A SKI PRO DEMONSTRATES BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI


I have long maintained that the main reason skiers and racers ascend through the ranks to the elite is because they are able to stand and balance on their outside ski using the same natural processes of balance we were born with. My theory leading up to the Birdcage studies in 1991, was that those who are able to stand and balance on their outside ski do so by creating what amounts to solid ground under their outside foot through the application of a combination of rotational forces to the ski. It is the combination of these forces that has the effect of cantilevering the ground acting along the running length of the inside edge of the outside ski, out under the base of the ski underfoot.

I have also maintained that skiers who can stand and balance on their outside ski, don’t fully understand how and why they can do this.  So they can’t explain what they do, let alone teach it. It’s also why they don’t understand why other skiers have trouble balancing on their outside ski, something they can easily do.  Thus, Ted Ligety talks about ‘creating pressure’ while Mikaela Shiffrin talks about ‘getting over it’. This may be all they need to know. But it doesn’t help those who want to know.

Yesterday, I found an excellent YouTube video demonstration of the movement and timing associated with balance on the outside ski (1) by Big White Mountain Ski Pro, Josh Foster. Foster provides a real life visual example that most skiers can relate to. His demonstration also provides a reference I can use for future posts. To date, this is the only description I have come across that accurately describes some of the main elements. 

While Foster misses a key point, he gets the role of rotation of the outside leg in combination with edge angle, right.

His comments from various parts of the video appear below. The number preceding each comment is the number of seconds into the video. The link to Fosters YouTube video is at the end of the post (1).

  • 0.25 – For any structure to be in balance, it starts with a really strong platform. Skiing is no different than that. I need a strong platform.
  • 0.43 – So, I need a good strong platform from the snow up so that I am balanced. 
  • 1:04 – But here’s how I create this platform or this foundation that I want to ski on.
  • 1:11 – But it comes with a turning of the lower body. Watch how I turn my leg here. That  combination of turning also puts my ski up on its edge. So when my ski is on its edge and I turn my leg, that’s what creates that solid platform or that foundation that I am looking for.
  • 1:53 – I need that platform first so I can be better balanced all the way through the turn.
  • 2:14 – We do it with turning the lower body and getting balanced on those edges.

The 3 frames below are from Fosters’ video.

In the first frame below, he is approaching what I refer to as the moment of truth. This is the point where the new outside ski goes flat on the snow between edge change.

In the frame below, Foster’s new outside ski is flat on the snow. Notice the quick extension he has made in the knees since his stance in the first frame. This move is the most important part of the sequence that sets up balance on the outside ski. The move, which I will describe in the next post, is an impulse heel-rocker-forefoot loading move. This move must be made just as the outside ski is going flat on the snow. If you watch carefully, you will see all good World Cup racers make this move as they approach the rise line above a gate.

The fact that Foster does not even mention this impulse move suggests that he may not even be aware he is making it. Some ski pros and coaches confuse this move as unweighting. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It is a high impulse loading move. It tensions the forefoot and loads the inside edge under the ball of the foot. The high impulse load tips the ski on edge and causes the shovel to hook into the turn. It also starts the outside leg passively rotating internally (into the turn), from the foot up. You can see the rotation starting in the Fosters left leg.

In the frame below, Foster’s leg has switched gears and is actively rotating the outside leg from the pelvis down. This is the action that cantilevers the GRF acting along the running surface of the inside edge out under the base of the ski. This is possible because the internal rotator muscles of the pelvis have different origins of insertions on the pelvis than the hamstrings. The two muscle groups are complimentary while having a synergistic effect on balance and edge control.

In my next post, I will discuss impulse heel-rocker-forefoot loading.


  1. Ski Tips: Josh Foster – Strong Platform   https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=a8b5HRupcoA

You can reduce the speed on YouTube videos to 0.5 or 0.25 from Normal using the Speed menu item shown below. Slower speeds will allow you to see the timing of Fosters extension impulse loading move.

