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Realities of the Wedge

Every so often someone sends me an excerpt from a ski forum on the Internet. You can guess at my amusement when I saw what was being discussed in this particular thread. I had just returned from a week in the Florida Keys, fly-fishing for Bonefish, so my mind was clearly not on skiing. By the way, the fishing wasn't that great - wrong time of year - but then again, catching isn't the main reason for fly-fishing in the first place.

I understand a thread on a ski forum was started where a skier asked, "What's the difference between GLM and PMTS Direct Parallel?" At first, many thoughtful and accurate responses were given before the Traditional concepts of skiing were again served up by a few instructors as the requisite way of learning to ski.

In an attempt to combat the blatant misrepresentation of "PMTS Direct Parallel", I offer these comments. The "System", PMTS Direct Parallel does not teach the wedge. The reasons are clear and important. The wedge keeps skiers from learning rapidly. The wedge and its progressions used by traditional systems worldwide are flawed and create flaws that continue to limit skiing progress in beginning and intermediate skiers. We call them "Dead-end Skills". In fact, the wedge progressions are what keep skiers at intermediate levels.

Those who still defend the wedge have yet to study, understand, use and be properly trained in the power of the effective alternative. Let me make clear that I don't blame instructors. I know they have allegiances and commitments to other organizations, time constraints and financial considerations limiting their motivation for further training. These are all valid reasons for not moving ahead or pursing education. Some instructors feel threatened and defiant of other approaches that challenge their way of thinking. I respect everyone's right to have these feeling and emotions, but it doesn't stop me from challenging the current systems and telling the truth about the differences. I also have the right to disseminate information and the public has the right to decide what is the superior product in ski teaching.

As many of you know, my company, Harb Ski Systems, offers ski camps employing PMTS Direct Parallel. PMTS has been used in over four hundred thousand lessons in the past four years. In our ski camps, week after week, we are virtually undoing the movement mistakes skiers learned from the wedge and other traditional instruction. The most common comments made by skiers after attending Harb Ski Systems Camps are: "I cannot believe they are still teaching the wedge." and "I will never take another traditional lesson." It is very frustrating to skiers when they discover they have been led down the wrong trail.

Shaped skis have changed the playing field. The wedge and its enhancements are unnecessary components if an accelerated teaching system using shaped skis is desired. However, if someone wants to learn the wedge, they should use traditional skis. The wedge is easier, and control with it will be better, on traditional skis.

The proponents of PMTS Direct Parallel unequivocally understand and acknowledge that a wedge stance may result, even when skiers are taught "Direct Parallel". Often, the torque created through leg alignment twists the skis to a wedge. In fact, many humans cannot control the inward rotation of the femur in balancing situations on skis. Many intermediate skiers have difficulty standing in balance on one ski without skidding the ski tails. Standing on one ski is part of an overall, comprehensive, on-snow balance assessment done with every PMTS Direct Parallel student. The wedge and its many stages of development make this situation worst. The wedge is already a pre-internally-rotated position of both femurs and it accentuates and ingrains this predicament in beginning skiers. Therefore, not only does the "PMTS Direct Parallel" system teach "Direct Parallel", but it also incorporates alternatives to reduce and undo the influences of beleaguered rotary movements and wedge maneuvers.

The defense I often hear from traditional instruction is, "We teach the gliding wedge not a braking wedge." True, a gliding wedge is better than a braking wedge, because it is closer to parallel. A braking wedge is acknowledged even by traditionalists to be hard to unlearn once you become dependent on it. It is naive to believe that a beginner will stay in a gliding wedge until they become parallel. The gliding wedge, which is often suggested as the "saving grace" of the wedge progression, is discarded by beginners for the reliable, bracing, defensive wedge as soon as they move from the beginner slopes to even slightly more difficult terrain.

Ski teaching has moved on; soon skiers will be able to differentiate between instructors who have pursued alternatives. Skiers are already asking for PMTS lessons at the major resorts. Remember to remind your friends and clients who want a PMTS Direct Parallel lesson to ask for an Accredited PMTS Instructor, to get the "Real Thing".