THE AUSTRIAN MOVE


The high loads in GS turns make it the acid test of the ability to control forces across what I call the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis of the outside ski. The rapid timing of slalom make it the acid test of the ability to maintain and control forces across the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis of the outside ski while rapidly applying whole leg internal rotation to the foot and ski. After struggling early in the season due to pre-season changes in equipment, in particular, her ski boots, Shiffrin has emerged as the preeminent female slalom technician. I believe that there are two reasons why Shiffrin has not dominated GS, 1) a less than optimal boot/ski setup for GS and 2) the failure to make effective use of her inside ski in appropriate turns using what I call the Austrian Move as exemplified by Marcel Hirscher and Ana Fenniger.

In my post VONN VS FENNINGER ( https://skimoves.me/2015/01/24/vonn-vs-fenninger/), I criticized Fenninger for using a dominant position on her inside in gates where Vonn was quicker with the use of a dominant position on the outside ski. Vonn flowed seamlessly from turn-to-turn while Fenninger often appeared choppy. When used inappropriately the Austrian Move can actually slow a racer. But when used appropriately, a race can be won with the effective use of the the Austrian Move in only a few turns.

Here’s the video clip where I compare Vonn to Fenninger. Note how Fenninger lifts the tail of her outside ski so she can drop in the hips and create an impact load on the tail of her inside ski. This move is most effective when it is done before the force exerted by the snow on the sidecut of the outside ski exceeds the load transferred by skier across the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis.

 

The Austrian Move is not skiing on two skis or skiing with all the weight on the inside ski during a turn. Nor, is it the same as the transition move associated with the Ski Move, although the Austrian Move often evolves out of a turn that starts with the Ski Move. The Austrian Move is often a divergent move of the inside ski away from a dominant ‘over it’, position on the outside ski.

In the photo sequence below,  Marcel Hirscher makes a very rapid Austrian Move in about a tenth of a second from a dominant position on his outside ski (left leg) to a dominant position on his inside ski (right leg). Hash marks overlaid on Hirscher’s skis make the Austrian Move easier to see.

Austrian Move

Hirscher makes this move so quickly that it is not easily seen at anything less than frame-by-frame.

In the clip below, Hirscher uses what I call the Sudden Impact Austrian Move where he comes down hard on the inside edge of the tail of this inside ski. High impact loading is not possible on the outside ski which must be progressively pressured with leg extension in order to prevent the edge from being overloaded across the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis.

 

The clip below shows Fenninger using the Austrian Move.

 

The problem with the use of a dominant inside ski in a turn is that it is risky. Once a racer commits to the inside ski, the mechanics of the Austrian Move severely limit the ability to make directional changes. So if a racer’s line is off, especially if it is too high, they usually need to make an athletic move to correct it. In turns where the load is not great, a dominant position on the inside ski can actually be slower that turns made with a dominant outside ski. In the video clip below, Fenninger  shows in the last sequence what happens when the Austrian Move goes wrong.

 

Racers with small feet typically have an Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis of the outside ski that is less than optimal because it is dependent on the position of the proximate centre of the head of the first metatarsal being aligned over the inside edge. The Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis is the point where the vector of the load W emanating from CoM intersects a vertical line emanating from the inside edge perpendicular to the transverse aspect of the base of the outside ski. As it becomes increasingly offset to the outside turn aspect of the inside edge, the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis becomes increasingly unfavourable. The Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis is optimized by aligning the proximate center of the head of the first metatarsal directly over the inside edge of the outside ski. While FIS regulations appear to allow the use of skis with the appropriate Minimum Profile Width underfoot required to align the head of the first metatarsal over the inside edge, female World Cup racers do not seem to be using GS skis with less than a 64 mm Minimum Ski Profile Width.

Until such time as female racers use skis with a Minimum Profile Width that will allow the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis to be optimized, the Austrian Move may be the only option by which to be competitive in GS.

20 comments

  1. Now that I’m addicted to analyzing learning about skiing via internet, I was going through some past you-tube etc. and found a GS race which Vonn won at Solden. The commentator said that it was an easier course so it fitted Vonn who ‘crushed’ the opponents. In the comparison clip above, I see Vonn turning before the gate, going sideways and then locking on edge to redirect to the next gate. Fenninger on the other hand rides the edges smoother (in this sequence at least) which to me is the more efficient and thus one would think lead to more consistent chances of higher finishes.

    So if Fenninger is losing some efficiency due to big toe/ski edge placement would you use your ‘boot tub’ to attempt to correct this or is the answer a narrower ski with the same side cut so it meets the FIS standards?

