The recent article by Jackson Hogen, A (Slight) Swing Back to Sanity What We Learned at the SIA – http://www.realskiers.com/NEWSLETTERS/sanity.htm), has implications for where I am going with Whistler Ski Pro, Matt. Hogen’s article prompted me to delay my post on the problems with ski boots and add my views that resonate with his.

In his article,  Hogen relates what he saw at the annual ski show in Denver, Colorado as a welcome trend; new ski models for next season will be less than 85 mm underfoot. After reaching widths that could best be described as grossly obese, skis have gone on a low fat diet. Next season, slim is in. Fat is no longer where it’s at, if it ever really was. Why is this trend important and why does it matter?

Like Hogen, I have witnessed the effect of wide skis on technique and it is not good. Hogen expresses the view that once skiers are on boards so broad they can’t comfortably tip them to a high edge angle, the chances of them ever acquiring this foundational skill are virtually nil. I agree. But the issue is more than just high edge angles. It is the ability to apply forces with the foot at turn initiation that rotate or tip the new outside ski onto its inside edge, period. It’s not just skis, boots are equally to blame for the demise of technical skills. In my post, FAILURE TO CARVE  (https://skimoves.me/2016/01/17/failure-to-carve/), I reported on the feature article, To Bend a Ski, in January 2016 Ski Magazine. In the article, PSIA instructors estimated that 9 out of 10 skiers don’t carve their turns. From what I have witnessed on the slopes of Whistler-Blackcomb, these past few seasons, that number is probably more like 1 in 100 and includes a lot of ski pros.

Hogen also commented that most skiers remain unaware that a wide ski on hard snow poses inherently higher risks of knee discomfort and increases the odds of a serious knee injury. In the fall of 2014, Kim Hewson, MD, and I coined the term Fat Ski Syndrome. When Dr. Hewson warned about the stress on the knee caused by fat skis in the November 2014 post, FAT SKI SYNDROME (https://skimoves.me/2014/11/26/fat-ski-syndrome/), he and I were lone voices calling out in the ski world about the potential dangers of fat skis on hard pistes. Now Hogen has chimed in.

The big question is why are most skiers unaware of the inherently higher risks of knee discomfort and increased odds of serious knee injury associated with the use wide skis on hard snow? Perhaps, because no one is telling them? It is hard to find even innocuous products today without encountering warnings on the package about the potential for the product to cause injury, no matter how slight. This is true of even toothpicks and cotton swabs. Skiing and especially ski equipment, seems to be operating in a parallel universe or perhaps a product liability vacuum where the more radical a product, the more ski magazines and ski enthusiasts welcome it as cutting-edge innovation. The only apparent upper limit to the width of fats seemed to be the width between a skiers feet. Risk? What’s that?

The problem is that when those who endorse or promote a product, don’t disclose what should be, or at the very least, what ought to be, an obvious risk like potentially injurious torque on the foot and leg, from skis over a certain width underfoot, the consumer reasonably assumes there are no risks. For the same reason, when those who endorse or promote products like ski boots that have been criticized by independent scientists such as Dr. Stussi, Dr. Pfieffer, Dr Schaff and others, as not founded on principles of anatomy and that loading the ankle sends the stress of skiing up the leg to the rather delicate knee, and those who endorse or promote products, fail to respond to, let alone address these issues,  the consumer reasonably assumes that such products are supported by appropriate science and that there are no significant risks associated with their use.

Hogen ends his article by stating that the reinvestment in the Frontside and Technical categories inspires hope that Americans will rediscover the joys of riding a narrower ski, such as speed control, trajectory management, balance and timing, more succinctly summarized as “skill.” Unfortunately, I tend to agree with Hogen’s statement that once skiers learn a coping mechanism; one that does an end run around sound foundational technical skills, the odds of a skier acquiring such skills in the future is virtually nil.

