WHY LIGETY AND SHIFFRIN’S SECRET MOVES REMAIN SECRET


The reality is that neither Ligety or Shiffrin appear to be making any attempt to keep their unique techniques a secret. To the contrary, of all the racers on the World Cup circuit, no one has been more open and forthcoming about their techniques than Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin.

In a series of Burke Mountain Academy YouTube videos posted in the summer of 2014, Shiffrin narrates a series of drills that she uses to hone her technique. She continues to comment on her technique in videos on a regular basis. Still, views of Burke videos are 5,000 to 10,000 compared to 500,000 to a million views for videos that advocate using the legs like 2″ x 4″s to hold both skis on edge to make pure carved turns.(https://www.youtube.com/user/burkemtnacademy)

In the New York Times video, ‘On Giant Slalom: Ted Ligety’ (http://www.nytimes.com/video/sports/olympics/100000002705897/on-giant-slalom-ted-ligety.html), the commentator states that for 8 years Ligety has been perfecting a new style of turning. As someone who is passionate about skiing and committed to advancing the sport as a science, that statement instantly got my attention. The commentator goes on to say, “the most noticeable element of Ligety’s style is seen mid turn where his body is horizontal to the hill”. The narrative on the video states, “Ligety’s path is smoother than that of his foes, who ski in violent fits and starts, making adjustments that spray snow”. Ligety, “I’m starting my turn earlier (while its still on its uphill edge) and finishing it later than the other guys”. The clean, low profile snow pattern off Ligety’s outside ski tells the story. The edges are slicing a clean path into the snow with no sideslipping.

Ligety 2

Says Ligety, “I always been known for my big edge angles even on the old skis”. The angle of Ligety’s outside ski is shown in the NY Times video. I measured it at approximately 80 degrees to the snow surface.

Ligety - big edge angle

The NY Times video compares Ligety to Bode Miller at the same point in a turn. Miller is spraying a large amount of snow off his outside ski, Ligety? Almost none.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 8.03.10 PM

Obviously, Ligety is putting very different forces on his outside ski than Miller. But in what way? And how is it that Ligety is able to make the edges of his outside ski hold at such extreme angles? That’s a question I put to members of a FaceBook group for serious skiers and ski professionals and coaches.

When force is applied to the outside with the base at an angler greater than 45 degrees to the snow, the component of sheer force that makes the edge slip is greater than the component of vertical force that makes the edge grip. Since as far as I know, Ted Ligety is bound by the immutable laws of the universe, there has to be a logical explanation for why he appears to be defying the laws of physics. Cracking the Ligety Code holds the promise to make skiing better for all skiers, not just World Cup racers. But interest from the members of the FaceBook group from those who should be motivated was the equivalent of a yawn and a “Why bother?”. The explanations from those who did respond were surprising, but not shocking, “It’s magic”, “Ligety is different” or “This is a dumb question”.

Although some critical issues are left out of their discussions, probably because Shiffrin and Ligety are not aware of these omissions, the superiority of their techniques, as evidenced by visits to the podium should serve as the impetus for those who are in the ski teaching and coaching professions to put Ligety and Shiffrin under a microscope, analyze their movements and integrate them into ski teaching methodologies and coaching world wide. The main reason this isn’t happening appears to be that those who should be motivated aren’t or, perhaps just not interested in putting in the effort. This group represents an influential camp that’s slowing killing skiing by discouraging the development and analysis of ski technique based on sound principles of science. Instead, they default to the scripted narrative that every skier and every country is different, that there are an unlimited number of ways to ski and that no one way is better than another. Every country has its own unique technique and they all work yada, yada, yada.

Ted and Mikaela don’t have secret techniques. They are ‘just different’.

 

 

 

26 comments

  1. David – I applaud your thought processes and persistence. I hear your frustrations at others. I think it might be better for you if you were a bit nicer to others… but c’est la vie!

    Regarding the NY Times and other videos where Ligety has explained what he is doing, I think he explains what he is feeling and doing and trying for quite well. I understand and I know what he is feeling and trying from skiing behind him at Mt Hood one summer.

    What we have been calling “early to the new foot” right after the gate or apex is not a new concept at all and has been around for about 20 years or more. It is the only way to effectively accelerate yourself down the slope right after edge change. Indeed, the faster you are going, the more of an effort it is to start to move that new foot right after the apex.

