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Fall Line
posted: 03/04/2004
by John Fry

In an age of instant gratification, today's beginning skier wants instant downhill. For many, learning a rudimentary turn is enough, and instructors aren't inclined to force students to master tedious skills. It was not always so. Under the rigid instructional regime of 40 and 50 years ago, people progressed to the parallel turn through distinct stages. To advance to the Christie, and then onto parallel, you first had to be able to execute a perfect stem turn. It was not uncommon for people to spend an entire week's vacation in snowplow class. The catechism for this well-intended but cumbrous teaching came from the Arlberg region around St. Anton, Austria-first from Hannes Schneider and his disciples, then starting in the 1950s from the pope of instruction, Stefan Kruckenhauser. "Krucky," aided by his son-in-law Franz Hoppichler, dispatched images around the world depicting the "correct" way to ski. Hoppichler made a virtual art form of it with elegant black-and-white photographs, which he shot using a tripod-mounted Leica. To show how a turn developed, Hoppichler didn't fire off rapid-sequence photos. Rather, he took a single image of several superbly trained instructors-dressed alike-each demonstrating a different phase of the turn. This visual teaching aid worked because the instructors were so disciplined in their movements. Hoppichler's photographs handsomely portrayed the forbidding snowplows, Christies and sideslips that challenged ski school pupils around the world.

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