    For Vonn, I see her being a bit back in the above clip but right on in Solden which would make sense to me if Solden isn’t as steep. Speculating on a remedy, wouldn’t unbuckling the cuff even one slot on the steeper course be a great start? Does fixing the ankle glide path ultimately allow Vonn to be her best on all pitches? Or would the solution be a slight up adjustment in ramp angle for at least the steeper races?

    For a 1.5 legged fossil like myself, every aspect that you talk about on your posts can make skiing easy if done correctly or make skiing futile if done incorrectly. And the results are in direct correlation to what degree I get it right or wrong. To me it seems only logical that with the conditioning and athleticism of all the top skiers, and races being won and lost by a hundredth of a second, that all these aspects add up quickly. Stenmark won on skis and boots that no ‘top’ racer was in because the ‘top’ brands wouldn’t sponsor him at first. I never even knew Elan existed until he came along and then I bought a pair and loved them because they weren’t as stiff as what I was on!! Then it still took me another 15 years to comprehend I can ski better on a ski that bends!

    1. Good points Michael. I believe that ski racing should be no different from auto racing where the suspension of the car (ski boot) is set up for the race course with specific tires (skis) and tire pressures for the course. The boot setup in terms of racer function is essentially the same. But changes are made to cuff stiffness and ankle range of motion to suit the course.

      “So if Fenninger is losing some efficiency due to big toe/ski edge placement would you use your ‘boot tub’ to attempt to correct this or is the answer a narrower ski with the same side cut so it meets the FIS standards?”
      Yes. But as far as I can tell, skis with minimum profiles widths are not available that can be matched to a racers with small feet. Skis I have seen of local female racers with small feet are never less than 64 mm. There is also the issue of mechanical influence wherein the mechanical tripod of a skier’s foot in terms of force coupling is compared to the mechanical profile of the ski. There is a big difference in mechanical influence of Vonn’s foot compared to Fennigers’.

      “For Vonn, I see her being a bit back in the above clip but right on in Solden which would make sense to me if Solden isn’t as steep. Speculating on a remedy, wouldn’t unbuckling the cuff even one slot on the steeper course be a great start? Does fixing the ankle glide path ultimately allow Vonn to be her best on all pitches? Or would the solution be a slight up adjustment in ramp angle for at least the steeper races?”

      Now you are in Star Wars territory. Ideally, a boot would be pre-programmed for a course to change the cuff flex pattern and possibly net ramp angle for different parts of the course. This may not be possible because the CNS can detect changes in muscle length of a mm and joint angles of a fraction of a degree. So it would take testing to find out whether the CNS would adapt. This is why impeding joint movements in a ski boot has such a profound negative impact on skier performance. Keep in mind that the brain can process 11 millions bits of information at a subconscious level compared to 50 bits at a conscious level. The last thing a ski racer wants to do on course is think about anything other than flow.

    1. With all due respect to Harb, I have no idea what he is talking about when he uses terms like “Weighted Release” or “flexing” and “tipping”. What does weighted release have to do with winning races? Nothing as far as I can tell. Unless one is ski flying or getting big air, skiing. like all forms of human stance and locomotion. relies on ground reaction force and Newtonian Laws. In skiing, GRF is in the form of snow reaction force. The only thing that really matters is the forces across the inside edge of either the outside ski or inside ski. In order to have a meaningful (intelligent comes to mind) discussion about ski technique, it is necessary to know where the load W is in relation to the inside edge and especially where the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis is. When either or both feet are unloaded (unweighted), the default position of the load W, barring some miracle, will always lie on the anatomical centreline of the foot running through the proximate centres of the heel and second metatarsal. Moving the load W to the proximate centre of the head of the first metatarsal requires a specific series of events that is similar the events associated with the stance phase of gait. In skiing, there are only two possible positions for the load W. Unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise, W should be always be assumed to lie on the anatomical centreline.

      Returning to Fenniger, one has to provide a rational explanation for her movement wherein she lifts the outside ski off the snow. Here one has to review video (not just still images), preferably from several angles to identify the movement pattern. This usually requires studying the movement in a number of turns. Fenniger has to move forward as rotates about her inside foot. In effect, she winds the muscles in her leg to tension her pelvis and drive the inside turn aspect of her boot cuff to counter the load W that is tending to rotate her foot and ski out of the turn. Simply making a transverse move of COM to the inside ski will not produce the required stability.

