With most ski areas closed or closing, it was appropriate for professional ski teachers from around the Intermountain area to meet and look back - way back - on their profession.
About 200 instructors attended the Professional Ski Instructors of America Intermountain Division Spring Clinic. They were there, explained Stew Marsh, president of the organization, to look at old ways and possibly develop some new ways of passing on the sport.Traditionally, it has become a sounding board for new theories in skiing. This year they went a step further, or back. The group reviewed the various techniques going back to the beginning of skiing.
The techniques, as put together by Alta ski school director Alf Engen, included:
- The "Matthias Zdarsky" method, dating back to 1890, that utilized a long pole that was dug into the snow to slow a skier and act as a pivot for a turn.
- The "Telemark" turn, popular now with cross-country skiers, developed by ski jumpers to stop at the bottom of the hill.
- The "Arlbert" turn involved a strong rotation of the body, reaching out with the arms in airplane-fashion, never using the poles.
- The "Ruade," which means "horse kick," was just that. By throwing the body forward, the tails of the skis came up and could be rotated.
- The "Butterfly" involved a wild waving of the arms that initiated a rotation of the body.
- The "Hop Christy," still used by skiers in difficult snow conditions, involved a jumping into the air and initiating the turn while airborne.
- The "Austrian" technique came about in the early 1950 and started the new wave of skiing, that is, turns made in the legs and lower body, with the upper body quiet.
- The "Reverse Shoulder" was made popular by Stein Erickson in the 1950s and added a touch of style and grace . . . skis together, arms out, shoulders turned right, skis left and vice versa.
- The "Mambo" exaggerated lower leg moves and produced quick, short turns, something like a dance.
- The "Short Swing," was a non-exaggerated form of the reverse shoulder and involved short, smooth turns.
- The "Wedeln," meaning "wagging dog's tail" in German, was just that - a wagging of the ski tails.
- Then came the "Wide Track" parallel; the "Graduated Length Method," where skiers started with small skis and worked up to longer ones; and "Avalement," a French technique that means "swallow," popular with mogul skiers and involves bringing up the knees to initiate a turn.
- And the "Center Line," which is the modern method and involves bits and pieces of all of the above. It is a broad technique that can be adapted to the individual skier.
The consensus among the teachers is that ski instruction has been refined down to its simplest and most efficient form. Skiers today can learn faster and easier, with far less threat of injury.
Among those attending the clinic was Bill Lash, first active president of the organization. He recalled that the intent of the organization was to bring together and certify instructors.
He said first instructors were certified in 1952. That year there were 32 members in the Intermountain area. There are today over 900 members in the group.