Senior Skiing DIY Instruction – The Harbist …

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!

whack a mole.gif
The Establishment Kitty Offers an Opinion.

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.

crash test dummy

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.

witch dunking

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?)





8 thoughts on “Senior Skiing DIY Instruction – The Harbist …

  1. So I’m wondering why the assertion that traditional ski schools still use a wedge and focus on the outside foot?
    In all three schools (at Aspen now) I have taught for in CO the direct parallel/inside foot initiated turn has been the move of choice in beginner instruction. My teaching career started 15 years ago. I will use a mild gliding wedge for people who struggle to balance in a parallel stance. The turn is still initiated one of two ways, inside foot steering and/or simply pressing the little toe side of the inside foot flatter.
    Also I recall way before I taught skiing, in the 70’s in Aspen they used the GLM combo of a very short (120cm if I recall) ski and a direct parallel progression to ski parallel the first hour let alone the first day!
    I have no doubt there is a small area or two somewhere and a few out of touch instructors who may be what you say. Let’s not take that as dogma industry wide as it assuredly is not!!
    Clendenin Method has a mogul skiing focus to some extent. Moguls are a skill blend reuiring a lower edge angle and skidded turn shape.
    Harb is more focused on carving so an edge biased method is an obvious result.
    All mountain skiing requires a varying blend of both edging and rotational movements along with varying blends of the three pressure skills: fore/aft, foot to foot, and magnitude.
    5 skills, quite simple actually and that is current PSIA tech. A rigid “cookie cutter” approach to beginners would totally ignore the guests fitness level, coordination, learning style, fears, level of self esteem, age and expectations. You are a good example prefering as you say above to go out and be shown and try vs the wordy explanations in the Harb materials. There are those out there that love and need that stuff too.
    I have never had a guest ask for a formulaic lesson. If that happened I would point out that progressions can be regarded as an outline that is then customized to guest movement needs, level of skill, desired outcome, daily snow conditions, age, fitness and reachable expectations. Custom on the spot for the person in front of me or a formula? The choice is obvious.


    1. We each view the world through the lense of our experience. Then there are cold hard facts carved in, if not stone, then in ASEA and division policy. After reading your comment and going through what I aw at 13 resorts this season, I think your comment needs an entire article. As for the first round of factual information, I reviewed the various division certification standards. What I saw there was required task of “wedge skiing for L1, L2, L3 and wedge-christie. I saw no required tasks in any of the PSIA document the could be reasonably construed to indicate there is a large scale and complete practice of direct-to-parallel teaching. In observing the beginner terrain at many resorts I did not once see anyone with a beginner in anything but a wedge and pressure on the outside ski was being taught by leaning the upper body over the outside ski.

      I perhaps wasn’t clear what I meant by “formulaic”.”Formulaic” means consistent practices, movement patterns and lexicon. What frustrates many people is that there is very little consistency between instructors.

      I will take your comment piece by piece in a future article because raises so many interesting points. Thanks!


  2. Mike… I’m enjoying your blog but I have to agree with Pete ….Have you read any of the current material such as the 5 fundamentals or the core concepts manual? I have been teaching a long time… from straight skis (only a year or 3) to modern skis. Yes I teach a gliding wedge…. the emphasis is on steering the inside ski, it always has been. I would have failed my L2 if it wasn’t. I would also be fired by my ski school for teaching a breaking wedge as a mean of speed control….. that’s accomplished through rotary and turn shape. High edge carve vs low edge smeared turns… all have there place in skiing. The wedge and christie skiing tasks in the exams are modern effective movements that don’t have to be unlearned to progress.

    If your a current PSIA member go to the website and look at the redone matrix and find the videos and podcasts from recent Team events. I think you’ll find that your perception of the material is slightly skewed….

