Shiffrin

WHY TRYING TO COPY HIRSCHER AND SHIFFRIN’S MOVES DOESN’T WORK – PART 3

Superior Dynamic Stability (Equilibrium) has always been the single most important factor responsible for the dominance of the World’s best skiers. It enables racers like Hirscher and Shiffrin to literally free fall, maximally accelerate under gravity then precisely land on and lock up the edges of their outside ski, establish a line and project their body towards the next gate in milliseconds and initiate a new free fall. Maximization of Dynamic Stability is crucial for a skier to set up a dynamically stable foundation in the outside ski to stand and balance on so they can establish the strongest possible position from which to generate the internal forces required to oppose the external forces acting on them.

Both skating and skiing are susceptible transverse instability manifesting as wobble oscillation (chatter) across the pivot formed by the skate blade or inside edge of a ski underfoot that challenges skater/skier Dynamic Stability. A number of quantifiable metrics are reliable indicators of the presence and degree of Dynamic Stability.  A key metric is Peak (maximum) Force.

The graph below shows the peak forces of 4 competitive skaters in the 2012 University of Ottawa skate study in their own skates (OS) and the skates I prepared (NS).I have added green bars for the elite skiers with highest and lowest peak forces from the 1998 University of Ottawa pressure study for comparison purposes.

Of interest is the fact that the peak force of one of the elite ski instructors is almost 3 times the peak force of one of the other elite ski instructors.  Given the small variances in peak Forces of the 4 competitive skaters in their own skates and the significant increase in peak Force seen in the skates I prepared (NS) it is reasonable to assume that some factor or factors are limiting the performance of the competitive skaters and one or more of the elite ski instructors in the 1998 study. The researchers recognized this in the 1998 ski pressure study (1.)

A factor that was not controlled during data collection was the equipment worn by the subjects. The skiers wore different boots, and used different skis, although two of them had the same brand and model of skis and boots. It still has yet to be determined if that factor had any effect on the results. A point that all the skis that the subjects used had in common is that the skis were all sharp side-cut skis (also called shaped skis). Another equipment variation which may have affected in-boot measurements, is that some subjects (n=5) wore custom designed footbeds, while the other did not. 

A 2017 pressure study on giant slalom turns (3.) notes several limitations to the use of pressure analysis technology fit to ski boots to record pressures during skiing.

The compressive force is underestimated from 21% to 54% compared to a force platform, and this underestimation varies depending on the phase of the turn, the skier’s skill level, the pitch of the slope and the skiing mode. 

The use of the term underestimated is out of context. When fit to a ski boot, pressure analysis technology records the plantar pressures imposed on the pressure insole. The researchers clarify this with the statement:

It has been stated this underestimation originates from a significant part of the force actually being transferred through the ski boot’s cuff.

In other words, interference with the application of plantar pressure by the structures of the ski boot is negatively affecting the ability of skier to create a foundation characterized by Dynamic Stability under the outside foot of a turn.

As a result, the CoP trajectory also tends to be underestimated along both the anterior-posterior (A-P) and medial-lateral (M-L) axes compared to force platforms.

As I will show in my next post, CoP trajectory is limited by the structures of a skate or ski boot, not underestimated by the pressure analysis technology which is only the messenger in the scheme of things.

Although a static physical environment is not the same as the dynamic physical environment associated with skating or skiing, pressure data captured on a force platform in a controlled laboratory setting can provide valuable baseline data on L-R symmetry that could explain the asymmetry seen in the large differences in the 1998 ski pressure study (1.) as shown in the table below.

What the pressure data is really showing is a L-R imbalance of Dynamic Stability.

Australian therapist and skier, Tom Gellie, posted on L-R pressure asymmetry on September 30 2018 on his FaceBook page, Functional Body.

Dynamic equilibrium is the most important aspect of skiing. Everything else is subordinated. Every aspect of skiing from equipment to technique should be assessed on its impact on the processes of Dynamic equilibrium. Ski design in particular needs to be analyzed especially as it pertains to sidecut geometry since it dictates the point where ground reaction force occurs and ground reaction force is fundamental to the initiation and maintenance of the processes of Dynamic equilibrium.

– M. Mester: keynote speaker at the first annual science symposium on skiing

……. to be continued in Part 4.


  1. ANALYSIS OF THE DISTRIBUTION OF PRESSURES UNDER THE FEET OF ELITE ALPINE SKI INSTRUCTORS – Dany Lafontaine, M.Sc.1,2,3, Mario Lamontagne, Ph.D., Daniel Dupuis, M.Sc.1,2, Binta Diallo, B.Sc.: Faculty of Health Sciences1, School of Human Kinetics, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Anatomy program, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – 1998
  2. ANALYSIS OF THE DISTRIBUTION OF PRESSURE UNDER THE FEET OF ELITE ALPINE SKI INSTRUCTORS – Dany Lafontaine, Mario Lamontagne, Daniel Dupuis, Binta Diallo, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – 1998
  3. Influence of slope steepness, foot position and turn phase on plantar pressure distribution during giant slalom alpine ski racing: Thomas Falda-Buscaiot , Frédérique Hintzy, Patrice Rougier, Patrick Lacouture, Nicolas Coulmy – Published: May 4, 2017 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176975

 

THE HIRSCHER/SHIFFRIN HAIRPIN TURN EXPLAINED

The topics of interest in recent views of my blog combined with comments on online forums on ski technique where nebulous terms such as pressure and tipping are an integral part of the narrative, have highlighted the need for a uniform frame of reference as a basis for meaningful discussions of ski technique as well as for the analysis and accurate identification of factors that explain the superior technique of racers like Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin. Simply trying to emulate the moves of the great skiers without re-creating the equipment factors that enable superior performance is not a productive exercise.

