"Bend Zee Knees"

WALLACE REYBURN February 1 1941

"Bend Zee Knees"

WALLACE REYBURN February 1 1941

"Bend Zee Knees"



THE ONLY way to be a good skier is to take lessons. You can’t learn it out of a book. I asked Hermann Gadner, ski instructor in the Laurentians, if he knew of any good skiers who had been self-taught. “Yes,” he replied, “I know of some who are good from skiing twenty or twenty-five years, but on the whole you can’t learn how to ski well without being taught—not in the first ten years, anyway!”

Like the golf tyro, the skiing beginner can’t see himself in action, and if there’s no one there to point out his errors he soon finds that “his little mistakes become big mistakes,” as Gadner puts it.

Gadner has been teaching people to ski for fifteen years. This is his third year as an instructor in Canada. He has been skiing himself for twenty-four years, starting at the age of six, when he used to ski back and forth to school a distance of two miles—four times a day. He has taught skiing in six countries—his native Austria, Switzerland. Czecho-Slovakia, France, Italy and Canada.

In skiing, little mistakes become big mistakes unless the beginner gets started on the right track. Herewith an expert's "do’s" and" don't's"

When Hitler walked into Austria in 1938, Gadner and some of his compatriots ski-daddled over the frontier into Switzerland and from there made plans to enter Canada. He arrived here at the beginning of winter, and lost no time in setting up the Snow Eagle Ski School at St. Jovite, in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains.

The excellence of the tuition obtainable from Laurentian professionals such as Gadner, the Cousineau brothers, Eddy Huber, Frank Scofield, Hans Falkner, Jack Millar and Jose Weider, plus the fine accommodation afforded in the resort hotels of the district, have combined to make the mountain region north of Montreal one of the foremost skiing centres on this continent.

This is the Laurentians’ biggest skiing year. They said that last year—and the year before. But it’s true, because each year more and more Canadians visit Ste. Agathe, St. Sauveur, St. Jovite and the other resorts in the group. Each year more and more Americans decide to come north of the border for their skiing. They make the long trip to Canada for even as short a stay as a week-end, because they know that in the Laurentians they can rely on excellent snow conditions throughout the winter months. At many of the winter resorts in tne U.S. there’s skiing if and when there’s snow. But in the Laurentians, as Lowell Thomas said in a broadcast from St. Jovite, “They measure snow by feet, not by inches.” And besides being assured of a fine skiing holiday, the Americans welcome the chance to see French-Canadian habitant life at first hand.

Last season so many New Yorkers flew up to the Laurentians that this year a regular air service has been established between New York and the landing field at St. Jovite, eighty-five miles north of Montreal. In about three hours the New York businessman can be transplanted from his office desk in Manhattan to the snow-clad mountains of Quebec. In fact, by plane the New Yorker can reach the skiing fields more quickly than Montrealers are able to by train ! Big Douglas planes— with accommodation for twenty-one passengers—make the nonstop trip at least once a day during the week and as many as four times a day at week-ends.

But the fact that certain Americans can afford to fly six hundred miles for a mere week-end’s skiing doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a rich man’s sport. Skiing is for everybody. All you need is the equipment and a hill with snow on it, and away you go. Even if you’re the beginningest of all the beginners you can have loads of fun.

Round about this time of year the beginner crop is at its |reak, so for the benefit of these newcomers to the s{x>rt l pass on here the pointers Hermann Gadner

gave me during time-out taken from his skiing classes.

Equipment is important. Don’t just go into a sports store and buy your skis and other paraphernalia the way you d buy a package of cigarettes. Give it some thought. Or better still, take an expert skier along with you when you buy.

Your Outfit

VCUR boots should have steel shanks and double soles.

The proper length of ski is the one which, when stood up in front of you, will come just below the tips of the fingers of your upstretched hand. When choosing poles, place the pole tip downward, and the right one for you will be the one which will just fit under your armpit.

