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.
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.
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.
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’.