    Read this and listen to Matt Boyd’s podcast linked in the article… they are addressing the formulaic piece too albeit by breaking down instead of building up complexity …


    1. Well, I heard there is a new alpine manual coming soon. The public imagery of PSIA and the things that are printed are all about carving and high edge angle skiing where turn shape is the only means of controlling speed. If you read the evaluation criteria for required tasks the inside ski is not supposed to be steered into parallel but allowed to come into parallel naturally. BUt this all speaks to the issue of standards. When all standards are not the same then there are no effective standards. If clinicians are making evaluations that ignore what standards there are, that is not “standard”. When I watch videos of this n that from demo team types, I don’t even hear a common lexicon. WHen I see a demo team member online hawking s new fangled machine for beginners that can only train edge and pressure I wonder if we have gone from BERP to ERP to EP? I shadowed lessons and watched the Bunny Hill at 17 different ski areas this past season. I saw zero evidence that movement of the inside ski was being used to initiate, transition or shape turns. Most of the L1 and L2 tasks ARE about steered turns but the internet is full of instructors linking carved turns with their hips in the snow and talking all about the outside ski. I have to assume that anyone seeing that will think this is what they will be taught. The market study that the Austrian OSV conducted proved to them that the majority of their potential customers could care less about carving or high edge angle skidded turns. I see a need for PSIA to coordinate its messaging so they all seem to be on the same page and that standards are in fact pervasive standards and that ALL of that is driven by what the public wants to buy versus what a handful of people at the top want to sell.


      1. Well Mike I will agree that a mixed message is no message at all. I have to point out tho that PSIA’s message and that of individual practitioners whether members of PSIA or the many other systems, blogs like yours or FBk groups are not the same and cannot be controlled.
        We all seek to convey exactly the methodology outlined as Psia’s system. This has it’s basis and progression in evolving modern race technique at the highest level amd that technical understanding trickles down into fundamentals at the beginner level. These build forward without any need to unlearn what had been learned.
        I have no doubt there are old school clinicians using a braking wedge as a fundamental maneuver in small schools somewhere tho I doubt the assertion it is used as a steering progression. It is a tactic not to be confused with a technique. I have a very old Otto Lang film of a ski school progression taught by Hannes Schneider. The progression did show how to stop with a braking wedge but quickly moved to a smaller wedge, wedge kristies and an uphill step turn (recently returned to World Cup level skiing to get the racer to a full carved arc for the turn before him if the turn is inside the arc possible, and which step avoids a speed killing skid)
        The Lang video is fun to watch as it points out how technique evolution is at the behest of equipment to a huge extent rather than otherwise)
        I digress of course.
        Its a blog!
        PSIA public persona to me is not mixed it is invisible. Most of the skiing public doesnt know what the acronym means, a subject of great debate and consternation for all members.
        Back to the guest centered teaching method at the heart of PSIA today amd which I mentioned I believe in my first reply. We do not tell you what you will learn we ask what you are looking to learn! Sure there are bump carve extreme tech freestyle clinics for upper level skiers. Beginners get more of a formulaic first day or first hour but individuals most often split to their own needed coaching style even in a first day lesson.
        I personally see so little PSIA advertising in the general or even ski industry media I would love to see some of this that backs up your assertions. Links please.
        Last point. That way layed over carved turn you malign loads the outside ski primarily very true. Without a very high speed coupled with nearly full weight on a very narrow platform the “platform angle” is lost and the manuever is not possible. Part of what gets you there is some weight on the inside skis uphill edge, that ski must also hook up and can be steered to tighten the arc. The hip almost on the ground is responding to and aligned with the platform angle to place the skiers center of mass over the knife like inside edge of the outside ski. It is a fun and very momentary point in the turn. I want to do it better but I don’t ever tell anyone they WILL have to pearn that. If you want to know more, watch the skiing of Ted Ligety, he actually fends off the ground with his pole grip guard at times. Ron LeMasters book “uUtimate Skiing” explains and diagrams platform angle nicely.
        As we say in Aspen’s very seasoned snowsports school environment “Your behavior reflects on me too”. I would prefer that assertions you make about our schools and organization be less general than “I personally audited or etc”. If true National should know. If you are grinding a personal axe then be clearer about your agenda. I am happy to argue technical points but the vague stuff does no good for anyone.
        Thanks and the technical stuff is fun! I am a senior skier 63 by the way. L2 CS1 just did a partial pass on CS2 and working at L3.


