This post contains the most important information I have ever written on skiing. It concerns the most important discovery I have made since I began to cast a critical eye on the positions of the various experts about 45 years ago; a method to determine the optimal personal ramp angle of a skier/racer.
By 1978, subjective experiments had taught me that a total ramp angle between the sole of the foot and the base of a ski of more than 3 degrees could have significant adverse effects on skier stability, balance and the ability to control the direction and especially the edge angle, of a ski. Wherever possible, I tried to limit total ramp angle (boot boards + bindings) to below or close to 3 degrees. But ski boot and binding construction often limited my ability to reach this objective. It was limitations in the construction of my current Head World Cup boot that presented challenges in getting the boot board ramp angle below 3 degrees. Through a concerted effort I had managed to reduce ramp angle to 3.3 degrees (bindings are zero) with a noticeable improvement in balance, ski and edge control. But the results of my recent NABOSO insole test suggested that the boot board ramp angle needed to be a lot lower.
The Dynamic Ski Stance Theory
A standard test of the human balance system is to subject a subject to dynamic changes in the platform under their feet. Over the past few years, I made numerous attempts to find the optimal ramp angle for skiing. One method involved assuming my strongest stance on a hard, flat level surface then stepping onto a plate shimmed to a fixed angle then repeating the process with the plate shimmed to a different angle. The results were inconclusive. Every time I went back to the hard, flat level starting surface my balance system seemed to reset. I had to get the angle of the tilted plate well over 3 degrees before I began to sense obvious instability. This led to my positing of a theory that the angle of a plate that a skier is standing on needs to be changed as the skier goes through a stance protocol designed to test stability and what I call a rooted or grounded connection where the skier feels as if their feet are literally rooted in the snow.
Research is Urgently Needed
Before I go any further I want to stress that I believe that an idea, no matter how compelling, is nothing more than a theory until it has been thoroughly tested and has withstood rigorous scrutiny. Even then, no theory should be immune to challenges. Research on this subject is urgently needed and long overdue. With this in mind, I designed the dynamic stance assessment device so it can be easily made with reasonable skills and readily available, inexpensive materials. I have recently completed a 4th generation prototype to serve this end. But a much more sophisticated device can and should be made and used by academic researchers. A servo motor driven ramp with a data acquisition package is the preferred option.
Stance Training is Essential
In order to obtain accurate results with the dynamic stance assessment ramp it is essential that the subject being tested undergo kinesthetic stance training and follow a protocol during testing that is designed to help the subject assess the effect of changes in ramp angle. It is disturbing that few of the skiers tested so far have a kinesthetic sense of the elements of a strong stance. Most have never sensed a strong stance. Worse, no ski pro or coach has ever discussed this crucial aspect of skiing with them. It appears as if it is simply assumed that a skier will automatically find their optimal stance. I can unequivocally state that this is not the case.
Dynamic Stance Ramp Test Results
- The majority of skiers tested so far were most stable at ramp angles between 2.0 and 2.5 degrees.
- A number of skiers, myself included, were most stable at close to or under 1.2 degrees.
- One skier was most stable at 1.6 degrees.
- One skier appeared to be relatively insensitive to ramp angle until it was above 2.8 degrees.
- After training, most skiers were sensitive to changes of 0.1 degrees.
- No skier tested so far was stable over 2.8 degrees.
- Adding NABOSO insoles further reduced the ramp angle.
I tested most stable at 1.2 degrees; 2.1 degrees less than my existing boot board ramp angle. In order to reduce the boot board ramp angle to 1.2 degrees, I had to raise the toe end of my boot board 9 mm and lower the heel 2 mm for a total reduction of 11 mm.
First On Snow Impressions
Walking in my ski boots with the corrected boot board ramp angle immediately felt different. But the huge impact didn’t come until I started moving over the surface of the snow on my skis. Then the whole world seemed to change. I had a huge deja-vu moment; one that took me back to the solid, stable feeling I had under my feet in my first low-cut leather plastic soled ski boots. It was then that I realized that it was the jacked up heels of my first all plastic, rigid shell ski boots 45 years ago that had destroyed my balance and confidence on skis. This is a big miss for the ski industry, one that should have been caught by those who promote themselves as the experts in skiing, but wasn’t. This miss has huge implications for skiers at every level and ability all the way up to the World Cup. A skier, but especially a racer with a sub-optimal ramp angle will revert to an unstable weight on the heels, back seat Defensive Stance in which the skier is incapable of recruiting the enormous power of the glutes and optimal sensorimotor processes.
First generation device in action. Ratchet socket wrenches raise the ramp by turning bolts set into T-Nuts on each end.
Digital SmartTool electronic level accurate to 2 decimal places
Fourth Generation Stance Ramp assessment prototype. Two x two wood stiffening elements added to the platform.
The skiing of those whose ramp angle has been optimized is elevated to a whole new level provoking immediate comments like the difference is ‘night and day‘. After my transformation, I now believe that until ramp angle is optimized, everything else is irrelevant and that no amount of footbeds, orthotics, cants, alignment or custom fitting can overcome the adverse affect of sub-optimal ramp.