An Enduring Dilemma in Ski Teaching – Platform or Balance

Der Moderne Wintersport - History of Jay PeakJohannes (Hannes) Schneider, having learned all he could from the Lilienfeld school of Stembogen, was developing in 1909, at his two-year old ski school in St. Anton, Austria, what would become the Stem-Christiania, where a Stem turn is used as a launch pad into a parallel Christiania. In Germany, Carl J. Luther‘s 1910 “Der Wintersport,” put the term Stem-Christiania in print. With the limits of equipment of the time (flexible boots and a free heel binding), the Stem-Chistiania to Pure Christiania was the “ne plus ultra” of the ski instruction world. Schneider’s Arlberg technique was in effect a Platform-To-Balance approach, using Rotation and a low crouch. There was a tendency to require students to fully master each step before progressing. Then the First World War intervened and Schneider further honed his technique and organizational skills teaching the Austrian ski troopers.

Platform-To-Balance - Jay Peak HistoryWunder des Schneeshuhs - Jay Peak HistoryDr. Arnold Fanck - Jay Peak HistoryIn 1926-27 Schneider joined forces with Dr. Arnold Fanck, the German filmmaker, to write “Wunder des Schneeshuhs.” 4 By this time he had taught dozens of instructors to teach his successful system, who in turn had taught literally thousands of skiers. Soon many of his disciples would emigrate and spread the gospel of the Stem and Stem-Christie (the Platform-To-Balance) to the U.S., Canada, and beyond. Schneider himself would move to the U.S. in 1939. So Balance was down and Platform was ascendant in Europe, and soon would be everywhere else as well. But embers still glowed in the Balance hearth.

Anton (Toni) Seelos - History of Jay PeakAnton (Toni) Seelos - History of Jay PeakA young sheepherder from Telfs, Austria, Anton (Toni) Seelos began to ski at age ten and, had soon learned all he could from other skiers. With his natural genius he went further (as Schneider had done). While Norheim’s Christiania was in fact an Open-Christie in which the ski tips diverged slightly to in initiate a turn, and Schneider’s Christiania sometimes betrayed a slight Uphill-Stem at the outset, Seelos intuitively developed a perfectly parallel Christiania or swing. His efficient turns brought him acclaim on the racing circuit beginning in 1930 at nineteen years of age, and so exceeded the techniques of the other racers, that in 1933 at Hafelkar, where he started last, he won by eleven seconds, casting a spell over the crowd. As forerunner in the 1936 Winter Olympics, he beat Pfnür, the Alpine Combined gold medal winner, by five seconds.5 Though Seelos never managed to commit his technique to paper, he is commonly acknowledged as the one who perfected the true parallel swing, and obviously a Balance standard-bearer.

Tony Ducia and Dr. Kurt Reinl - The History of Jay PeakTony Ducia and Dr. Kurt Reinl - The History of Jay PeakTony Ducia and Dr. Kurt Reinl published “(Le) Ski D’Aujourd’hui,” in 1935, for Le Ski Club de Paris. Ducia and Reinl were early adopters of reverse shoulder (buste vers le val), angulation (inclinaison du buste) and sidesliding. Platform-To-Balance - Jay Peak HistoryThey divided the changing of direction into slow turns and fast turns. Slow turns included the Snowplow and Stemmbogen (Stem-Chistiania). Fast turns included the Christianias (Open, Closed, and Stem-Christiania) and the Telemark. The “Christiania Parallèle Proprement Dit” could be accomplished with ski tail unweighting, and sidesliding, and the “Chistiania Coulé” was a carved turn.6 Like the Arlberg method, the Ducia-Reinl approach was Platform-To-Balance.

Natürliches Skilaufen - Jay Peak HistoryNatürliches Skilaufen - Jay Peak HistoryNatürliches Skilaufen - Jay Peak History“Natürliches Skilaufen,” 1936 , by Dr. Eugen Mathias, of Munich, and Giovanni Testa, of St. Moritz, furthered the cause of Angulation and Reverse Shoulder. Their descriptions and illustrations of Tempo-Schwunges (Kristianias) and Wedeln were portents of things that would one day be more mainstream in the ski world. Similar to the Ducia-Reinl technique, the Mathias-Testa method progressed from Snowplow to Sidesliding, to Stem and Skating, before moving on to Stemmbogen and Christiania.7 And it, too, was a Platform-To-Balance approach.