      2. On discussions of bio-mechanics…I have spent enough time on EpicSKi (R.I.P) and many other online forums to know that there is no such thing as consensus.

        On generalizations…mine, based on observed behavior at 17 resorts are no less valid than yours based on observations at one resort. There are some very real studies that indicate something is deeply wrong.

        1) Only 10% of visit-days result in the sale of a school “product”
        2) 70% of people just finishing a lesson either were “not likely to” or “would not” recommend lessons to friends or family
        3) Membership surveys show that older instructors are accepting of the role PSIA plays but not necessarily enthusiastic or engaged. The younger the instructor, the more dissatisfied they are, on some questions, 2.5 out of a max of 5.

        These aren’t good numbers. The problem is there are many studies asking “what” is happening but they don’t get to the bottom of “why” it is happening.

        Surely, some of the customer’s dissatisfaction comes from some expectations based on the price. There is no reason to conclude that an L2 at Vail gives a better lesson than an L2 at Snowbowl, but the difference in price of those identical products is $900 versus $180.

        I am also intrigued by the information that PSIA has been involved in the development of software based Do-It-Yourself lessons. For the long term health of the industry, I think it’s a good thing. Proficiency surely plays a role when a customer is making the decision to continue skiing or quit and take up knittng. DIY learning tools offer proficiency at a MUCH lower price point than even the cheapest school lesson.

        Compare these two messages…

        1) “Take multiple PSIA lessons over 4 years at $300 each to reach level A proficiency”
        2) “Buy this combination of hardware/software with PSIA lessons embedded and have the same 4 years worth of lessons for $250.

        One has to be curious why an organization that has, for many years, resisted codifying a concrete progression for it’s members would do that for the open market first. If there is any training being developed to help members leverage this technology, the jungle-drums are silent on that subject.

        This is “personal” only in an indirect way. I have a ton of friends and acquaintances who pay their dues and teach and do a great job. They are getting the shaft but are afraid to speak out. So, I do what I can for them.

        There are many questions and very few answers and THAT combination always piques my interest.

        Later this summer I will be putting up an article on the astonishing new thing the OSV in Austria has done with their program. IN a nutshell, they went out and actually ASKED the public what THEY wanted to learn. That simple step triggered a brand new 528 page manual and the statement that “carving is out” and (roughly translated) “elegance is in”

        For many decades, a relative handful of “experts” have decided what the customer SHOULD learn without ever once asking the public what they WANTED to learn. They were doing one heck of a job delivering…the WRONG product! It took some courage for the OSV to do what they have done.

        Nationalist snow sport organizations have a long history in reacting to market changes at a very glacial pace. How many years between the introduction of snow boards and the first certification of a snowboard instructor? How many decades passed between the first freestyle world championship and the first certification of a freestyle instructor?

        IN part, the poor market penetration and high levels of customer dissatisfaction can be traced to an ongoing, major chasm between what the skiing public wants and what experts are willing to offer.

        While I find the embedding of PSIA teaching in a software product as step in the right direction, the Austria market study may prove that those “lessons in a can” may still not be what the public wants.

        In the end the long term value of that effort may accrue to the PSIA brand and to the resorts but not to the membership. What happens to how a customer sees YOU when they show up with this PSIA branded technology and asks “I am stuck on Lesson 4.2 and need some help” ..and you have NO IDEA what they are talking about?


    1. I have that one. I read somewhere on line that there is a new on on the way soon. How soon, I don’t recall and there was nothing in that article that alluded to any…we wait…Your first, much larger comment, I would like you to expand on, organize and I will publish as a guest article. I am NOT as dogmatic and anti-instructor as some people think? My goal is clarity for the skiing public


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