    I believe it is this effort, or even struggle, because you are going against the forces by trying to make this movement that has been hard for some to understand by his explanations when the reader does not also “know” the feeling. I think if people started thinking of it like a cougar trying to bound downhill – some image that would get the idea of power and direction – it might with understanding. I try to explain to people that it is like jumping downhill off of one foot and landing softly – then making a slower, more deliberately guided motion in the jumping. I have people stand facing across a hill and ask them to jump downhill off of one foot. Which foot makes this easier? The uphill foot.

    So, start to move early (after the gate/apex) to the new foot so you can then move down the hill. Timing and direction are the keys.

    Waiting for a slap??? 🙂

    1. After having had not only my skiing experience, but my wife’s skiing ruined for 20 years and all but perhaps 1 or 2 of my group of the skiing of my friend’s who quit decades ago by an appalling state ignorance that offered nothing more than a contrite, “follow me and do what I do”, my tolerance for ignorance is narrow at best. Ignorance has never served to advance any society or cause. As I said in my posts, Ted’s technique is far more sophisticated than it was decades ago. But the move to the inside foot at the end of a turn is not new. This ‘move’, that I have dubbed the skimove, dates back to the 60s at least. I first saw it clearly in Erika Hess in the 1987 World Championships in Crans Montana, Switzerland, and only then after I had invested a small fortune in a state-of-the-art VHS player that enabled me to view video in ultra slow motion without the shaky image of lesser VHS players.

      I agree completely about the feeling being the most important issue. This has always been the objective of my efforts. Towards this end, within the past week, I have designed a device that teaches skiers the feel of the skimove while confirming the correctness of their actions. Timing and direction are important. But the key is the sequence of events and a properly set up boot that enables the requisite biomechanics. These issues aside, your comments suggest that you do not fully understand how and why the Roll Over component sets in motion a subconsciously mediated series of events that makes skiing as easy and natural as walking. And as Martha likes to say, “And that is a good thing”.

  2. The propensity to over-think this stuff is comical. Vertical component of the ground reaction forces? Lighten up a little bit. I was a boot service person at the NORAM/Cup level for 14 years. I got Miki on Atomic. The boot freaks out there would puke if they knew what was really going on inside boots at that level. The premium is on max stand height, end of story. cookiebewley said it best: “to be better at this than others is mostly a matter of strength and innate talent.” No half degree plane this way or that way is going to matter and the reality is (even at that level) most people are not sensitive enough to notice a difference. I’ve seen this first hand.

    1. First off, I could care less what you or anyone else who disagrees with me thinks. Considering that the human lower limbs are one of the most complex anatomical structure known, if not the most complex, as well as having a fragile link in the knee joint that is a frequent site of injury in skiing, my position is that one can never know enough. Overthinking is obviously not your problem. It seems to be thinking…. period. Oh wow, you were a boot service person for 14 years in NORAM. I am impressed…..not. I built boots for Olympic and World Cup champions because I was asked to. This started after Nancy Greene Raine asked me to work on her boots and then asked me to work with racers on Canada’s National Team. If you never saw the effects of small changes you must have been really bad at boot work. At least you admit it. I preferred to stay in the background and let the racers whose boots I worked on talk about what I did for their skiing like Podborski and Boyd did in feature Newspaper stories.

    2. This proves David MacPhail’s points very clearly even if he didn’t put it into these words; boot techs are hindering many top athletes ability to reach their full potential. Anyone in the race can win on a given day because they are superior athletes, well trained, etc. etc. All one has to do is watch races to see the smoothest skiers win the most consistently and the top flight scramblers (excuse this comment because they are better skiers than I am) rarely do. Talk about over thinking, what does one call a boot fitter that jams a skiers feet into boots 2 sizes too small, immobilizes their ankle joint and then expects that skier to function athletically? Also when a skier is off by ten degrees, Mark’s correct, good skiers might not feel the difference of half a degree. When you are competing for hundreths of a second it becomes a deal breaker. Stenmark won how many races in Caber boots?

