Walter Foeger and Natur Teknik … An Overlooked part of Skiing History

Natur Teknik was a system designed essentially to bring beginners to parallel skiing. Once the student had achieved this, the goal of the course, many weeks, months, and years of practice and perhaps more lessons (depending on the individual) would be required to polish and refine what had been learned. Some critics of Foeger’s direct to parallel system sometimes equated parallel skiing claims with expert skiing claims.42 Expert skiing, of course, can only be attained with experience and practice, and possibly more lessons. Another criticism of his ski schools was Foeger’s use, in some cases, of ski instructors who were less than top skiers.43 Both Stein Eriksen44 and Emile Allais45 have said that first class skiers do not always make first class instructors. What is important is that the instructors are enthusiastic, capable of well demonstrating their sequences, and can analyze and evaluate the efforts of their students. In 1960 Foeger incorporated ASTAN, the ‘American Ski Teachers Association of Natur Teknik‘. By 1984 ASTAN records indicated that 421 instructors had been certified by the association. The bi-yearly instructors’ courses were grueling 9-day affairs of theory and on-hill practice, which ended with and 8-hour written exam, in addition to exacting ski teaching and ski demonstration tests. A further criticism of Foeger’s system was the use of a ‘hop’46 to initiate the downhill turn, and yet a hop was a feature of a number of his contemporaries’ programs, of E. Allais’ French system, and was incorporated as a tool for ski turns in the programs of many subsequent systems.

In the end, despite its detractors, Natur Teknik was validated by the success it enjoyed. In nine seasons (1956-1965) at Jay Peak alone, Foeger’s ski school ‘grossed more than half a million dollars’ (or ~ 15,000 ski-weeks at $35/week).47 He had ‘long challenged the traditionalists of the stem system;’48 and this was probably part of his promotional strategy. Rough-hewn on the outside, Foeger was astute enough as a businessman to realize that ‘diversity … may actually be an attraction.’49 Though Foeger and Jay peak’s new owner, Weyerhaeuser, Inc., ‘came to a parting of ways’ in 1968, he ‘could claim to have raised a ski area singlehandedly,’50 and his ski teaching system continued at Camelback, PA, until the late 1980’s under the directorship of Marilyn Hertz.

‘Foeger is one of the genuine innovators in the history of ski-school systems … Foeger’s is the first successful system for direct parallel teaching … For this alone, Foeger deserves a niche in the history of ski teaching,’ states SKI Magazine’s former general editor Morten Lund in his 1968 book ‘The Skier’s Bible,’51 in a comprehensive and concise 14-page chapter on Walter Foeger and Natur Teknik.

1-51 For endnotes/footnotes – please apply to author.