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 (, 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.