My recent series of posts on the effect of ramp angle on stance seems to have piqued interest in this subject. The two posts with most views in recent weeks are:
- #1 – RAMPING UP THE POWER OF YOUR STANCE and
- #2 – STANCE BASICS 101; RESISTIVE SHANK ANGLE
The following posts were close behind,
- STANCE BASICS 101: ECCENTRIC MUSCLE POWER
- STANCE BASICS 101; RAMP ANGLE TIPPING POINT
- SKI BOOTS: WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE
- CALCULATING RAMP ANGLE
- THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS
Since I first raised the issue of net or compound ramp angle on June 2, 2013 in my post , Ski Racing: An Unlevel Playing Field, I started to look critically at ramp angle, especially the net or compound ramp angle. This includes the contribution of ramp angle from boot boards and bindings. In past year, in working closely with skiers in other parts of the world, including a racer in Europe who I work with on an almost daily basis where the effect of every change is carefully evaluated and documented on video, I have tentatively concluded that ramp angle may be the single most important factor affecting skier balance and control of the skis.
In my post, SKI RACING: AN UNLEVEL PLAYING FIELD, I said of my work back in 1977,
“But I was adjusting two other things that no one even seemed to even be aware were issues; net ramp angle and position of the ball of the foot and big toe in relation to the ski edge underfoot.”
I went on the explain,
“Net ramp angle is the inclination of the sole of the foot in relation to the surface of the snow. It affects the muscles a racer can use and especially the ability to apply force to the fore body of a ski and the ability to activate what I call the auto processes of edge control and turning forces. Two factors contribute to forward inclination; 1) the ramp angle of the boot board that the sole of the foot is supported on and , 2) the angle created by the heel and toe plates of the ski binding. I don’t know where they are today, but back in 1977 ramp angles were all over the map in both boot and binding brands and even models. Because of this, both the base angle of the boot sole plate and binding had to be considered as a unit in determining net ramp angle. Although few if any were aware of this issue, to me it explained why a racer’s skiing and results sometimes went downhill when they changed to a different ski binding or boot or worse, changed both.”
Ramp Angle Roulette
If I thought that ramp angle was all over the map back in 1977, the situation is infinitely worse today. Back in 1977, there were a limited number of bindings on the market. Today it seems as if the sky is the limit.
A few weeks ago, a recreational skier who was having problems with their boots and skiing asked me for my assistance. It quickly became obvious that the boots, which had no modification, were far too tight and especially too narrow for the skier’s wide peasant feet and squared off toes. When I checked ramp angles, the boot board was 3.27 degrees and not monoplanar (not flat). The ramp of the bindings was 1.90 degrees as set for the length of the boots. The net ramp angle was 5.17 degrees.
Adjusting the ramp angle of the boot board was not possible because it was an injected plastic form that is not easily modified. Since new boots were needed, I made sure that the ramp angle of the boot board could be modified. Bindings were another matter entirely. When I started what became an extensive and exhaustive search for a recreational binding with zero ramp, I could find none. Worse, when I started to check bindings for height differences in the toe and heel piece platforms, I could find no consistency, let alone even a hint of any sign of any standard. They all seemed to be different. Since modifying bindings is not an option, at this point I am at an impasse with no solution to offer the skier.
The KIS Principle
The goto mantra of the ski industry is the KIS principle; Keep It Simple. I fully subscribe to this principle which is why my efforts are directed at creating an environment in the ski equipment system, especially in the ski boot, that supports optimal human performance and balance. From a perspective of balance, skiing is one of the most complex activities we engage in. The ski amounts to perturbation platform in motion over undulating terrain with different coefficients of friction in a dynamic, constantly changing 3-dimensional physical environment. The wide variances between ramp angles in ski boots and bindings and the fact that the ramp angle contribution from bindings is variable according to the boot sole length, make the combination of net ramp angles both unpredictable and almost unlimited. When I noted back in 1977 that the lack of any apparent standards, “explained why a racer’s skiing and results sometimes went downhill when they changed to a different ski binding or boot or worse, changed both”, the situation is far worse today. How many careers of promising racer’s have been compromised because the effect of ramp angle was not appreciated?
There are two possibilities.
- Ramp angle has no significant effect on skier function, especially balance, in which case the standard should be zero boot board and binding ramp, or
- Ramp angle has a profound effect on skier function, especially balance, in which case studies should be done to ascertain the effects of ramp angle and especially a method by which to determine individual ramp angles for optimal function and balance.
If it turns out that ramp angle is as critical as my recent experiences and subjective experiments are suggesting, then the current state of the unlimited possible ramp variances skiers are presented with is the antithesis of the KIS principle when it comes to making skiing easy and enjoyable.
This brings us to the question, is ramp angle critical or irrelevant?
- If ramp angle is irrelevant, why is it present in boots and bindings?
- If ramp angle is critical, how can it be variable with no consistency in application?
In my next post, Michael who has been applying material from my blog will relate his experiences in his own words.