  2. Originally I always thought my parents found me dangling from a tree by my tail, now I realize I’ve been living under a rock. I never realized that the toe box is DIN. No wonder all the boot toe boxes look the same and I can’t find a brand with a better big toe area. So this is so that the ‘wings’ of the binding toe pieces are not deflected by the toe box? I always thought it was just that the top portion of the ‘wings’ holds the top of the DIN height boot toe piece and the lower vertical sides of the ‘wings’ were what holds the boot toe side to side. Since I hadn’t altered my big toe area that far forward as yet, if I did you’re telling me that the binding won’t be able to center the boot properly? I guess I would have learned that one the hard way (on someone else’s boots!), thanks for the heads up!!!

    Maybe I need to investigate one of my early thoughts which is to replace the toe box with a piece of inner tube. Of course tubes are pretty scarce these days……..

    1. The DIN Standard symmetrical toe box had its origins in bindings like the Look Nevada, Salomon 505 and Marker that had wings that required a symmetrical interface with the toe of the boot shell. Once the DIN toe standard was adopted, the big toe screw up was in. When I was in Vienna in 1987 I vented my displeasure of the DIN shape saying I would like to meet the people responsible for screwing up ski boots for skier’s feet. Guess what? One of the persons in the group I vented to was on the committee that came up with the standard.

    1. The link to the video is blocked in Canada. I have lots of examples of Fenniger that I will post in the future. The key to the Austrian Move is that it only provides an advantage in high load turns and especially where a higher line allows the skier to set up for the next gate. Unlike a dominant position on the outside ski, there is no global control of the 3-dimensional forces across the inside edge of the outside ski. The advantage is very high vertical force on the inside edge of the inside ski.

      1. Apologies for video…didn’t know Canadian issue. agree that the ability to move to either ski at while is advantageous. do you see this move as intuitive +a response to an adjustment in line caused by ‘going to deep squaring the corner’ instead of having enough time to go to the new stance leg?

      2. I think it is a combination of intuition and that someone either through subjective experimentation or through the application of theoretical mechanics and physics figured it out and taught a racer or racers how to apply the Austrian Move technique. The moves Hirscher and Fenniger both make and far too structured to be accidental or intuitive. When I compared Fenniger to Vonn, who was about .6 faster in that race, Fenniger seemed to be using the Austrian Move with little or no sense of when to use it. It was as if she had found a new trick and was showing it off. I estimate that Fenniger has smaller feet than Shiffrin and they both have much smaller feet than Vonn. The implications are that Fenniger and Shiffrin have much a smaller mechanical influence on their ski than Vonn including a less effective Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis with the result that they have a lower load limit. Gut has to have tiny feet. Since either no one has figured out the Minimum Ski Width Profile for small feet, or they don’t consider it important, racers like Fenniger have to figure out a work around for their load limitation especially in GS. Shiffrin is a smart racer. If she figures out what Fenniger is doing, she will destroy Fenniger. Someone needs to clue Laura Gut in. She is skiing far below her potential.

  3. I’m really looking forward to the explanation on how you go about attaining proper toe placement to see if my primitive methods I’ve experimented are in the ball park! I’m bummed the ski season is done here but it’ll be something to look forward to for next year.

    1. The big challenge is the DIN toe box shape. If a skier has a large big toe, especially a big toe that is significantly longer than the average big toe, it is impossible to expand the toe without affecting the DIN shape even after cutting away the liner. The only option is often to go to a shell that is too big for the foot. The best way to assess toe alignment is with boot bottom shells cut down to tubs with about a 1 inch high sidewall. I had a set of Lange tubs in every size. Trying to assess shell interference of the big toe with the foot in a bare shell is at best difficult. With the liner in the shell, it is impossible. This is the reason that, with few exceptions I only worked, with Lange boots.

  4. BTW Fenninger is almost an exact copy of Ligety, including the dropping of the inside shoulder, the lack of angulation and the movement of the arms.

    1. I haven’t paid much attention to Ligety this season. Either he made some changes to his equipment and/or the NY Times article could have affected him. Aside from his win at the World Championships, he has become largely irrelevant especially after Hirscher demolished him by 4 seconds in a GS.

  5. “The skier also has to rotate their pelvis about the inside leg. For example, if the right leg is the inside leg the pelvis must rotate counter-clockwise”.

    You got it, Dave. It is also abduction and adduction. It also happens in slalom,only more so.

    1. The biomechanics of the Austrian Move is a complex sequence of events that is unique to skiing because the inside ski creates a closed kinetic chain and the forces are dynamic and 3-dimensional. I would not even attempt to describe the joint actions and sequence. This is the domain of someone like Dr. Kim Hewson. This is a good example of where a slow motion video clip is worth about a million words.