      When I taught skiing and did a bit of boot fitting evenings, I learned very quickly that a skier made more progress from having their boots adjusted than from me teaching because if they couldn’t balance on the inside edge of their ski, they won’t be learning much other than they don’t like skiing. I knew how easy teaching would be with a particular person by watching them walk in their ski boots and then navigate (or not) the lift line. A professional ballet dancer taught me more than I did him, he could not balance on one leg until I adjusted the cuff and then he could, sort of!! According to all my teaching clinics I was supposed to teach him balance, ha, ha!!

      My suggestion to Mark is what I tell all my friends when I ski with them now, try loosening the cuff of your ski boot and see if skiing is better or worse. After much over thinking due to the fear instilled by the system, all have skied better and enjoyed the looser boot which is an incremental step to getting them able to function dynamically within a cement ski boot.

      Unfortunately what I have discovered as a spin off of skiing is that probably most joint injuries, ankle, legs, spine, etc. (which too often end in surgery and crippling effects) on the average person could be avoided if regular foot wear didn’t suck as badly as ski boots! After 3 knee surgeries I was cheerfully told by my doctor all would be well because by my 40s I’d be the proud owner of an artificial knee, they don’t put in artificial nerves I guess. I made tons of progress in the last 20 years to where I can once again run, might not be Olympic level but after 30+ years not being able to it is such a blessing. When I first started teaching my knee would be so swollen by the end of the season I’d swear I couldn’t do it again the next season. To reaffirm what I hope I said in former comments, the final piece of the puzzle has been to MacPhail (remove) the arch support in all my foot wear and I now am pain free for the first time since 1974. If MacPhail would do a little more thinking we might even have world peace!!

  3. The physics of skiing are secondary to the ability to move within the ski boots. My only contact with David MacPhail has been through this blog and a limited amount of personal emails from which I can guarantee, I don’t have a complete grasp on his ‘alignment concepts’ of ski equipment but am 100% convinced of their validity because applying my limited understanding to what I have discovered myself over the past 20 years has changed what I do with equipment radically for the better. The latest discovery before being given the link to this blog (I can’t even take credit for finding it myself!) was to leave my boots unbuckled to the point where I hit the cuff just before my ankles range of motion is zeroed out so should I happen to need it, my binding would release before my ankle. Upon reading this blog I found someone who knew the why and methods of doing this properly, so I’m grateful to not have to reinvent the whole wheel, just try to build on it and make it better and above all, understand methods already proven by Podborski, etc. Sometime around 2005 I ‘discovered’ a new method of adjusting footwear and orthotics that is better than any current method THAT I”M AWARE OF (which doesn’t mean there isn’t a better method). Finally after 1000s $ and many rejections I now have a patent on the method because I was finally able to convince the necessary parties that the vertical relationship of the heel to forefoot is different than the lateral (canting wedges) relationship. Since over 99% of humans that have access to fancy footwear walk anatomically incorrectly, the vertical relationship, called toe drop by some, remains a critical aspect of fitting not just ski boots but all footwear for me, guess what? I am now skiing without footbeds/orthotics for the first time in 2 decades with better results than with because what I learned from this blog enabled me to remove the original interference in the arch that was the limiting factor in not only my ski boots, but other footwear also. In spite of a pile of fancy orthotic blanks and the equipment to create orthotics it will take a strong argument from any one to convince me to make them a pair because MacPhail’s methods are better than what I was doing. So obviously his methods is based upon a more solid ‘principle’ than my methods.

    My theory on Ligety’s last season is so silly I never dared to mention it last year; I say it boiled down to his broken hand / wrist. When one is competing at any level, in any sport, anything that can cause one to hold back just a touch will change the standings dramatically. We’ll see as the season progresses how far ‘back’ he is, obviously. Nothing could stop Ted though in Beaver Creek last season because his mental overcame what ever other issues seemed to be there last seasons, he ‘rose to the occasion!’ Bottom line is that Ligety and Shiffrin are both better aligned for their best disciplines than any other current racer and while they are dialed in for them, either they don’t know or the equipment techs won’t allow them to transfer it over to the disciplines. Something we’ll never be able to prove now is that if Bode had MacPhail as his boot fitter I feel he would have left Stenmark’s records in the dust. As dominant as Ligety has been in GS, he still has a little bit of catch-up when it comes to Stenmark who skied on brands of equipment that no other racer has won consistently on!

