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Original Issue


The introduction of Sprungwedeln, a new approach to the effective shortswing system of skiing, is climaxed this week with demonstrations by Willy Schaeffler, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Contributing Editor, on the use of the ski pole. Last week Schaeffler showed that it is perfectly possible to make smooth, connected turns using only leg and body action to provide lift and turning force, the two essentials of any fast turn. It follows that the pole is best used as a booster force, not the basic force, in a turn. Any day on the slope you can see skiers trying to do most of their lifting and turning With their poles, completely neglecting leg and body action. The result is slow, ungraceful skiing. The arms simply cannot supply the right moves as quickly as the powerful muscles of the body and legs. On the following pages Schaeffler shows you how to blend the movements of the poles into the basic leg and body action of the short-swing that he demonstrated in Part I. Three of the pole handling exercises are valuable maneuvers in their own right and will add to your repertory of shortswing turns. All the exercises will increases your ability to handle any slope with ease.

Sprungwedeln in place

The first exercise of Part II is a jump turn in place with two poles at once; the second (bottom of the page) is a jump turn in place with alternate poles. These two exercises allow you to think about handling your poles without having to worry about handling terrain at the same time. The exercises preserve the weight shift and counterswivel learned in Part I. Each exercise starts with a jump turn to the right. You spring up and to your left, carrying the tails of the skis in the direction of the arrow, leaving the ski tips in the same spot (red dot). Simultaneously, your upper body counterswivels quickly to move your hands from your right to your left.

Poles go into snow just ahead of boots. Upper body counterswivels to comma position. Legs spring and swing the tails of skis in the direction of arrow. Right hand bears down on pole to help legs swing skis. Upper body counterswivels, moving hands in direction of arrow. Knees bend to soften landing, start new turn to left.

Right pole goes into the snow just ahead of boot. Left pole is free. As legs spring, right hand bears down on pole to help, then pulls pole out by moving across front of body. Left hand moves out, ready to plant pole when skier lands. Then skier jumps back again. The cycle is repeated rapidly from side to side to simulate actual Wedeln.

Traverse Wedeln: across the hill

Traverse Wedeln gives you your first practice in placing the pole while you are moving down the hill. At the beginning of the turn, counterswivel to start your heel push (uppermost figure) and, from the comma position, plant your downhill pole gently. (If you jab hard, the pole will jump back at you and throw you off balance.) In planting the pole, the upper arm on the downhill side hangs fairly close to your body, while the forearm extends at right angles to the direction of the skis. Plant the basket end of the pole halfway out to the ski tip, make your leg spring and, as you approach the basket, bear down on the pole. Then the counterswivel of your upper body moves your hand forward and in to pull the pole out of the snow. Pick an easy traverse, keep your arm relaxed until the moment when it bears on the pole and follow the pattern of hand movement in relation to ski movement that is set up by the exercises on the page opposite. In the traverse Wedeln you first learn to combine the thrust from the poles with the thrust of the legs. This produces greater lifting and turning than leg spring alone can give. In contrast to all the sequences you have learned so far, traverse Wedeln is not merely an exercise, but a shortswing maneuver in its own right. You can use traverse Wedeln to your advantage whenever you run a trail that traverses the face of a steep hill.

Start in traverse line, counterswivel upper body to comma position to begin heel push to the downhill side.

At end of heel push, plant downhill pole, start leg spring. Bear down on pole and swing the tails of the skis.

As tails swing up, downhill hand moves forward, uphill hand goes back and out, ready to plant the pole.

Uphill pole is planted as skis land. Downhill hand moves across body to pull downhill pole out of the snow.

Downhill pole tip moves forward as the heel push provides downhill slide. Uphill hand pulls pole from snow.

Gentle traverse is best terrain for practice of traverse Wedeln. Pairs of tracks on diagram below (from left) indicate 1) position of skis as skier starts heel push, 2) position of skis at end of heel push, 3) position of skis at end of uphill hop, 4) skis at finish of downhill heel push. Tracks are similar to those made by skier practicing traverse ballet demonstrated in Part I, except that use of pole allows skier to slow his forward progress and thus make tighter turns.

The single Sprung turn

The single Sprung turn (above), essentially a long jump turn across the fall line, is the basic unit of Sprungwedeln (opposite page), the climactic maneuver for which all the exercises in Part I and Part II have been preparing you. The single Sprung, like traverse Wedeln, is a valuable turn in its own right. It is the best way to handle a short, steep drop-off. In the first place, the jump is made with the tails of the skis high, tips near the ground, so that your weight stays forward over your boots. This is exactly where it belongs for handling steep terrain. Second, the single Sprung effectively slows your descent by deflecting your forward momentum. In a single Sprung turn, as the two upper figures on this page demonstrate, the pole thrust moves you a considerable distance to the side. The single Sprung slows you down in two other ways: 1) it allows you to land hard enough to get your edges to bite deeply into the snow; 2) it gives you time to swing your skis close to the traverse line where the skis have their greatest braking power.

At start, upper body takes the comma position as skis run at 45° angle to the fall line. Hand plants pole just behind ski tip.

Leg spring swings tails of skis toward fall line; ski lips remain on the snow. The pole helps the skier to rise higher, swing farther.

Upper body counter swivels, putting right hand in position to pull pole out and left hand in position to push the other pole in.

Sudden drop-off is good terrain to practice single Sprung turn. The fallaway of the terrain reduces the effort needed to carry the skis through their 90° arc. Conversely, Sprungwedeln is used to keep the skier under control when going over a sharp drop. A skier who springs from the position indicated by the upper set of tracks will land with considerable force in the position indicated by the lower tracks. His edges will bite and check his speed.