4 comments

  1. The bottom line that most in the ski industry fail to comprehend is that the best skiers ‘show’ the least movement because they are the best aligned. The beauty of David teaching ‘the move’ barefoot indoors is that when properly aligned the skier doesn’t have to ‘torque’ their body to achieve perfect balance (that one can get quite a bit easier barefoot) which can never happen if the ski boots prevent it. SO the great skiers ski smoother than the rest because they can attain the perfect ‘sweet spot’ (as David teaches without ski equipment) convoluting their bodies so it appears like they are doing very little because…. they don’t have to do a lot of extra compensatory moves. It also takes more strength to ski out of balance than in balance. In every sport there are some fortunate individuals that can run circles around everyone else; it comes down to their feet. They can start quicker, stop quicker, and change direction quicker. I saw it in years of watching gymnastics; the best gymnasts have the best feet that can absorb the craziest aerials the instant they hit the ground without having to barely bend their knees. Even tiny gymnasts that don’t have that ability in their feet can’t compete with the more fortunate because then they have to hinge at the waist which means they have to re-balance before the next maneuver. Translated to skiing; if ones boots don’t allow one to ever reach that point of balance talked about here, skiing is a continual struggle of instinctively seeking one’s balance.

    The most recent post with Stenmark and Giardelli proves that balance is all. They turn smoother ‘bending’ the old stiff, longer, skis than 99% of todays racers on the fancy new skis. I regularly go back to old gear; when I use my modified boots with old (mid ’90s) skis it’s no big deal. If I use un-modified boots with modern skis I flail like I did 20 years ago when I spent 130 days/year skiing! All those days of practice helped me survive the flailing but only rearranging the ski boots got me skiing smoother AND the ability to edge the skis.

    1. There’s not much I can add to what Michael said other to expand on the issue of smoothness. At the time that I observed and analyzed VHS video of the World Championships in 1987 I had acquaired a sophisticated VHS player that would play videos at very slow speeds with good quality, something standard VHS players that could be purchased for a fraction of the cost could not do. When I watched the technical events in slomotion, I quickly noticed that the racers who made the smoothest movements to get over their outside ski above the gate were consistently the fastest even though they did not look fast. One racer who really stood out was Erika Hess. I know now that it is the speed at which a skier loads their outside foot is the key to skiing with the best balance and control and the least effort. My SR Stance posts are really sequential loading training exercises.

  2. Where does tipping come in? Balance over the ball of foot and rotation of the femur fail to account for the movement of the CoM to the inside of the turn creating the majority of the edge angle. Also, I see WC skiers transition from edge, through flat to new edge without coming “up”. At times the “up” move is apparent, sometimes it is not present, therefore not required…When I make a “rail to rail” type turn, the inside leg is retracted (shortened) actively, with involvement of the pelvis tipping. Inside of the pelvis up, outside of the pelvis down=”high impulse loading move” Does Ligety apply much rotational force in an arc to arc turn, I don’t see it.

    1. Where does tipping come in? Balance over the ball of foot and rotation of the femur fail to account for the movement of the CoM to the inside of the turn creating the majority of the edge angle.
      > You are correct. This is why simplistic representations of the mechanics of balance and edge control fail to explain high edge angles and balance. Typical ‘explanations’ are based on uninformed observations that fit an established model. This is why no matter how many times I say ‘multiplane torques’, it fails to register because they are not readily apparent through obsveration.

      Where does tipping come in? Balance over the ball of foot and rotation of the femur fail to account for the movement of the CoM to the inside of the turn creating the majority of the edge angle.
      > Yes and no. Intertia driven rocker action drives the tipping. So the issue is the velocity differential between the skier and the outside ski as they come forward over it and especially the speed and intensity of forefoot loading. Foster’s impulse movement is not effective probably because he is using footbeds and/or his boots are buckled too tightly. The reason I decided to use him as an example is that his impulse is easily seen. If you haven;t read the studies I have posted links to this would be a good place to start.
      So sometimes the movement is not obvious and sometimes it is not required.

      When I make a “rail to rail” type turn, the inside leg is retracted (shortened) actively, with involvement of the pelvis tipping. Inside of the pelvis up, outside of the pelvis down=”high impulse loading move”
      > No. Inclination in itself does not result in impulse loading. Remember, I said that Foster only gets some parts right.

      Does Ligety apply much rotational force in an arc to arc turn, I don’t see it.
      > You are correct and I have said that. The magnitude of perceived rotational force is not the issue. The ability to control torques created by external forces is the issue. It is why Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world”, to which I said, give me the right moment arms and I shall easily fight the external forces of skiing and win every time.

      A suggestion: How about waiting until I have all the pieces in place. Then study them careful and only then offer comments.

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