For those who are new to the Skier’s Manifesto, welcome.
I became involved in an effort to design a new ski boot at the request of Crazy Canuck, Steve Podborski. Steve was (and I think still is) the only non-European to win the World Cup Downhill title. Steve also won a bronze medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. After he won the World Cup Downhill title he asked me if I could design a boot that would do for every skier what the boots I had built from components that used a new fit technology I had invented did for him. I saw this as an opportunity to advance skiing. I accepted.
I did not take on this project to make money. I took it on because I saw problems with equipment, especially ski boots, that were significantly affecting the enjoyment of the sport for the majority of skiers. I wanted to try and solve these problems and contribute to the betterment of a great sport.
In 1978, I started down the road to try and improve the ski boot by working with world class racers such as Steve Podborski. Today, my focus and mission remains unchanged. I am still working with skiers and racers and I am still learning. When Simon Zucchuber asked for my assistance with the Freemotion ski boot project, I did not hesitate to offer my assistance.
You can learn more about me under the HOME heading on the opening page.
Over the past week, I spent time going through my US Patent 5,265,350 trying to recall the events that influenced my thinking.
The first patent awarded to me was US 4,534,122. It was filed on Dec 1, 1983 and issued by the US Patent Office on August 13, 1985. The patent is for an innovative in-boot fit system that constrains the forefoot without obstructing the glide path of the ankle joint.
When I invented the fit system disclosed in the patent, I knew I was headed in the right direction. But I also knew that I did not have a full understanding, let alone a solution, for the flexural aspect of the ski boot. Between 1973 and 1983 I had come to understand that boot flex was affected by material stiffness, temperature and closure tension. But two of the biggest issues were that buckle boots flexed by deformation of what is a U-shaped tube (which made flex unpredictable) and the angle of the rear cuff that had minimal or no adjustment. This meant that the angle of the shank of a skier was determined by the mass of the calf muscle at the top of the shaft. Attempts by others to address flex had typically focussed on one issue at the expense of another or even caused new problems.
Devising a system for boot flex that would solve all issues and especially one that did not rely on shell deformation led me to the exo-skeleton format around 1987. A patent for this format was not filed until April 25, 1989 because of the time it took to work with lawyers and try and figure out how to define and describe the technology so it would meet the novel requirement for a patent.
Figure 1 below is from the initial patent filing for the patent that was eventually issued on November 30, 1993 as US 5,265,350. This figure and the material in the application established a priority date for the length of the eventual patent. This initial patent was later abandoned in favour of newer iterations. All of the ‘improvements’ are described in the patent which can found by searching the patent number US 5,265,350 in the US Patent or Google Patent web sites.
The device is a exo-skeleton arrangement with a tube for the leg attached to the base by arms on each side that rotate about an axis (23) on the base structure (11). A single wide band secures the front portion of the tube (shaft) about the leg of a user to the rear portion.
A bendable spring (40) is affixed to the base on the outside (lateral aspect) of the base (11). An adjustment (42) allows the spring to be moved closer or further away from the two contact arms (43 and 46). The contact arms slide up and down in a channel on the arms so as to allow for an amount of low consistent low resistance cuff rotation before higher resistance is introduced or allow spring resistance to be introduced earlier. Contact arm (46) can be adjusted up or down the arm so as to change the resistance curve.
An adjustment means (generally shown at 30) allows the angle of the cuff to be adjusted. This enables a user to obtain the correct forward lean angle for the shank which I knew by then was critical (see the posts on SR Stance).
Figure 1 is a rough or what is called a schematic concept of the exo-skeleton system. The next step was to try and come up with a design with aesthetic qualities. Figure 5, below, shows the exo-skeleton of Figure 1 with a soft liner. The attachment for flex spring has been incorporated into the axis journals for the arms of the exo-skeleton.
About 1989, I was approached by a husband and wife radiology team. They taught radiology at a university. They were both keen skiers. They heard about my project to develop a ski boot based on anatomical principles and offered their assistance. They presented me with a copy of a recently published book called The Shoe in Sport – Supported by the Orthopedic/Traumatologic Society for Sports Medicine (OTS). The Shoe in Sport was initially been published in Germany in 1987 as Der Schu Im Sport. They were of German background. That was how they knew about the book.
I found the knowledge contained in The Shoe in Sport invaluable, especially the article the ‘Kinematics of the Foot in the Ski Boot’ by Professor Dr, M. Pfeiffer of the Institute for Athletic Sciences at the University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria. The information contained in The Shoe in Sport helped crystallize many of the issues I had been struggling with and profoundly influenced the thinking behind the Birdcage and the Birdcage experients conducted in the July of 1991 on Whistler Mountain’s glacier.
For the first time, I felt I was on solid ground with my thinking. I was ready to go boldly forward and break new ground.
… to be continued in Part 2.