At the festival it was Friday with the “Pauls”. Maybe I should say “Saint Pauls”? (with all due respect to reverence of canonized Saints). These two amazing skiers and great instructors have revolutionized my lead change.
Yes folks, I survived the dual Paul onslaught; I’m living proof that your muscles can make it through countless one legged ski drills (where’s the ibuprofen?).
Profound, guys. Profound.
I’ve written a lot (too much?) about the telemark lead change. I believe what I’ve written still has a place. What I was doing delivers workable telemark turn initiation; what I’ve written seems fairly easy to understand. I might still turn this way from time to time?
But I’ve become a believer in 6 hours. Wow!
Here’s what I learned at the Telemark Festival 2012 (among so many other things, stay tuned!).
First, remember that the downhill (lead) ski at the end of a turn will be the back ski of the next turn. Also, for a moment consider telemark edges: the lead ski is on its inside edge. The back ski is on its outside edge. One of the more difficult telemark skills is typically learning to deliver sufficient pressure to the back, outside edge ski.
After starting with a monomark (nothing revolutonary about that), continue downhill to change edges, concentrating on the downhill ski as it begins to swing towards the fall line. As soon as possible, the skier edges and then pressures the new inside ski (what had been the downhill ski); the new turn is started on the outside edge of the new inside ski. This ski is going to wind up as the back ski. The new lead ski has not yet been brought into play. The new outside ski is just following along during turn initiation and edge change.
Gently, bring the new lead ski forward while continuing to turn on the inside, back ski. As the lead ski comes forward, begin to pressure it, adding that front ski’s inside edge to the turn. As your telemark stance is approached, pressure can be distributed as appropriate for conditions.
One of the Pauls described this as having the outside ski describe an arc around the inside. Initiate the turn with the inside, back ski. The outside ski moves around the pivot of the inside ski.
Yes, I just did write: “bring your lead ski forward”. I have watched and wondered how truly great tele skiers seem to be doing exactly what I was told NOT TO DO: push the lead ski forward?!?
Not really. There is a major difference here. This is not a lunge then turn. Nor is it a quick shuffle while off edge (diving for the fall line).
Most of us shuffle, perhaps with a little twist across the fall line to get onto the new edge and into the new arc. After starting from a mono-mark, we shuffle and twist, setting our skis onto their new edges. It works.
What I was taught through a full day’s progression of exercises was to roll onto my outside edge at the very beginning of the turn. In my (limited) experience (I’m still very much practicing. I’m no expert), the new back ski is pressured throughout the turn, start-to-finish. One brings the outside (lead) ski into the turn along the way, completing the turn on both skis, as in any telemark. In other words, one is in a controlled turn just at or right after the moment of initiation. I can get onto a turning edge a split second after moving my body downhill in a classic monomark.
One of Paul Parker’s advanced tips from Free Heel Skiing is to “steer with the rear ski.” He describes this as concentrating on the rear ski as the initiator and steering mechanism for a turn. I’ve been trying that with some success. After my lesson, I think that he is actually describing this same thing: starting the turn from the back ski, as I learned last Friday.
Sunday, I was in backcountry powder all day. Did this lead change strategy work effectively? You bet. Saturday afternoon, I grabbed some sun-warmed, off-piste slush. Did the lead change work? Yum! Sweet arcs slashing right through the heavy, deep corn.
I know that I have a lot to learn. I’m getting thrown into the “back seat” occaissionally. Another teacher noted that I’m not consistently in the fall line and am no longer angulating consistently. Yep, this change has messed everything up. Learning! Two steps forward, one step back.
I’ll have to groove this until I no longer need think about it. Can you say, “exercises on the beginner slope”?
What remaining place does “Taming The Wild Lead Change” have? I’m currently considering some of the reasons that this early inside ski edge and pressure is not taught to beginners. Perhaps it is not taught because a skier is ready if she/he is:
- fairly competent at making a monomark
- capable of skiing on one ski
- capable of pressuring the inside ski consistently and strongly
- comfortable with turning on the outside edge alone
- very comfortable starting turns with a downhill shift of weight
These tend to be advancing skills. Hence, typical lessons don’t include much about this lead change strategy (that I’ve heard?).
Plus, since so very many skiers are still attempting telemarks with an old-fashioned move, “push the new front ski forward, then turn on the front ski”, much current teaching language and practice is focused on discouraging the lunge into “position” before initiating a turn. Any lead change strategy that begins with a monomark is likely to be more stable and dynamic than the old way. Learning to change edges by leaning downhill moves most skiers towards a better turn. That’s not bad.
Given the limits of what a person can learn easily, perhaps most of us mere mortals have to wait until we can thrash our way down the steeps before we can elegantly glide, as Paul Peterson does?
When asked by Paul Petersen, “What do you want from today?” I answered, “to get on my edge early in my turn.” Mission accomplished! Thank you, “Saints” Paul I & II.
Thank you for riding along with my telemark journey. I’ll post tidbits as I learn them.