If I have learned anything after a couple months of blogging it is this…Writing about controversial subjects is a bit like being the mole in the Wack-a-mole game at CHuckie Cheese. Stick your head out of the hole on some subjects and by-golly someone is bound to take a poke at it!
There is likely not a single person in all the world of American ski instruction more controversial nor more loved and hated, than Harald Harb and his “PMTS” system of learning. The western style range-wars over PMTS on the EPIC forums are, well, …epic. The posts and comments about PMTS there are at one turn excoriating and the next, adoration. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground in how people feel about him and his method.
Part of my duties as the Senior Skiing Crash-Test-Dummy is to go out into the ether online and track down useful Do-It_Yourself learning tools. I actually work at using the learning tools exactly as described by their authors and evaluate whether or not a person can actually improve their performance using them.
Part of the disconnect between the skiing public and the standard ski school fare is that customers expect that after all these decades, learning to ski should be formulaic. I tend to agree with them.
Making competent parallel turns really isn’t very difficult…unless…you started out learning in a snowplow and then “moved up” to stemmed turns. To make a decent parallel turn you really have to “unlearn” all the stuff you were taught as a beginner.
When Harb introduced his “direct-to-parallel” methods back in the 90s he was immediately set upon by the instructional establishment. He was branded a heretic for parting with the accepted establishment pedagogy and considered by some to be a traitor to his US Demo Team roots. Perhaps,the worst thing about PMTS was that it worked. It worked then and it still does today.
With several hundred instructors certified in his methods and some ski schools accredited to teach it, his persistence has paid off. You don’t have to like the guy, but you have to admit his “direct-to-parallel” methods are effective.
His methods may not jibe with traditional ski school dogma, but who cares about that? Let’s all pretend like the customer is the most important person in the equation.
If a particular method gets beginners making competent parallel turns during the first lesson, we need to embrace them for the customer’s sake..and our own. It delivers to that customer expectation that learning should be formulaic.
The point is to simply things and not make them seem impossibly complicated..if for no other reason than…they are NOT all that complicated from the perspective of the average recreational skier. You know? Those people who PAY for lessons?
With the stage set, let’s begin…I started with this video on YouTube…If you have the athleticism and the persistence, eventually your skiing will look like this…
But, you have to start somewhere….
I watched that video several times about his “phantom move” with the inside ski and then watched the one about the “Super Phantom” a dozen times. Then I took it to the snow.
I got off the chair and there at the top is a 200 yard long section that is almost flat. I was cruising along on flat skis, intending to just ride down to the steeper part of the run before I started. Typical of me, I was ready to get started with this new stuff so, I figured, what the heck, let’s just try that Super-Phantom thing.
I picked up the tail of my left ski and tipped it to the left…BAM! I turned left so fast it almost threw me over the handlebars to the right. I was only going 3-4 mph. If you have been having trouble with short radius quick turns..This is a move that will help you past that plateau.
If any of you had been following me on a another on-line magazine, you would know that in the 2014-15 season I had donated my body to science and went chest deep into learning Clendenin Method Skiing. I recently revisited that experiment on this blog (read more).
That effort woke me up to the tremendous value of the inside ski in controlling speed and shaping turns. Once I knew what I was looking for, you can see the beginning of this concept in the skiing of Jean Claude Killy inthe late 1960s. Ingmar Stenmark used the inside ski to dominate World Cup racingi the 70s and become the winning-est racer in history.
Even my school director in 1978 had us teaching students in a wedge to turn left, not by leaning on the right ski but, by picking up the left ski. Seems like a small differentiation, but it is monstrously important in your progress toward advanced skiing.
The only thing that changes more slowly than a glacier is “ski instruction”. Stenmark made clear use of his inside ski in the 70s. Only recently, has the instructional establishment made grudging references to the inside ski…after 40 years of chanting a mantra ..”outside ski…ommm…outside ski…ommmm…outside ski”.
After 20 years of the shaped-ski driven carving craze, the OSV, the organization that develops the standards for ski instructors in Austria, has declared “carving” to be a niche skill rather than the be-all-end-all of skiing. (More on that here)
They came to that conclusion by actually going out and ASKING recreational skiers what they wanted to learn. Go figure…imagine actually asking a customer what they want…but…I digress.
My personal battle-cry is “Two Feet – Four Edges”. Basically I am a cheapskate. I PAID for two boots, and two skis with four edges so by-gum, I am determined to use them all at anytime, anywhere, in any conditions to execute my intention for any turn.
I am sure they would both say they are entirely different, but my feet tell me otherwise. The basic difference between Harb and Clendenin is a matter of edge angle and WHEN you use the Little-Toe-Edge of the inside ski.
Clendenin Method leads to a steered-smeared “drifted” turn at low edge angles and Harb Systems leads to a high edge angle turn. Clendenin Method is a “go-slow” method and Harb Systems is a “go-fast” method. Both are useful and both lead to a level of control over turn shape that a singular focus on the outside ski simply cannot provide…ever…period.
In general terms, the free Youtube (here)videos on the Harb System are not effectively serialized so you may have to study them all and decide when each one is appropriate to tackle next..or just buy the organized materials here. Harb Ski Systems
The product values are ho-hum. I don’t care for long explanations about why it’s better than someone else’s method nor why what is being taught is going to be really hard to master. I am that “Just shut up and show me person”
So, if you want to amp up your performance of high speed, high edge angle, carved turns, you owe it to yourself to study Harb System skiing. Even if it doesn’t fix everything, it gives you a kit full of new tools and that is ALWAYS a good thing.
Don’t worry about the high-angst declarations of “experts” on either side of the public argument. By studying methods outside the establishment dogma you are educating your feet and body to do things other skiers can’t for no better reason than they haven’t been exposed to it.
That, too, is ALWAYS a good thing. Especially when it’s free (or less than a day’s lesson fees).
Remember to structure your learning and focus on the sensations in your feet and learn to sue them to guide your every move! (D-I-Y Senior Ski Lessons – Your Skiing Sucks?)