An Enduring Dilemma in Ski Teaching – Platform or Balance

The Ecole Française de Ski was nationalized by Léo Lagrange, France’s first minister of sport, in 1936. The EFS at first began teaching the Austrian Arlberg method.

Émile Allais - Jay Peak HistoryÉmile Allais - Jay Peak HistoryÉmile Allais - Jay Peak HistoryThe French racer Émile Allais, one year younger than Seelos, had also absorbed all he came in contact with. He also knew a winner when he saw one. In 1936, Allais convinced the Fédération Française de Ski (FFS) to hire Seelos to prepare the National Team for the upcoming FIS match in Chamonix. In 1937, Allais became the first man to win both FIS alpine races (Downhill and Slalom) in a single match. That year, in collaboration with French Ski Team captain Paul Gignoux, Allais documented the method he was now skiing in “Ski Français.” Unlike Zdarsky, Hoek, and Schneider, Allais felt the only way for someone to become a “fast skier” was to learn to make Parallel Christiania turns directly, and to avoid learning the Stem turn.Downhill Skiing - Jay Peak HistoryParallel Christiania turns - Jay Peak HistoryParallel Christiania turns - Jay Peak History
The “Ski Français” technique, based on Seelos,’ clearly describes how to make direct parallel turns, using Rotation, no Angulation, Unweighting with “Agenouillement” and “Ruade” and “Blocage,”8 and became the official French teaching method of the EFS. His system was most suited to the athletic or advanced skier. Eventually, Allais would take his French Technique to Canada, to Chile and to the U.S. Nevertheless, in 1937 the Balance approach was back in the saddle.

Otto Lang , one of Schneider’s protégés, publishes “Downhill Skiing” in 1937.9 He had emigrated to the U.S. in 1935. His book illustrates classic Arlberg Platform-To-Balance technique.

Parallel Skiing - Jay Peak HistoryParallel Skiing - Jay Peak History
E. Fritz Loosli, of Switzerland, was teaching a Parallel approach to skiing in Quebec City, Canada, in 1939. Loosli’s credo was that “… one would never learn to ride a bicycle by riding a tricycle. The only way for the beginner to master the balancing of the bicycle is to start out on it from the beginning, and it is that way with skiing. In this analogy, Parallel Skiing is the bicycle of the sport.” xx His “Parallel Skiing,” published in 1941, begins with an Open Christiania, then progresses to a Parallel Swing, with unweighting and reverse shoulder.10 Obviously, Loosli was strongly on the side of the Balance approach.

The Canadian Ski Instructor’s Alliance is founded in 1938 to improve the quality and make teaching more uniform across Canada. The CSIA’s approach was based largely on the Arlberg method, or the Platform-To-Balance approach.

The New Invitation to Skiing - Jay Peak HistoryThe New Invitation to Skiing - Jay Peak HistoryThe New Invitation to Skiing - Jay Peak HistoryIn the U.S. Fred Iselin and A.C. Spectorsky bring out “The New Invitation to Skiing” in 1947, with a view of the updated Arlberg technique. Streamlined to meet the training of ski troops in the Second World War, Iselin’s system does not require the student to perfect each step as he progresses to the next. Starting with Snowplow, then Stem, his Parallel Christiania uses upper body Rotation and Unweighting, and he discusses the Tempo Turn and Wedeln.11 This is pure Platform-To-Balance.

In 1958 Doug Pfeiffer, formerly an instructor with the CSIA, and one of Émile Allais’ original ski school
Skiing with Pfeiffer - Jay Peak HistorySkiing with Pfeiffer - Jay Peak Historycorps at Squaw Valley, California, produces “Skiing with Pfeiffer (It’s Easy to Ski Parallel),” which covers the full spectrum of ski techniques, and synthesizes many of them into his “Whole Turn Concept.” His 1958 book describes the Hop (Up-unweighting), Ruade (Down-unweighting), Rotation, Swing, Heelthrust, Tipthrust, Comma position, Wedeln, Mambo, etc.12 Though he briefly discusses Stem-Christies, they are not essential to any progression within his method, just part of his palette, and Pfeiffer remains firmly in the Balance camp.