    MacPhail’s theory that removing the inner liner of the ski boot keeps one’s feet warmer doesn’t make much sense. I did that and with and extra pair of liners in a pair of used boots I had bought and I’ve never gone back. My boots are a joke, I laugh every time I go skiing because I have so much more fun. I challenge any critics or not to simply apply these ideas to your equipment and then if you want to argue fine, but I’d first ask for MacPhail’s help in what went wrong because my experience has been that it was a mistake I made.

  4. In the NY Times pictures it is clear to me that Ligety has started to remove pressure (force) from his outside ski by applying pressure to the inside ski. This is why his skis look splayed with his inside ski seeking a higher line. His inside ski is spraying more snow than Miller’s. Notice as well that he is more angulated at the hip than Miller, who is using more inclination to achieve similar edge angles. I suspect in the next frame or two Miller will look more angulated as he completes the turn. The fact is that Miller is late, Ligety is seeking a higher line.
    As for the greater edge angles achieved by Ligety, although there may be some loss of grip on the snow, the greater angles allow the skis to bend more, decreasing the radius of the turn, even with 30m radius skis. This contributes to Ligety being able to ski a higher and better line.

    1. Roberto, I started my blog for two reasons; 1) to try and help skiers who are struggling to ski well and are looking for answers and, 2) to stimulate discussion.
      In the NY Times pictures it is clear to me that Ligety has started to remove pressure (force) from his outside ski by applying pressure to the inside ski.
      AGREE

      This is why his skis look splayed with his inside ski seeking a higher line. His inside ski is spraying more snow than Miller’s
      AGREE that his ski is spraying more snow than Miller’s, But why?

      Notice as well that he is more angulated at the hip than Miller, who is using more inclination to achieve similar edge angles.
      AGREE. But again why?

      The issue that keeps coming up in blogs and social media discussions is why and when Ligety extends. In the NY Times video, Ligety says he “extends to create pressure”. Why? Why doesn’t he just relax his old outside (downhill) leg and fall into the new turn as many advocate? There has to be a purpose or end game for extension as well as the very structured movement pattern Ligety makes in the transition when he transfers weight to the inside ski while it is “still on its current (uphill) edge”, and there is. I am about to explain in the next posts how extension sets up a series of events that enables Ligety to rotate his outside ski about its long axis into the turn. This is what Ligety is doing that is different from his foes. From the perspective of mechanics, biomechanics and physics, it is the most effective way to ski. Remember how many wrote Ligety’s technique off after last year? Guess who just won the GS at Soelden? And Marcel Hirscher? He sure looks a lot like Ligety.

      If you review my posts carefully, especially the graphics where I show forces, you should see that I have been explaining what Ligety is doing for months. The problem is that anything outside of a person’s normal frame of reference tends to be invisible. The frame of reference in ski teaching and coaching has numerous large voids that are filled with invented terms that conceal what the various authorities do not know, either because they lack the cognitive horsepower to figure it out or the initiative to pursue the issue, or both.

      Einstein said, “A man (or woman) should look for what it is, and not what he thinks should be”. What Einstein forgot, is that seeing what is requires both keen observation and knowledge.

  5. Sure David, but if you are ever interested in why the skis grips at high angles I can give you two hints:
    1. It does not matter if the base angle is at 45 degrees or more, as long as the combined ground reaction forces are at a greater angle.
    2. The vertical component of the ground reaction forces are not limited by gravity unless you consider a static case. You have to add inertial forces.

    1. I realize that because of the Dunning-Krugger Effect, nothing I say will have any impact on your position. Here is a really big HINT for you, “I am about to explain in the next posts how extension sets up a series of events that enables Ligety to rotate his outside ski about its long axis into the turn. This is what Ligety is doing that is different from his foes”.

      The reason for the big spray pattern off Miller’s outside ski is that it is percussing in an oscillating slip-catch movement to the outside of the turn whereas the spray from Ligety’s outside ski is flowing along the track in in a very low profile with zero signs of percussion.