Before you set out for your first jaunt, make sure that your ski-harness is properly adjusted. Many beginners when they take up skiing find that their first few outings consist of thirty per cent actual skiing and seventy per cent running repairs. “You should think about your harness once,” says Gadner. “That’s when you put it on. After that you should be able to forget about it. If it isn’t properly adjusted, you won’t ski properly, so get someone to explain to you the correct way to put it on.”

This skiing is an involved business. Why, as soon as you set ski on snow the complications begin. There are actually seven ways of walking on skis! Personally, I don’t believe it. 1 can’t think of seven ways of walking on skis. But that’s what Gadner tells me. “The various ways of walking are used mainly in crosscountry skiing,” he said. “It’s just like long-distance swimming. The swimmer doesn’t use the same stroke all the time. He conserves his energy by varying his strokes. It’s the same with cross-country skiers.” I asked him what the seven steps are, and he showed me. But I won’t attempt to pass it on to you in words—that would take a James Joyce!

Let’s us beginners be content with just one way of walking for a start. We’ve got to get to the top of that hill of ours somehow. For a beginner a mountainside is quite unnecessary. Just choose a gentle slope that’s flat at the bottom. Make sure that it’s nice and level at the end of the slope, because for a certainty you’re going to finish up in a more or less sitting position, and it’s much easier to unravel yourself on level ground.

At the top of your slojx* assume the downhill position. This "downhill position” is important, because the two most essential fundamentals that a skier must master are correct stance and the snowplow. Get these off pat and you’ve set the foundation for gcxx! skiing form.

First of all, correct stance.

"The average beginner bends too much at the waist.

Your stance should be very much the same as when walking. Have your weight fiat on your feet. You don’t walk on your toes—why ski on your toes? Your body should not bend back and forth when you are going down a hill in the ordinary downhill position. When you watch an automobile going along a bumpy road, you’ll notice that the body of the car doesn’t jog up and down. The springs take the ups and downs of the road. Automobiles and skiers both have knee-action. The upper part of the skier’s body remains rigid—his knees take the bumps. When you come to a rise in the ground, bend your knees more. When you come to a hollow, straighten them slightly.”

Gadner, who speaks English as she is broken, has a battle cry. It's “Bend zee knees forward!” That’s his farewell advice to each pupil as he or she takes off down the hill. “Bend zee knees!” he cries after them. “Bend zee knees!”

You may find it hard at first, but the right way is invariably the hard way. If you don’t ski wdth kneeaction you'll never show really good form. Gadner advises beginners to practice at home, by standing flat on their feet and seeing how far down they can bend their knees without leaning the body forward or raising the heels from the floor. Do some diligent practice at this in your home and you’ll find it just so much easier when you get out onto your skis.

And the other fundamental—the snowplow.

Knee-action gives you the proper stance and control of balance: the snowplow gives you speed-control and turnability. On the opposite page there is a photograph of Gadner in perfect snowplow position: knees bent, legs well apart, skis fiat, weight equal on each ski.

“The farther you push your feet apart, the slower will be your progress down the hill. Edging the inside of your skis slightly, you’ll find that you can come to a dead stop, even if you’re on quite a steep slope. It will take a lot of practice, but it is essential to master the snowplow before attempting the more involved figures in skiing. If you wish to make a turn to the left, lean your weight on the right ski for a right turn, lean the weight on the left ski. That’s all you need to do. just lean the weight. It’s worked out mathematically if you can do a g(xxi snowplow, you’ll be able to do g(xxl snowplow turns merely by placing the weight on either ski.”

Professional Wizardry

ADNER’S control on skis is phenomenal. I had a little demonstration of this when he was teaching a class of beginners the snowplow. One of the pupils had landed in an inglorious muddle near the bottom of the hill, and Gadner came breezing down the slope in the crouching speed position, heading straight for the recumbent skier. The poor pupil felt sure that he was going to make the obituary columns of the local paper under the heading, “Run Over By A Speedball On Skis,” but just before he reached him Gadner went into a snowplow and stopped with the tips of his skis onesixteenth of an inch from the ribs of his pupil.

