The graceful turns shown in this final chapter on the Austrian shortswing as taught by Willy Schaeffler are the culmination of all the lessons learned in Parts One and Two. They are the most useful, most exciting ski maneuvers ever devised. Yet they are no harder to learn than the simple stem and snowplow shown in last week's issue. And, beginning on page 100, Willy shows how to combine a series of swing turns in a climactic presentation of the hip-waggling ski dance called Wedeln (pronounced Vaydeln), which through the past few years has been the most thoroughly discussed and most thoroughly misunderstood word in skiing's colorful lexicon.
This is an article from the Dec. 23, 1957 issue
Stem-turn-swing is transition step between stem turn demonstrated last week and swing turns shown on following pages. In basic stem turn, skier starts by stemming the uphill ski until it points into the arc of the turn. He holds stem through fall line, then lets skis run back naturally into new traverse position. In swing turn, all or part of turn is carried out by parallel heel brush done with skis pressed together. Stem-turn-swing, as name implies, begins with stem, ends with swing. Basically, it is an exercise, but it is also useful way to swing past obstacles during traverse. Willy starts off in traverse (1), stems toward fall line (2) with uphill (in this case, the right) ski. Note, however, that he does not pull back his uphill shoulder since he does not hold stem through the fall line. Moving faster as he approaches the fall line, Willy shifts weight back to downhill ski, brings skis together (3), bends into comma with strong reverse shoulder. Then he thrusts out and down with heels, exaggerating knee bend to emphasize thrust (4) and sends tails of skis brushing across snow in swing away from the fall line, finishes by easing comma (5) for new traverse.
Holding snowplow during stem toward fall line on steep hill helps skier control speed in stem-turn-swing.
Snow pattern shows Willy does not cross fall line. Making series of stem-turn-swings gives skier feel of the rhythmic motion of linked heel-thrust turns.
Willy shows pupil Ann Taylor, an experienced skier, how to stem into fall line, then swing back toward slope without using shoulder rotation. Moving along in slow traverse, Willy stems out lightly, then snaps skis back together and brushes with both heels.
Rotation at finish of stem swing is unnecessary, causes the skier to turn too far. If shoulder rotation persists, go back and practice the stem-turn-swing.
THE STEM SWING
The stem swing is the last step before the pure parallel swing; but it is far more than just a learning device. It is a stylish and functional turn, good on any slope and good enough for anyone but the real expert. If, on the other hand, you are already an expert, you may have an urge to start your whole shortswing curriculum with the stem swing. Be warned—hardly anyone who skis with the old style really believes he can get through the fall line with no rotation until he has tried it with a few slow, simple snowplow turns. And until a skier believes he can make it without rotation, he is likely to keep rotating—a great waste of time and effort. However, if you are in a hurry and feel you are good enough to skip some fundamental moves, let the stem swing be your first turn through the fall line. But don't make it without practicing the side-slip, the swing to the slope and a solid dose of the stem-turn-swing.
Starting stem swing (above), Willy traverses slope in comma position (1), stems out (2) with uphill ski (right ski here) and pulls back uphill shoulder just as in stem turn. At same time he shifts weight onto uphill ski to start skis moving into arc of turn. At this point, similarity to stem turn ends. Instead of holding stem through fall line and letting skis run together slowly after turn has been completed, Willy starts bringing inside, or left, ski over to right ski even before he reaches fall line. By time Willy hits fall line (3) skis are almost parallel, weight completely on outer ski with inner ski barely brushing snow. Right side of body describes modified comma. Just over fall line, Willy brings skis completely parallel, bends ankles, knees and hips into strong comma (4), finishes turn with outward and downward thrust by both heels, then eases comma bend (5) for new traverse or turn.
Antirotation exercise, with poles behind neck, trains skier to keep downhill shoulder back during swing to slope.
Lifting uphill Ski during follow-through to stem swing through the fall line keeps skier from leaning in toward the slope, also checks rotation since shoulder swing will throw the skier off balance when uphill ski is raised.
Steep Slope, (above) or long convex ridge is best place to practice the stem swing. Stem while moving in slow traverse, then swing into fall line. Speed from slope helps heel thrust, steep drop-off unweights tails of skis.
THE PARALLEL SHORTSWING
Up till now the main force for starting every turn through the fall line has been a stemming of the uphill ski. But now the stem disappears. The entire turn is done with the skis parallel. This means two things. First, it means that a new turning impetus is needed to replace the stem. That impetus is a slight forward and upward movement made by the knees and ankles with the help of the inside pole. The pole also provides a kind of pivot for the turn and gives the skier learning the maneuver for the first time something extra to push against during his heel thrust. Below, Willy and Ann show the difference between a parallel swing and a stem turn at the key moment of a turn to the left. Willy demonstrates it with an exaggerated pole push just after he crosses the fall line, Ann with an exaggerated uphill stem just before she comes into the fall line. The disappearance of the stem has one other meaning: Willy's instruction throughout the rest of this final lesson is on the expert level, for anyone who can swing down a slope in a series of parallel shortswing turns is probably the best skier on the hill.