  6. Over the past number of years my ideal would be to be able to switch my fully loaded outside ski from the inside edge to the outside edge to start the turn which is what I see Fenninger doing very efficiently. From watching the slow mo but not having the same angles for Vonn and Fenninger, I believe Fenninger has a better shank angle than Vonn which is why she has been wining so consistently this year. Vonn has the advantage with big toe placement and I have to respect her athleticism and strength because having an aft disadvantage and coming off major injuries she can still win more than most of the field. Hirscher is lucky because if any of his competitors had the fore/aft position of Shiffrin in slalom and Fenninger for the other disciplines I’d reason he would have a lot less first place finishes. Comes back to one of the last comments you received about getting out of the ski boot and dealing with stance but the only way one can fix stance is by fixing the ski boot!! Man, I wished I’d known this obvious fact 35 years ago when you were proving it with Steve Podborski. I guess thats why $cientists say we evolved due to opposable thumbs and not our brains!! Thank you so much for providing all these video clips and slow mos because I’ve never had access to this in the past!

    What I learned from my early season travail when I freed my big toe 3/16 inch by removing the liner from the back of the first met. head forward plus ‘straightening’ the shell was the absolute importance of where the big toe is in relation to the ski edge because with that adjustment I had sooo much edge I could barely ski due to violent ski chatter. My thought at the time was to have a lateral track for the binding toe piece to allow one to fine tune the big toe placement. Have you ever messed with any toe piece placement?

    Due to reading the book ‘Born to Run,’ I looked for some video footage of the Tarahumara running and revisited them after your ‘load transfer’ posts. The link below I found fascinating because I feel these runners use that ‘transfer’ point of contact when they run and one could make the argument that they have approximately a 3 degree ‘ramp’ because they don’t set their heels down. Exciting adventure!!
    The Tarahumara – Running Secret Revealed – YouTube ► 8:11
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2km2aQokibMApr 7, 2014 – 8 min – Uploaded by Chong Xie

    1. It is important to note that in order to effectively use the inside ski in the Austrian Move, a skier must first be able to ‘get over’ the outside ski in the Ski Move. The reason most skiers either start the turn on their inside ski or move to it part way through the turn is that the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis is not optimal and limited in terms of loads that can be balanced across Ground Zero (the inside edge of the outside ski). The skier also has to rotate their pelvis about the inside leg. For example, if the right leg is the inside leg the pelvis must rotate counter-clockwise.

      Finding video with the right camera angles draw any reasonable conclusions is a challenge. I agree in that Vonn appears to have a less than optimal shank angle. But I am not convinced this is the case. The optimal reference shank angle is critical to engage the edge and create a closed chain with which to drive the ski with whole leg rotation. In slalom the end point of the reference shank ankle in slalom as determined by the front of the boot shaft should be substantially fixed. If I could get my hands on Shiffrin’s ski boots I am confident that I would find that her shaft is locked (I will explain how this works in a future post). What Vonn has mastered is the ability to allow the load under her foot to move back enough to reduce the load on the shovel of her skis while riding a soft edge. She has a large enough foot to have the mechanical influence on her skis to do this whereas those such as Fenniger and Maze don’t.

      The alignment and position of the big toe in relation to the inside edge is critical. When I first started to acquire knowledge of functional anatomy (not just biomechanics) in about 1979 one of the first papers I read was on the effect of toe alignment on lower limb function. Bob Lange would cringe if he knew what I did to the toe box of his Langes to allow the large toe of the racers I worked with to sit naturally. I used lower shells with the sidewalls cut down to about an inch high to gauge how much I had to blow the toe box out. A linerectomy to remove the liner from behind the ball of the foot around to the second or third toe was a given. I cursed the engineers who designed the DIN standard toe box.

      I believe you are on to something with the 3 degree ramp. When Nike and others introduced jogging shoes like the Waffle Trainer, they had anywhere from 12 to 14 mm drop which means that the heel is elevated 12 to 14 mm in relation to the balls of the feet. After experimenting with a number of minimalist shoes, I came to the conclusion that for me zero drop was not optimal. I find it much less effort to walk and run with shoes with about a 4 mm drop. Much more than 6 mm and I don’t like the feel. I have several pair of New Balance Minimus shoes. I just bought a new pair that has a dead straight last for the big toe and width across the metatarsals that matches the width of my feet.

      I had several patents on a system that allowed the position of the ball of the foot and toe to be fine tuned in relation to the ski edge.I will explain them in my next post on the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis.

  7. Great post! Dont know why you keep writing Fenniger without the last “n” but never mind … Great info!

    Thanks

    1. OK, you got me here Joan. I could not find an instance where I spelled Fenniger without 2 “ns”. Occasionally, I spell Anna with one n as in Ana. Glad you enjoyed the post. Now if Shiffrin would start using her inside ski at the right time I am confident she would rule GS.

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