A RACE WINNING FORMULA? THERE ISN’T ONE


An article in the April 7, 2015 edition of Ski Racing makes a shocking admission, There’s no set formula or timetable for ski racing success.  According to author, Jim Taylor, it doesn’t matter how talented a racer is, how fit they are or how hard they work, there is no guarantee they will ever succeed. Taylor concedes:

And, the really bad news is that those results that you devote so much time and effort to  achieving may never materialize – that is the inherent risk of giving your heart and soul to ski racing.

While it is shocking that no formula exists for ski racing success, it should come as no surprise. Raw talent is only one aspect of a ski racing winning formula. Like any competitive program, ski racing  doesn’t exist to develop raw talent. It exists to determine who the best overall ski racer is, all things considered. And with rare exceptions, ski coaching doesn’t exist to create a synergy of the components that make up a winning ski racer/equipment formula. Coaching is more like a filter where training and running gates ultimately determines which racer has the strongest combination of  factors needed to win. In this respect, coaches are more like talent scouts than developers of raw talent.

The process is simple. Run racers down a course and see who’s the fastest. It is the shortest and most economical path to the podium. The problem with an unsophisticated approach like this is that the best athlete doesn’t necessarily win. The winner is usually the least compromised athlete. In this format, there is no incentive to develop raw talent.

Although athletic ability is important, athletic ability in itself, it is not enough. Ski equipment, but especially the ski boot, can make or break a ski racer by enabling or disabling performance potential. Even if a ski racer finds the right combination early in their career, history has demonstrated that seemingly insignificant changes can quickly relegate an emerging champion to oblivion.

Have trust. Despite the lack of any formula, Taylor advises racers to have trust and “believe in every aspect of your ski racing including your natural ability, effort, coach, equipment, and program.” Why? With no guarantee of success, there is no good reason any ski racer would do this. It is not that a winning formula in ski racing is not possible. It is. And it is relatively simple. It involves the coordination and integration of the various factors.

Where to start?

The human system with an emphasis on movement science and the application Newton’s Third Law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

A strong stance and the ability to move precisely from one ski to another is the foundation of a successful ski racing winning formula.  On firm pistes, it involves the ability of a racer to balance external torques and precisely align the resultant force R and the load W (R-W) emanating from COM on the same force vector  in opposition to SRF in two bisecting planes; the saggital plane (front to back) and frontal plane (across the body). The point centre cross-hair where the opposing forces align is called the centre of pressure (COP). Without the ability to create and maintain a precise alignment of the forces of R-W and SFR, athletic prowess and strength and conditioning are irrelevant.

In a series of future posts, I will describe the conditions under which opposing torques can be balanced in 3 planes.

 

11 comments

    1. Actually, it is related Jim. Thanks for the link. The research vehicle that my team used in 1991 to study 3-dimensional skier balance and biomechanics had instrumentation placed to confirm (or not) load transfer to the ball of the boot at ski flat between turns. Ten years later, I formed a company with 2 other partners that used the Novel Pedar pressure mapping insole system placed in ski boots to confirm load transfer. I have been waiting for the day when the kind of system you sent the link to became available. All that is needed now is an app that sends a tone to the skier’s ear through earbuds that confirms successful load transfer to the ball of the foot. This will be a huge breakthrough when it happens.

  1. It is quite amazing how well trained we are to accept mediocrity and worse. Now that the skiing is over I was forced into doing spring cleanup etc. That put me in my rubber boots for a good portion of the day. After a couple of days I realized that my quirky knee was being a pain; what I marvel at is that with all the time I spend fiddling with my ski boots I’m still ingrained to live with pain as being a normal part of life instead of simply recognizing it immediately and eliminating it. But at least after a couple of days of suffering I did get the epiphany to do something about it and using the ‘forefoot load transfer’ testing found that it was exactly as you described in the HOW TO LEARN FOREFOOT LOAD TRANSFER: IN THE BOOT post; I removed the ‘rim’ in the arch area of the insole which improved things and then ended up having to sand down exactly the same area under the arch that was a minute amount thicker as you relate in the post. I took the dog for a walk down the hill in the woods afterwards and got the inkling that there was a downpour headed in our direction. I definitely didn’t out run the rain but thankfully my knee survived the attempt in better shape than a day of plodding along with the arch pressure! Time will tell if this is ‘the’ correct alignment but if not it is heart warming to know there is a solution!!

    Thanks again David!!

    Do you have any experience with people with neuropathy, numbness, poor circulation, etc. in their feet being caused from too much pressure of the foot wear on the arch? I’m more thoroughly than ever convinced (I was already 100% convinced) that our ridiculous foot wear is a major cause of most of the ‘worn out’ lower extremities and backs that seem to be so prevalent in our society.