In working with skiers like Matt, Morgan and racer X, they often have video documentation, notes and records of equipment dating back years. In the case of racer X, I have been provided with copies of hundreds of videos dating back more than 10 years. These have enabled me to study the effect of problematic equipment that precipitated problematic coaching. I was even able to clearly see evidence of a back injury on the racer’s technique. A series of adverse changes over a number of years derailed a promising career to the point where the racer wanted to quit. As Matt recognized, talented athletes are able to fake it and look like the real deal. Race results tell a different story. They can’t be faked.

As I will illustrate with Matt, fixing a skier’s boots is one thing. Erasing the skiing hard drive in the brain and reprogramming and rebooting it with a technique of not just sound, but superior technical skills, is a long, slow process; one that is seldom a straight line. It is unlikely that the average skier has the motivation to pursue such an arduous journey. This being the case, ski technique will continue its downhill descent in spite of any low fat ski diet.



  1. Another great article. I have steadily found myself agreeing with what you present as a pretty accurate summation of the current state of the industry and its interrelationship with a decline in technique as well as the increased potential for injury among the sport’s practitioners. While I appreciate the feeling you must have at times of being the lone voice in the wilderness calling for change or at least crying out for recognition of the need for it its better as they say to light one candle than to curse the darkness. In my own practice as a ski teacher, coach and sales adviser in skiing since the seventies I came to the conclusion both from my personal experiences with my own equipment and I might say survival of the many trends of the decades as well as my gradually accumulating experience both off and on the snow with customers and athletes/students that to slavishly accept the current guru or marketing push from the commercial side of the sport was not always going to lead to the results i was looking for. Thanks again for providing information in this format and in particular the recent inclusion of Whistler Pro Matt’s journeys of discovery. In many ways it has mirrored my own though I have been unable to pursue it to this degree.

    On another note while I was very flattered after our last exchange to see that you were also following my site on WordPress after a comment I made on yours you will have noticed that there is virtually nothing on it. In part that is because the amount of writing that I did before on a previous blog site for a local club had been so time consuming that I wanted to take a short break from this activity. To be completely honest about that time I started to do more research online on boot fitting and came across your blog. Realizing that the depth to which you were delving into the subject was always going to be seriously more scientifically based than anything I was going to express led me away temporarily from writing about the subject. I hope to return at some time but primarily to to share the experience of others in their experiences on snow.

    Last but not least the “official” return of the narrower waisted skis for carving versus the exceptionally wide platforms for floating that have been so prevalent in the sport is still a welcome trend. I’ve been selling skis to customers in a marketplace that like every other was deluged with the PR about flying through the steeps and deeps on a carpet of bottomless powder but it never fit the reality that the vast majority skiers that I met or knew were experiencing. Here in Central Canada a good powder day was the two inches of ground up top coat left by the groomer the night before as the area carefully farmed the minimal amount of man made product made possible in our climate. This skier would then go to the mountains on their fatties to have the skiing experience that was promised them by the travelogue but for the most part stayed on the groomed runs. Yet without the knowledge, ability and equipment to carve they spent their vacation primarily sliding and skidding over the snow. One day blends into another when you aren’t improving or experiencing something really new on snow so it was no wonder to me to see declining numbers of skiers on our local slopes who possessed skills that would lead them to the joy that can come from experiencing the athletic sensations that can result from arcing clean lines even at lower speeds. Now don’t get me wrong. Different strokes for different folks but most 40 year olds aren’t gong to cliff jump or ride the rails and not everyone can afford the helicopter driven back-country vacation. The local scene was so contradictory in terms of the information that the customer was exposed to that a competitor of mine once claimed that because I was a coach and spoke about technique while I was selling equipment that I couldn’t possibly be an expert on skis since that was the province of the pure retailer! I suppose the only vindication of my point of view at the time is that I’m still selling equipment and they’re out of business. I mention this only because I see a common thread among those who have a passion for the sport, the influence of equipment on the outcomes and the interplay between technique and technology. We tend to be iconoclasts.

    If the pendulum is swinging back my hope is that it is in time to have a positive impact on the sport that I have made the cornerstone of my life. Thanks for your continued pursuit of this subject. It’s been an inspiration.

