Many of you may never have heard of the Stem Christie, but back in the days of long, straight skis it was taught as a transition turn between the full snow plow, and the full parallel turn. It went like this:
- Let’s say you’re starting by traversing the hill left to right, with skis parallel, and the skis close together, and of course most of your weight on the downhill ski
- Lift you right (uphill) foot and place it back down with your feet about shoulder width apart, but the ski tips only a few inches apart, and the right ski on its inside edge.
- Shift your weight to you right (uphill) ski, this will initiate a turn to the left.
- Execute the turn like a snow plow, with your weight on the right (outside ski), but just left the inside (left ski) run flat.
- As you pass the mid point of the turn, lift your left (inside) foot and place it down close to the right foot, with the skis parallel
- Exit the turn and traverse right to left with the skis parallel and most of your weight on the downhill (right) ski
That’s the long version. The short version is “Step out. Turn, Step in”. So why am I telling you all this? Is there a point other than a trip down memory lane for those of us who learned to ski in the 1980s? Well yes, there is a point, because I think the Stem Christie is actually an ideal turn for tethering. Let’s go through the sequence again, but this time imagining a tetherer with a sit skier.
- You are traversing the hill left to right, with your skis parallel. You aren’t directly behind your sit skier, to get good leverage you are uphill of your skier, about 45 degrees of his stern. To initiate his turn, you need to shift to a position more directly behind him.
- You step out with the right (uphill) ski and put it down, with the ski on its inside edge. You are now in a snow plow position; you can slow yourself down without changing direction by putting some pressure on your right foot. This will adjust your position relative to the sit skier so you are more behind him.
- Shift more of your weight to your right foot, initiating the turn. Now you are crossing behind the sitski and can use your position, rather than your arm strength, to initiate their turn.
- Execute the turn in a snow plow. Since you re in a snow plow you can control your speed and reduce it. This helps because the sit ski is taking a wider turn and you need to wait for it to come around the apex and get ahead of you again.
- As the sit ski comes around and ahead of you lift (or slide) your left foot back towards the right, bringing the skis back parallel and starting to pick up speed again.
- Exit the turn, with the skis parallel and tracking your sit skier, now 45 degrees off their left (uphill) side.
On a very flat slope there really is no traverse, and I find I show plow most of the time, but once there is slope where the concept of traversing is meaningful this works for me. I can control my speed and my position relative to the skier, and it’s far less effort that snow plowing all the way down.
When I’m teaching new tetherer I often start by telling them that tethering is a different discipline, as different from normal skiing as telemarking, and what is good free skiing technique can be bad tethering technique and vice versa. This is a prime example, most ski instructors these days would be horrified so see anyone beyond a beginner executing a Stem Christie turn, but for tethering it works. If you aren’t doing it, try it. If you are a frequent tetherer you may be already doing it, but now have a name for it 🙂