      1. You are changing the subject, I never said anything against Ligety’s technique. In fact, it is well known that extension of the inside is part of his technique. In these proceedings you have several articles using data from his skiing, including pressure sensors. http://www.amazon.com/Science-Skiing-VI-Erich-Muller/dp/1782550666

        If you don’t have it you can find some in the following presentation: http://www.ronlemaster.com/presentations/Systematic%20Use%20of%20the%20Inside%20Ski%20in%20Carved%20Turns-LeMaster-Supej-ICSS-2013.pdf

      2. I have probably read every book ever printed about skiing and ski technique except the most recent ones. Over the years, I kept and archived every article that was published in ski magazines. I had the Skier’s Edge by LeMaster and read it cover to cover numerous times. I have a copy of Ultimate Skiing by LeMaster which I also read cover to cover, word for word, numerous times. My copy is heavily highlighted and annotated with my notes. LeMaster got a lot of things right. But he also got a lot of things wrong as in very wrong. The purpose of my blog is the pursuit and presentation of fact. It is not about bashing LeMaster or you or anyone. The problem I have is that LeMaster stresses the importance of knowing all forces, mentions applied force, and then either ignores the force applied to the ski by the weight of the body that is transferred from COM through the pelvis down the legs through what is called the Central Load-Bearing Axis to the foot and from there to she ski, or somehow confused an applied force with an attractive force. The resultant force is the vector of gravity and centrifugal force. By omitting such details as load transfer, the centre of the force applied to the ski as well as the ground reaction force that is acting along the ENTIRE edge in contact with the snow and not just a point, LeMaster and others have arrived at conclusions that, whether intentional or not, are fudged and seriously flawed. Unfortunately, these fudged conclusions seem to have been accepted without question, embraced and disseminated by a lot of people who should have known better and should be rightfully embarrassed.

  6. As much as I appreciate anything complicated, especially if it involves numbers, I am really pretty practical.

    Just as you don’t have to know how to turn to turn, the edges hold for Ligety and other when the skis are laid over. This is true. Why it works is pretty irrelevant unless you want to ivory tower it all. Then it is an interesting discussion in the complexity of the human anatomy and fluid dynamics and interaction with who knows exactly what.

    The main issue is see it done and then go out and try to do it.

    The human brain is amazing and if left to ‘feel’ the forces, ‘feel’ the body, it will often figure things out. Why Ligety seems to be better at this than others is mostly a matter of strength and innate talent.

    At least that is my opinion – stay loose and go with the force! Do it – Feel it – Be it! 🙂

    1. I find it disturbing that you appear to be championing the cause of ignorance in an age of enlightenment. Two possibilities come to mind, 1) You don’t know what you don’t know and 2) You know what you don’t know but you want to create the impression that it doesn’t matter. Neither is good. Which one is it Cookie?

      1. Neither. I understand more than enough to realize that in order to reduce even the dynamics of edging skis down to an equation is not going to happen. There are way too many variables.

        I also don’t think it would help anyone anyways. One brother has a chair at Yale and writes these mathematical papers on economic scenarios (double Phd) which few understand and use. My other brother, a physicist, also Phd, works at the Naval Research Lab. He loves to ski and also doesn’t produce information that helps him or anyone else improve the skiing skills or have more fun skiing.

        My passion is skiing and helping others learn how to ski. I think that the more we understand about how motor skills are acquired and developed is of importance in my profession. A basic knowledge of biomechanics and forces is enough to allow people’s brains to give themselves permission to “do”, to ski. Attending to the sensations and the outcomes is the next ingredient.

        So, bottom line, I see no use of being able to diagram and put into a mathematical equation why it is that Ligety, and others are able to edge their skis at such a high angle. Seeing that they can is enough.

        Second bottom line is that the art of teaching skiing has changed from one that considers technical problems and offers technical solutions to one that deals with adaptive problems that demand active participation of the learner.

        Skiing skills are open skills that depend on the ability to ‘read’ and adapt to the environment. The are learned in an experience centric environment which the instructor helps to create and guide. They are not learned cognitively, but rather experientially with huge affective overtones.

        Hope this makes sense. You have a lot to offer. Would just like to see that applied to the current problems at hand regarding helping others have more fun and improve their skiing skills.

        However, if you wish to offer up a model with the equations, be my guest if that what really makes you tick. I am sure there are some others who would like to see it. What others are not interested in is a some contest as to who is smarter.

        Cheers.

