WSR gets a lot of members who are just starting out in the wonderful sport of skiing or snowboarding. (When it comes to riding, I won't get into matters of “riding goofy.”) For skiers, though, there's more than one way to start your path to expert skiing.
We all start out our first few times of skiing by (hopefully) taking a group lesson at the mountain. What most beginners don't give much thought to, though, is our future “career” in skiing— the training methods your ski school employs to get you started. You've heard the saying “Practice doesn't make perfect—perfect practice makes perfect.” That can apply on the snow as well.
The modern standard for teaching skiing by pretty much every ski school in the US is set by the overriding ski authority for most mountains, the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America.) While the mechanics vary from school to school, here's the basis in a nutshell:
Of course, this method has become tried-and-true and works for most people. However, many skiers later find themselves in a “plateau.” Your technique gets you to a certain level of skill and then... you find it difficult to advance to more challenging terrain.
While there are several other teaching methods, one little-known but increasingly popular method that's been shown to be very effective for beginners and experts alike is the PMTS (Primary Movements Teaching System) approach. PMTS was developed and refined by ski guru Harald Harb, who's had a storied ski coaching career and is now based in SolVista Basin, Colorado.
How is PMTS different? is that it uses a more natural progression towards parallel, short and controlled turns that's closer to the way our body naturally moves and how our skeletal system is aligned. It's claimed to result in less exertion, more control, and a much faster path from first-time skiing to expert, all-mountain technique.
Where the PSIA method tells us to tilt knees, push off or unweight our bodies, PMTS take a different muscoskeletal tact:
Lighten the foot that is on the inside of our turn while tipping that ski in the direction desired.
Example: If you want to turn right, you lighten the weight on your right ski and tilt your right ski edge towards the little toe side of your right boot. Simultaneously, you sweep your right ankle closer to your left ankle. Your weight remains on our left ski. Without doing much else, your skeletal system does most of the work— automatically tilting your left leg just enough and creating a turn to the right with both skis parallel in on the proper edges. (In PMTS, this is called the Phantom Move, because it's a very subtle way of turning while your skis are parallel, yet angled differently.)
If we were to start our next turn to the left, we would make the transition by now lightening our left ski, tilting it to its little toe edge, and sweeping our ankles closer together again. Again, this transfers your weight to your right (outside) ski and your skeletal system naturally does the work of making that left turn.
There's much more to PMTS, and it's the subject in a series of books and DVDs by Harald Harb most notably known as “Anyone Can Be an Expert Skier (1 & 2)” and also his “Essentials of Skiing” book and DVD series. Best of all, Harb's free online PMTS "course" is actually one of the best go-tos for your skiing problem solving that I've seen.
Warning: The PMTS approach as described in the books can get quite technical. But with some practice can be a great way to advance your technique.
Fortunately, Mr. Harb isn't the only ski master teaching this approach—several other of his colleagues around the West have adopted it under different titles as well. One associate of Harb, Lito Tejada-Flores, explains the method very simply in his book and DVD series “Breakthrough on Skis."
The PMTS Method had been in much heated debate between PSIA diehards and PMTS fanatics on skiing boards across the internet.
But if you're beginning skier, the approach your favorite mountain teaches may not be as important as understanding that to get to those expert trails... there's more than one path.