    1. Glenn, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me. Whistler-Blackcomb just celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. In watching video footage of the iconic skiers of the early days of Whistler, I was inspired by obvious passion they exuded; something that got lost in the intervening years. The problem I see is that the ski industry has failed skiers by failing to invest in research to understand why a small group of skiers, ski with such ease and so little effort compared to most. Once I figured it out, I could not believe how simple and easy it is to ski at this level. A few days ago, when my wife and were skiing on Whistler it was depressing to see how badly literally everyone skied. The one and only bright spot of the day was a slight Japanese skier who could motor; a sight for sore eyes. This used to be the norm years ago. Somewhere in the scheme of things, real skiers as exemplified by the Japanese skier, went missing.

      1. I agree. It’s unfortunate that conversations like this can often be interpreted as the elitist reflections or rantings of an older generation that started on technology (125 lbs on 207 GS skis for me and boots and overlap race boots or rear entry models that I tried once and then discarded immediately) that were even poorer at achieving the results we know modern skiers and equipment can attain. Yet I reflect back on when shaped skis first burst on the scene and I had this strange expectation that within a few years I was going to visit the mountains and see a whole range of skiers and so many more carving and arcing around the slopes at varying speeds than it was possible to do so before because that’s what the equipment was capable of. It didn’t really happen or at least not to the degree that I thought possible. So after I had asked in the early days some of the older visitors to the store I worked in if they’d tried the new skis (on which I was experiencing sensations and skiing that I had struggled all my life to try to experience and still strive to achieve) only to be told that they didn’t see the difference rather than just being incredulous the light bulbs went off. I asked them to describe how they skied. Were they trying to ski the equipment the same as their old pencils or differently (since it did require some different movement patterns to be effective)? I found myself almost teaching skiing while I sold equipment. It’s been the cornerstone of my approach to the business side of the sport ever since. While it may be a truism that we are led to believe by our own hopes as well as industry hype, to use another sport as an analogy, if we just spend the $550 CDN on that new driver we’ll magically be able to add the 60 yards to our drive on the golf course that keeps us out of the pro ranks it rarely happens. Technique matters too but it’s easier to just sell the equipment. Recently I reviewed Webisode 2 2016 from Alpine Canada by Matt Distefano whose guidance and connection to the sport as well as his willingness to share his experiences personally with me in the past in the sport and the world of equipment has also been a strong influence on my approach to boots as well as more recently yours. I particularly enjoyed the comment he makes regarding racer performance that its become too easy to blame the product for performance when sometimes its technique. The pendulum swings both ways. The role of the coach is increasingly complex in this regards but still all too often at the lower levels I find that there is not enough intervention by the coaches in the area of equipment. Here’s his video inc case you haven’t seen it. Sorry for the redundancy if you have.

      2. I communicate with Matt Stefano from time to time. Although his YouTube presentation only provided a preliminary overview, I am in lock-step with him except for the issue of ankle/boot flex. I will post on this issue when I detail my work with WB Ski Pro, Matt.

        The pivotal (pun intended) issue I see is that with few exceptions, most ski pros and coaches seem to be enamoured by and beholden to, equipment makers. When shape skis were introduced, they saw their role as engaging in impromptu experiments to try and figure out to make these skis work. This led to what I call the ‘2 x 4’ technique where both legs are used like sticks or levers to hold the skis on edge at the same angle and let them take the skier wherever, into trees, over cliffs, into other skiers. The premise was to let the ski take control.

        On the WC level, racers such as Bode Miller won races with the ‘slip-catch’ technique where a racer threw their skis across the hill then fell into the turn, levering both skis on edge until they ‘catched’ or caught for better English. Sometimes, the skis ‘catched’ and ‘ripped’…….. knees apart that is. After whole teams were decimated, the FIS backed off on ski sidecut radius while there were still a few racers left. Meantime, boots got straighter and higher and power straps and high leverage shaft buckles were added to turn a skiers legs into serious ‘2 x 4s’. The only thing left is leg replacement surgery that amputates both legs at the hip and replaces them with steel rods, or perhaps carbon fibre, that bolt directly to the ski. Now, when that happens we’ll really have something. Cue marketing. The next big thing is coming. I can hardly wait.

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