Gadner can ski backward down a hill. He waltzes on skis. He does jump turns with his poles which, quite frankly, can’t be done! He glides down the length of a steep slope on one ski. He skis over hill and dale with his police dog, Wolf, on his shoulders. Last winter he skied two miles down a mountainside with an injured woman on his back.

The last-mentioned exploit occurred last February at Mont Tremblant. A member of his class broke her ankle while they were climbing the high hill behind Mont Tremblant Inn. There was no way of sending a stretcher up for her without a good deal of delay, so she was assisted up onto Gadner’s back and he sped off on the two-mile descent. And as if the weight of the girl on his back weren’t enough, he carried her skis under one arm and her poles under the other !

Gadner was quite bewildered by the publicity that this little adventure earned him. To him it was pretty routine stuff and he would have had little to say about it had not Montreal reporters dashed up to St. Jovite to get the story. He is a quiet, taciturn little fellow who speaks seldom, either because his command of the English language is not very good or because he

just feels that way. He talks as though each sentence were a move in chess. In j stature he is small, but very solidly built. He has an excellent sense of humor, and eats three desserts at every meal. He is popular with his pupils because he is painstaking and conscientious. If a beginner has fallen down in the snow and asks him how to get up, he jumps down beside him, assumes the same ungainly pose and then demonstrates slowly the best method of getting up.

It’s Gadner’s experience that women are usually quicker learners than men. Along with other instructors, he has found that absolute beginners make the best pupils. People who have been skiing for a number of years without instruction usually form some pretty bad habits that are hard to break. When they take lessons from a professional, they invariably practice faithfully the fundamentals they are shown by him, and then next day they go back to their own particular version of skiing. If you have just taken up skiing and decide to have some lessons, you are well advised to start from scratch. Forget about those self-evolved and probably entirely unique methods you have of ¡ getting around on skis. Learn from the beginning—it will take time and practice, but it’s worth it in the long run.

If you aim to learn your skiing from a book, you’ll find it a difficult task. Each new person who brings out a book seems to have different ideas as to how the sport should be taught. It is essential that you start off with one method and stay with it throughout your training, whether you’re just skiing for pleasure or are a soldier donning one of the six thousand pairs of skis recently acquired by the Canadian Army. In the Laurentians a Canadian Ski School has been established to ensure that all instructors will be teaching on the same lines; and at Ottawa the men who will be showing soldiers how to fight on skis have been attending an instructors’ school, to ensure uniformity in teaching methods.

But whether you take to skis in civilian or army garb, here are some final tips from Gadner that will make your skiing more facile and the after-effects less severe.

If you’re descending a hill and you feel yourself falling, try every way known to man to stop yourself but if all fails, relax and enjoy a wholesome plunge in the now. If all your muscles are tensed when you fall, you’re more likely to hurt yourself.

Take good care of your boots. Apply plenty of dubbing to them frequently, to make the leather supple. Dubbing also waterproofs the leather and prevents the boots from becoming stiff when they get wet. Hammer new boots to make them

pliable, or you’ll have blistered heels.

Your poles are there to use. The correct way to hold them is to place the hand up through the loop and have your lingers resting not too tightly round the upper few inches of the pole. You take most of the weight of the arm on the strap across the back of your hand. Don’t grip your fingers tightly round the pole—your hands will become stiff and tired that way. When getting up from the snow, make every use of your poles. When getting into position to go down a hill, place both ¡joles in the snow downhill from you, so that when you are doing your manoeuvring the ¡joles will stop you from taking an unrehearsed slide down the slojje.

Do setting-up exercises and practice the downhill and snowplow positions in your home before you go out, so as to get your muscles into the mood.

Each time you climb to the top of your slope, rest before taking off again. You’ll conserve your energy that way.

And bend zee knees !