. Three times each side.
Buddha Squat toughens stomach muscles for body control in rough terrain, also stretches thigh, hip muscles to give them looseness needed in shortswing's rhythmic turns. Begin exercise by sitting on floor with soles of feet together, knees spread out to sides, hands gripping toes to hold them together. Slowly roll over onto one leg, and keep rolling down onto your shoulder until you are lying on your back. Then roll back up the same way you came down. If you don't make it, keep fighting awhile. The first week you probably won't be able to roll back. When you make it, you are ready to try the exercise twice. Until then, once is plenty.
Rock and roll stretches virtually all muscles in front part of body, arms and legs. Lie down on stomach, bend knees until you can reach back and grab each instep with hand. Once you have hold of your feet, pull with arms, arch back and raise head. Rock forward and back three times, rest for a moment, then rock three more times.
Phantom Chair is toughener for thigh muscles, which act as shock absorbers on bumpy runs, give initial force to heel thrust in turns. Stand with back to wall, feet 18 inches out from base of wall. Sink down to a sitting position, hold for 15 seconds, then rest and try again. When you get so you can count to 30, try it on one leg.
Jackknife jump strengthens thighs, stomach, Achilles' tendons, helps coordination and timing vital to rhythmic shortswing. Stand erect, jump up and touch toes with knees as straight as possible, land on the toes. Five times.
Stooper's Strut stretches the Achilles' tendons, back muscles, also helps with balance. Bend and grasp toes; keep the knees straight, then start walking. Women, more supple in lower body than men, take 20 steps, men take 10.
Slow roll is falling exercise, teaches skier to relax in unfamiliar position, also strengthens stomach, leg muscles. Skier in correct comma position tends to fall out over slope—scarier but safer than falling into slope—and then rolls backward. To condition body for such falls, lie on back, arms out, and raise legs, with knees stiff, until toes touch floor behind head. Do slow side split, return to original position. Three times.
Airplane Spin loosens arms and upper body, strengthens thighs, helps timing and also teaches skier to relax when feet are off ground and body is turning in air. Spread feet, crank shoulders back, then jump and unwind, making complete turn in air. If full turn makes you dizzy, start with half turns. Three times each way.
Lazy comma strengthens and stretches muscles used in all shortswing turns and traverses. It helps prepare for quick stop turns like the one shown on cover. Lie on side with arms over head. Hook feet under couch or bed, slowly raise body. Count three. Four times each side.
Dry skating imitates position used in leg-pushing traverse and in normal skating. From standing start, leap forward, spreading arms. Land on toes, then jump to other foot. Twelve times.
Split jump strengthens leg and arm muscles, also conditions small muscles in feet and ankle which take so much of the strain in comma position and heel-thrust turns. Stand straight with feet together, jump up and do fore-and-aft split. Land on toes and jump again, switching leg and arm positions in air. Ten times.
Front split loosens thigh" and hips, stretches and strengthens groin muscles used in heel-brushing snow plow of shortswing technique. Begin exercise by lying on stomach. Do pushup and hold arms stiff. Then throw feet forward and out so that feet land on same line on floor as hands. Jump back to prone position. Five times.
DEC. 16: SECOND LESSON
Three weeks from now, when your shortswing muscles are tuned up, Willy Schaeffler will take you out on the slopes and show you how to do the most stylish, most effortless turns you have ever made. He begins with a simple traverse in the comma position and takes you through a heel-brushing stem turn. Each phase and maneuver of the lesson points toward the climactic parallel turn shown on pages 34-35. But best of all, as you work up to this perfect parallel swing, you will be learning a system in which each successive turn is simpler and more effective than in any previous system of skiing.