Parallel swing through fall line begins with Willy traversing in comma position (1). To start turning action he inserts downhill pole (right pole here) about three feet ahead of boots with easy forward roll of right shoulder, forearm and wrist (2). As right shoulder comes forward, left shoulder automatically starts to fall back into reverse position. Note that pole arm stays bent, elbow fairly close to body. Weight stays directly over skis as Willy prepares for outward push of heels that sends skis swinging into arc of turn. When pole sets firmly in snow, natural lift from hand and arm pressure on pole plus light forward-and-up motion with knees and ankles brings Willy almost erect (3). This subtle upward movement of body unweights tails of skis to facilitate heel thrust. As Willy comes into fall line, left side of upper body begins to assume comma again. Right ski, which will now be uphill ski, starts to move ahead, but knees and ankles are still pressed together. Just over fall line (4), Willy shifts weight onto downhill ski (now the left ski), bends into strong comma for heel-brushing follow-through. Hips act as swivel while downhill shoulder comes back to provide counterforce for heel push. At end of turn (5), Willy's downhill shoulder is still well back, tails of skis still brushing over snow. Skiing at slow speeds or in heavy snow, skier needs slightly more lift to start turn.
Using pole (above left) to replace stem (right) as basic turning force, Willy exaggerates comma to demonstrate swiveling action of hips, pushes on pole to aid heel brush. Skiers learning to use pole should minimize knee action, forward and upward movement of the body, keep pole use light and fluid.
Too much lean forward at end of turn weights upper ski, destroys balance.
Separating skis breaks turntable of locked ankles, makes ragged turn.
Getting into swing of parallel turn, Willy practices by making series of scalloped swings. With first swing he makes simple turn to slope, needs no help from the pole to start heel push. The next three swings come closer to fall line, require help from pole. With pole use perfected, Willy returns to top of the hill (above right) to make turn through fall line over entire length of slope. As exercise, keep making swings to slope, heading closer to fall line with each swing.
HOP TO THE 'WEDELN'
Before Willy shows how to do the Wedeln, some of the confusion surrounding this word should be cleared up for the benefit of the thousands of skiers who have been puzzling over it for the past couple of years. To begin with, Wedeln is a common German word meaning "tail-wagging." In skiing it is used to describe the hip-swinging action that takes place when a skier links a fast series of parallel shortswing turns. It is not a separate technique, but merely a term for this climactic phase of the shortswing. In any case, it should not be confused with a tricky and basically undefinable maneuver called the mambo (see below), a loose term that can be applied to any one of the dozens of personal interpretations of reverse-shoulder skiing.
Regardless of definition, there is no greater thrill in skiing than to dance down a fresh slope (see pages 106-107), carving your own track with a rhythmic series of shortswing turns. There are two ways to learn to make this kind of track—and call it Wedeln if you want. One way is to go from a slow schuss into a series of hopping turns, as demonstrated at right. The other is by linking a tighter and tighter sequence of stem swings (see next page), blending in light thrusts with alternate poles until the lift from the pole provides the starting force for the turn and the stem disappears. The hop is the more difficult of the two and requires a bit more coordination. Willy finds that high school and college-age skiers take to it most readily. However, any accomplished skier is invited to try, and if you can do it, you can learn the Wedeln more quickly this way.
Best route from top of hill to bottom is winding track made by series of shortswing turns. Linking turns, as shown above, skier can—by varying length of traverses and arc of turns—control speed, swing past obstacles, pick best terrain for each maneuver.
Best exercise to prepare for hop to Wedeln is shortswing jump shown in November 25 issue. Note how position of Schaeffler's knees, hips and shoulders in living room exercise reflect the movements of figure 5 in shortswing sequence on the opposite page.
Mambo is any kind of individualistic variation on reverse-shoulder skiing. Execution depends on whim of performer, and since mambo lacks definite form skier can easily fall into exaggeration of reverse shoulder that leads to awkward arm position and tiring leg action shown above. Note strong forward lean in knees and ankles, sweeping arm swing that adds delayed shoulder rotation to heel thrust and reverse shoulder of the standard shortswing technique.
Quick way to learn Wedeln is to pick a long, even slope with about a 15° pitch. Start down fall line in slow schuss (1), then begin lifting tails of skis together (2) about six inches off snow by quick upward flicks of heels and knees. Keep hopping along until you get an even rhythm to your heel kicks; then start using poles alternately with each hop, left-right, left-right (3). Keep same relaxed wrist and forearm action as in pure parallel turn. When poles blend smoothly with hopping action, start thrusting with heels from one side to the other as you hop (4), gradually reducing upward hop and increasing side thrust until hop is gone and skis are slithering over snow in series of graceful linked turns. Tracks below show ski and shoulder positions at each stage of the hop to the Wedeln.
