Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home

Otto Lang, U.S. Army Signal Corps - The Basic Principles of Skiing
Produced in 1941 for the training of U.S. mountain troops, this film features fine B&W ski scenes as well as indoor instructional footage. It provides a documentary record of the equipment and techniques of the period.

The film opens with scenes of troops skiing open slopes as the narrator explains the value of military skiing and the benefit of "systematic schooling" to develop the skills. The troops stop at a mountain cabin and the indoor sequence begins. Two new recruits (actor Alan Ladd is one of them) are introduced to their equipment.

The instructor explains basic ski design, how to select the right length, and how to care for the edges and prevent warping. Ski boot design, sizing and care are explained. Then the instructor describes ski bindings and shows how to adjust the toe plates. He also explains the use of the cable hitches for ascent and descent. The use of climbing skins is explained. Finally, preparation of the ski base with lacquer and wax is demonstrated. After a lecture about the importance of sun glasses and sun cream, the troops head outside for more instruction.

The outdoor sequence starts with climbing on foot, carrying skis, putting on skis and poles, walking and gliding, and kick turns. Slow motion is used to demonstrate skiing maneuvers throughout the film. Schussing, falling, getting up, traversing, and climbing using the herringbone and sidestep are demonstrated. The snowplow is shown, including a scene in which several troopers ski in line over the camera. The snowplow turn segment depicts eight ski troopers tracing S-turns on pristine corn snow.

Side slipping is introduced as the key to higher speed turns. A telemark lunge is taught for responding to dips and bumps in the terrain. (The word telemark is never mentioned.) "Stemm" turns are demonstrated, and the advanced stem turn introduces skidding, or "swing," as the skis are brought together. The stem christiania involves less stem, more speed and more refined skidding. The christiania begins with counter rotation and a down-stem. Swinging of the skis is enhanced by up-unweighting and rotation. Finally, jump turns using a small cornice are demonstrated.

The film ends with a scene of ten men heading out on patrol. They carry packs and rifles and climb on skins. Reaching a ridgeline, they remove the skins and ski down to timberline among beautiful mountain surroundings.

Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page

Copyright © 2002 Lowell Skoog. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: Thu Feb 6 13:43:19 PST 2003