The Sprungwedeln turns

Sprungwedeln, a series of connected single Sprung turns, is the final exercise in the new approach to the shortswing technique. Sprungwedeln combines the elements of counterswivel, leg spring, weight shift and skiing in the fall line—all the essentials of good Wedeln. It forces you to use the poles effectively, whereas classic Wedeln—in which the skis never leave the snow—does not. The poles are the only thing that will boost you high enough to hover for a moment while the skis swing the full 90° arc of Sprungwedeln. Not only must you use the poles effectively, but the long, almost leisurely leap of Sprungwedeln actually slows down pole action so you can become familiar with it before you have to use it in the shorter, faster Wedeln turn shown on the next page. Lastly, Sprungwedeln is an excellent way to handle a long, steep descent. The series at left shows how, as the skier starts off with left and right Sprungwedeln turns and ends with a heel push. Each Sprungwedeln turn puts a strong check on momentum, so that a competent recreational skier can, with Sprungwedeln, get down a trail that formerly would have been experts' country.

Starting right turn, the legs prepare to spring and swing tails of skis across fall line. Tip of right pole goes into snow.

Right turn finished and left turn under way, left hand bears down on the pole to help swing the skis in complete 90° arc.

In middle of left turn, the left hand moves forward and inward toward position in front of body where it can pull pole.

Completing left turn, upper body counter swivels energetically to help start the heel push in the flat runout of the hill.

Heel push ended, right hand moves tip of the pole forward, where it can be planted at the ski tip to start a new turn.

Long, steep pitch is a good place to practice connected Sprungwedeln turns. Upper pair of tracks shows position of skier as he finishes left turn; second pair shows landing position after right turn, and last pair shows the position after left turn. Solid arrow shows track as skier moves into runout and does heel push in order to traverse to his left across the slope.

From Sprungwedeln to Wedeln

Willy Schaeffler's final demonstration is a short Sprungwedeln turn to the left with skis off the snow, followed by a true Wedeln turn to the right with skis on the snow. The sequence shows you that as the jumps in Sprungwedeln are shortened, Sprungwedeln blends into Wedeln. Further, it emphasizes the similarity of pole action in Wedeln and Sprungwedeln. The right pole goes through a perfect cycle that could come from either a Sprungwedeln or a Wedeln sequence and in fact comes from both. Notice how the right hand comes up to shoulder level to swing the tip of the pole forward preparatory to planting (second figure from left). Then the hand drops down to waist level. From this position, the hand can make the most of the thrust that the pole gives. Notice how the pole hand starts in toward the body as it takes the thrust. This motion is subtle but very important, and there is no better way to learn it than through Sprungwedeln. Remember to plant the pole so gently that your hand can move quickly inward before the thrust of the pole carries your hand backward and throws your turn off. If your hand gets pulled behind you in Wedeln, do five Sprungwedeln turns as a cure.

Each of the other exercises in Part I and Part II can be used in this same way—as a specific corrective for a given mistake. For instance, if you find that you are falling over your outside ski, it means that your skis are too flat and you are catching your outside edge. Go back to the ballet series of Part I: in the ballet exercises you cannot use the poles to cover up your failure to edge, so you soon start edging again. On the other hand, if you are falling over your inside ski, it means you have too much weight on it. Take 10 minutes of step-stem turning. Now, if you regularly fall backward between the skis, you are letting your weight get too far back. In that case, Sprungwedeln, which makes you move the weight forward, is the answer. And best of all—as this two-part series has shown—Sprungwedeln is the key that can unlock for you the whole delicate rhythm of Wedeln, a rhythm whose attainment, in a way, embodies all the challenge and fascination of the entire sport of skiing.

Tails of skis move left (see arrow), ending right turn. Left pole goes into snow, legs bend, upper body makes comma preparatory to starting Sprungwedeln turn to the left.

Legs spring up and swing tails of skis in air toward fall line. The left hand moves forward and inward, bearing down on left pole. Right hand moves right pole tip forward.

Tails of skis move over fall line, left hand rolls inward as it puts pressure on left pole. Right hand starts dropping toward waist, the position from which it will plant other pole.

Left turn complete, the right turn Skirts with leg spring to slide tails of skis back toward fall line. Right hand plants pole from waist level, then starts upward and inward.

Skis cross fall line in Wedeln turn with tails in the snow. Right hand bears down on pole. The left hand moves lip of left pole forward to put it in position for the next turn.

Tails of skis complete swing to left as turn ends. Right hand, having rolled inward to position in front of body, pulls pole easily from snow. Legs bend, ready to spring up again.

Varied terrain along fall line provides test of skier's ability to shift from Sprungwedeln to Wedeln as the occasion demands. Upper line on diagram at left shows position of skis as skier comes up to crest of mogul, slightly to one side of highest point. From here, path between the two moguls offers better alternative than drop-off toward which skier is heading. Skier chooses to make a Sprungwedeln turn to give him greater control as he traverses the steep downhill side of the mogul. After making his landing in position indicated by second line, skier swings into smooth Wedeln turn (dotted line) to skirt second mogul. Then, seeing flat, open terrain ahead, he continues with a Wedeln turn to the right (solid line). A good skier will stick as close to the fall line as possible. He avoids building up so much momentum that he has to make long traverses to kill his speed. He keeps his speed down by increasing the amount of lift and the arc made by the tails of his skis, shifting into Sprungwedeln whenever he feels the incline demands the greatest possible control.