SWING TO THE 'WEDELN'
If you suspect that you may not be as athletic as you once were or, to be more dignified about it, if you are more interested in smooth style than in fast learning, try stem-swinging your way to the Wedeln. As noted on the preceding page, the hop is a fine short cut for youngsters who are in a hurry to learn the ultimate in the shortswing technique and have the coordination to do a little fancy jumping around. But the hop is definitely an athletic road to Wedeln. There is bound to be a slight thump as the tails of the skis drop back onto the snow, and it calls for strong muscles and perfect leg control to prevent a kind of jerkiness at the end of each turn. This may be all right in a slalom gate but is unnecessarily rough and tiring for the average recreational skier. The stem-swing method, on the other hand, starts off with no lifting action whatever, just a smooth brushing back and forth over the snow as you stem first one ski, then the other, gradually bringing the skis parallel and using only the gentlest lift from the pole as the stem disappears altogether.
Swing Without poles is simple parallel swing to slope from traverse, helps remind pupil that main turning action is entirely below the waist, is also good exercise for skiers who tend to overemphasize pole use by reaching too far, with resultant loss of balance.
Swinging pendulum is impression given by good shortswing skier linking turns on fast run. Head remains almost on the same plane, shoulders and upper body barely move. The legs, ankles and heels carry out turning action, hips act as a swivel while skis swing from side to side.
Dipsy-doodle, trick maneuver popularized years ago by U.S. Olympian Dick Durrance, becomes valuable Wedeln exercise in shortswing. Start downhill in snow-plow, then thrust with first one heel, then the other, with upper body loose. Hip and knee action imitates Wedeln.
Sure way to learn Wedeln is to combine series of linked stem-swing turns similar to the one taught on pages 96-97. As with the hop to the Wedeln, start off in a schuss—almost any reasonable slope will do, since balance is surer with the stem-swing than with the hop. When you are underway in your schuss, stem out with one ski—here the right ski (1). Then bring other ski parallel to it, thrust gently with both heels and immediately stem out with the opposite ski (2). Keep stemming and thrusting in shorter-and shorter-radius turns until you begin to feel the rhythmic pendulum effect shown at left. When your rhythm is well established, start reducing the angle of your stem (3) and begin blending the poles into each turn. Then, as the poles become a natural part of the turning action, eliminate the stem altogether (4), making each turn with the pole and heel-brush alone, skis parallel. This is the Wedeln. Now, to see Willy run through a perfect Wedeln from start to finish, turn the page.
The dramatic turning sequence shown below is the climax of Willy Schaeffler's presentation of the Austrian shortswing. This is the ultimate in parallel skiing, and there is virtually no slope or type of snow for which this technique is not ideally suited. In deep powder or crust, the skis slither through the soft lower layers of snow rather than coming out and breaking through unevenly. In wet snow the lack of shoulder swing eliminates the need for a powerful follow-through. And on a packed slope with a light dusting of powder, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to compare with the Wedeln.
Start of "Wedeln" swing to left is actually finish of previous swing to right. Note in figure 1 how Willy's body is in comma, skis kicking up snow at finish of heel thrust from previous turn. At same instant, however, he brings left hand forward to plant pole, stops heel brush (2) as pole makes contact with snow to provide slight lift (3) that unweights tails of skis for the next thrust with heels.
Top View of Willy doing Wedeln shows that shoulders remain almost perpendicular to fall line during turn, while elbow stays bent and relaxed as Willy swings arm forward to insert pole. Weight is on downhill (i.e., left) ski, with uphill ski advanced.
Continuing "Wedeln" sequence, with tails of skis still unweighted from lift by pole, Willy begins new heel thrust (4) as body starts to bend into comma to provide counterforce for thrust. As aid for learning Wedeln, give slight outward push with pole just before it pulls free of snow. Comma increases (5) as Willy swings farther into turn, weight on downhill ski (the right ski in this case), upper ski ahead, knees and ankles pressed together, with skis making single track. Right hand has already started forward to place pole for next maneuver. Finish of turn (6) comes with final thrust of heels, right pole already in snow for the next turn, eyes fixed on the terrain ahead.
REVIEW: THE COMPLETE SHORTSWING
Basic position in shortswing is comma, in which weight is on the downhill ski, knees and ankles pressed together and bent toward slope. Hips are also bent toward slope, but upper body leans out from slope to maintain balance. This is traverse position from which shortswing maneuvers start. For example, by increasing knee bend and relaxing edges, skier can side-slip. By starting in traverse, then thrusting out with heels, he can swing toward slope.
Major transition from parallel swing to slope is snowplow, used for controlling speed in fall line. Once skier masters plow in straight run, he is ready for snowplow turn, carried out by pulling back uphill shoulder, shifting weight onto uphill ski, keeping outer side of body (right side above) in comma through fall line. After he masters snowplow, skier can try stem turn, in which tail of uphill ski only is thrust out while downhill ski briefly holds original direction.
Final fruition of shortswing is parallel turn made by heel thrust alone after tails of skis have been unweighted with lift from pole. To get from stem turn to parallel swing through fall line, skier should practice stem-turn-swing (see pages 94-95), where he gets feel of controlled heel thrust on long swing into slope after turn toward the fall line. Next he modifies stem with heel-brushing stem swing, then eliminates stem by using pole to start parallel swing.