      2. I talk about how I prepared a pair of boots for Rob Boyd that instantly turned around his skiing with zero interaction with Boyd on my part or how I prepared a pair of boots for Steve Podborski with an in-boot technology I invented that enabled him to compete and win a few months after reconstructive knee surgery after being told by his doctors he was ‘out for the season’, again with zero interaction on my part, and you are suddenly alluding to my creating equations for the dynamics of edging? Where did I ever mention anything about mathematics? I didn’t. I have boxes full of letters from skiers telling me how I changed their lives. I even have one from the Prime Minister of Canada. I still run into skiers today who rave about what I did for them 40 years ago. In 99.99% of these skiers, all I did was set up their boots so they could use the NATURAL processes they were born with. I never even went near a ski hill with them. But according to critics like yourself, I am making skiing complicated while taking the fun out of it. I am doing the exact opposite.

        No, what you are saying doesn’t make any sense to me anymore that your unwarranted assumption anyone can just ski. My experience has been that equipment acts as a filter that enables those with specific characteristics to ski reasonably easily while the majority struggle. I have devoted 40 years of my life to finding out why while contributing thousands of hours of my time pro bono to helping skiers and racers improve in the interest of advancing the sport by advancing skiing as a science. What have you contributed?

  7. Your only as good as your last race. Marcel is faster not Ted. And your a douch. Get some leather boots.

      1. When I received a notice that you had posted a comment, I was reviewing the NY Times video: Ligety on GS, again and making notes. I spend a lot of time reviewing comments by Ligety and Shiffrin. In my opinion, they both make a sincere effort to be open frank about their technique. But they are limited by the inaccuracies and serious omissions in the narrative the ski industry has invented to describe ski technique. Ted attempts to describe the events associated with stepping on the new outside ski early:

        1:56
        I’m basically on my downhill ski and I’m starting my new turn on the other…. really quickly sometimes…..
        2:02
        I go from the apex…. I’m pushing as hard as I can …. I almost step on the new ski while it’s still on the edge it was currently on in that turn …. before it’s actually rolled from an uphill edge to the downhill edge…. I’m getting on the new ski before you actually switch it… I can start pushing on the ski really early….. you know…. when it’s working against gravity…. you know you’re kinda pushing yourself down the hill in a way…

        It’s obvious, at least to me, that Ted is struggling to find the right words to explain what he is doing. The reason for this is that the essential elements needed to accurately communicate Ted’s technique are outside the current frame of reference of the ski industry narrative. So for all intents and purposes, the essential elements are ‘invisible’. For example, the applied force resulting from the transfer of load from COM in the torso through the leg and foot to the ski is absent even though it is the critical force that must be aligned on the same axis as the resultant force with both aligned in opposition to the snow reaction force acting along the entire inside edge of the outside ski. One of the most important posts I have made since I started the blog was on maximizing load transfer. This is the key to an effective ski technique. But this post had the fewest views of any to date because load transfer does not resonate with skiers. I have recently designed a simple device to train skiers to do what Ligety does. I will be posting on this soon.

  8. “When force is applied to the outside with the base at an angler greater than 45 degrees to the snow, the component of sheer force that makes the edge slip is greater than the component of vertical force that makes the edge grip. Since as far as I know, Ted Ligety is bound by the immutable laws of the universe, there has to be a logical explanation for why he appears to be defying the laws of physics.”

    I’m sorry David but IMO this is a well-known concept and there is no magic or secret.

    See e.g. the description of Critical Platform Angle on http://www.epicski.com/a/the-complete-encyclopedia-of-skiing-epicski-skiing-glossary, or you can read about it in RLMs book if you have it.

    1. Based on the nonsense you cited, it is apparently an even bigger secret that I thought. I have LeMaster’s book and he isn’t even close to explaining the mechanics of edge hold. As for Barnes, he apparently doesn’t know the difference between attractive forces like gravity and magnetism and physical applied forces. That you seem to have bought into these nonsensical explanations confirms why skiing remains entrenched in the dark ages. You get a F- in mechanics, biomechanics and physics.

      1. Nonsense? The only nonsense is “When force is applied to the outside with the base at an angler greater than 45 degrees to the snow, the component of sheer force that makes the edge slip is greater than the component of vertical force that makes the edge grip”

        I only have A+’s in physics, and this is pretty basic.

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