    1. What I find even more astounding than how well we as a society accept mediocrity or worse is how few of us question anything, especially the word of those who represent themselves as ‘experts. Charles Bukowski commented, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence”. I am always running checks on my positions to test them to see if they stand up to scrutiny. I always predicate my positions on the possibly that I could be not just wrong, but seriously wrong. I hear ski coaches and ski pros make absurd statements like, “Put all your weight on the outside ski” or “Balance on the outside edge”. From a perspective of kindergarten level science, neither of these statements could possibly true. Yet they are widely accepted and parroted.

      From time to time, I gently try to suggest to parents I know that the reason their future World Cup superstar child is struggling and going nowhere in ski racing is that their equipment, especially their ski boots, is impairing their performance. But my comments are typically summarily dismissed with no consideration and little or discussion. The standard response is, “His or her boots are prepared by XXXX and they are the best. We would never question XXXX’s work. Based on what? Most racers and especially their parents are unwilling to even try something different. Instead, they go forward with blind faith believing that success will eventually result if their child runs enough gates. Eminence, not evidence, influences most people.

      I agree with your position on footwear causing problems. Most of the time I am barefoot around the home. When I purchase a new pair of shoes I compare them in the store against barefoot. Even after I buy a pair of shoes, I keep a sharp knife close at hand so I can surgically remove any structure of the shoe that impinges on my arch or some other aspect of my foot.

  2. Not to be all negative on an unrelated subject I have to salute you. After experimenting with it I have to say that the ” up and over” move is the cats meow. It is the quintessential ski move and I never read or heard about it until it was mentioned on this site. .It also initiates an ankle move that is unique to world class skiers .

    1. I agree completely that the ankle movement is unique to world class skiers. When the up and over move is done with what I call the correct reference shank angle, extension stacks the upper load transfer point of the pelvis over the lower load transfer point at the ankle. This is where the real power comes in a World Cup class turn.

      1. Hey David…great answer! that succinctly sums it up! If this doesn’t happen movements after are all compensations leading to all the issues you’ve described.
        would you comment on the ‘extension’ part? As I see it…you are not actively extending the body away from the stance ski. Extension/stacking occurs because the upper body is moving toward the in side of the new
        turn. as it does the stance leg gets longer edge angle increases allowing the powerful stacked stance you described. The inside ski compliments the movements and edge angle. two very different movements. Looking forward to your future posts tying all together. you’ve definitely provided the information to question status quo/professional opinion!

      2. I have been trying to find an opening to discuss extension. But before I can do this so it makes sense, I need to establish where the opposing forces align in terms of where the resultant force R and load W (same vector) align in opposition to Snow Reaction Force (aka GRF). I am working on a post now on this subject. Contrary to what has been represented for decades, the opposing forces do not align at the inside edge of the outside ski underfoot. From a perspective of mechanics and physics, this is not possible. The forces align at a point inboard of the inside edge underfoot between the inside edge underfoot and the limits of the sidecut. Once this is established, other things start to fall into place.

        “Extension/stacking occurs because the upper body is moving toward the in side of the new
        turn. as it does the stance leg gets longer edge angle increases allowing the powerful stacked stance you described.”

        Exactly. At ski flat, the skier must transfer the load to the ball of the outside foot. The feeling is as if there is a disk of pressure about 1″ big under the ball of the foot. Transferring the load sets up pronation that rotates the foot into the turn about its long axis and rotates the whole leg internally. Extension of the inside leg started at the beginning of the transition phase after the pelvis was squared. But there is still a large angle of the knee at ski flat. As the ski rotates onto its new inside edge, there must be some whole leg internal rotation tension applied at the pelvis. As the racer inclines into the new turn, extension moves COM to the inside of the turn. At the same time, extension brings the load transfer point at the head of the femur forward until it is stacked vertically over the load transfer point at the lower end of the tibia. Only after the load points have been stacked can the whole leg be effectively rotated. Load point stacking is the point where the whole leg is aggressively rotated internally, into the turn. Timing is critical. It is especially important not to force inclination. Watch the timing of Bridget Currier in the Burke Mountain Get Over It drill.

        The biggest mistake most racers make even at the World Cup level is to move into the fall line; away from the new outside ski. The reason they make this mistake is that coaches believe that getting COM into the fall line is faster. It is if you are jumping off a cliff. A racer needs to be patient and maintain feel of the disk under their outside foot running on a rail on the arc of the turn.

    1. Taylor may be a shrink. But I have not seen any indication of anything even resembling a formula for success in ski racing, let alone anything resembling a coordinated approach to developing raw talent. I spent some time recently studying photos of young racers in the 2015 Whistler Cup. With rare exceptions, none of them had sound technique. The few that did win races by seconds, not tenths of seconds.

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