I touched on some of the factors that enable Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin to dominate their competition in my posts WHY SHIFFRIN AND HIRSCHER ARE DOMINATING (1.) and WHY HIRSCHER AND SHIFFRIN CAN CROSS THE LINE (2.). Over the coming weeks, I will post on the factors that I believe explain the ability of Hirscher and Shiffrin to make rapid, abbreviated hairpin turns even on the steep pitches of a course using what I call the problem-solving matrix jigsaw puzzle format. In contrast to the linear step-by-step progression problem-solving format, the matrix jigsaw puzzle format lays out information relevant to a situation in a grid format much like a jigsaw puzzle.  Known factors are assembled where there is a fit with the interfaces and arranged in relation to other components until a solution begins to emerge much like a coherent picture begins to emerge in a jigsaw puzzle as the pieces are correctly assembled. As the picture becomes more clear, tentative connections between the known segments are hypothesized to try and extrapolate the big picture. As the process progresses, less certain or flawed information is discarded and replaced with more certain information

A lot of critical information on the neurobiomechanics and even the mechanics and physics of skiing is either missing, misapplied or misunderstood in the narrative of ski equipment and technique.

Biomechanics of Sports Shoes

A valuable reference on neurobiomechanics and the future of sports shoes is the technical text, Biomechanics of Sports Shoes by Benno M. Nigg. Used in conjunction with the chapter on the Ski Boot in the medical text, The Shoe in Sport, valuable insights can be gleaned on the mechanics, neurobiomechanics and physics of skiing.

Nigg’s book can be ordered at NiggShoeBook@kin.ucalgary.ca. The following chapters in particular contain information relevant to skiing:

3. Functional Biomechanics of the Lower Extremities (pp 79 to 123) – contains essential information on the human ankle joint complex, tibial rotation movement coupling and foot torsion.

4. Sensory System of the Lower Extremities (pp 243 to 253) – contains essential information on the sensory system responsible for balance and precise movement, both of which are key to effective skiing.

In order to advance skiing as a science, a mutual objective must be getting the right answer as opposed to a need to be right.

The wisdom of Albert Einstein is appropriate.

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.

To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

In my next post, I will start laying out the functional principles that I currently believe explain the factors that enable the superior performance of racers like Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin and their ability to rapidly redirect their line and maximally accelerate by making rapid, abbreviated, hairpin turns.


  1. https://wp.me/p3vZhu-2q3
  2. https://wp.me/p3vZhu-2qo

WHY SHIFFRIN AND HIRSCHER ARE DOMINATING

Existing footwear does not provide for the dynamic nature of the architecture of the foot by providing a fit system with dynamic and predictable qualities to substantially match those of the foot and lower leg.

MacPhail, US Patent 5,265,350 – November 30, 1993

Of all the figures who have influenced the development of the plastic shell ski boot over the years, the Australian, Sven Coomer, stands tall as one of the most significant and innovative. More recently, Coomer was involved with the development of Atomic’s race boot, the Redster, used by Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin. Coomer claims that the Redster allows the skier’s forefoot to flex and move naturally within the confines of the shell.

A 2014 article by Jackson Hogen quoted Coomer as saying:

This liberation of the previously stunted, frozen and crushed forefoot is what allows for the subtle edging and foot steering that initiates the slalom turns of World Cup champions Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin. (1.)

Four years, later Hirscher and Shiffrin are dominating the technical disciplines of the World Cup circuit.

The ability to establish balance on the outside foot and ski in milliseconds is dependent on the ability of the forefoot to fully spread and acquire fascial tensioning that extends to the ankle and knee. This is called time-to-stabilization. Although Coomer doesn’t mention them, a myriad of other factors are also critical; including the alignment of the big toe on the long axis of the foot and the optimal ramp angle.

Coomer suspects that if racers would only fit their boots more accurately, coupled with a dynamic molding inner boot medium between the foot and shell, and without down-sizing into short, narrow, thick-sidewall shells, their results just might improve. (1.)

In order to realize their maximum potential it is critical that racers and even recreational skiers have a ski boot fit with dynamic and predictable qualities that substantially match those of the foot and lower leg. Yet Coomer readily acknowledges:

Many racers believe they need downsized, super-stiff, ultra-narrow boots. The most accomplished alpine ski boot designer of the plastic era, Sven Coomer, believes that’s changing.(1.)

But then, he seems to retract his optimism when he says that after forty-five years as the Cassandra of the ski boot world, he knows all too well that just because you can prove you’re right, it doesn’t mean your advice will be heeded.

My observation is that since Hogen’s 2014 article, the situation with downsized, hyper-restrictive ski boots that severely compromise the dynamic nature of the architecture of the foot, has gotten worse. I have seen instances where after having ski boots properly fit, it took several full seasons for the competence of the balance to be fully restored after a skier or racer’s feet and legs were constrained for years in ski boots that were too small and too tightly fit.

Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin have heeded Coomer’s advice. Others choose to ignore him at their own peril. In so doing, they handicap their efforts and limit their race results.

In my next post I will start a series of posts on how to build a ski boot from the snow up; one that provides a fit with dynamic and predictable qualities that substantially match those of the foot and lower leg.


  1. The Master Boot Laster by Jackson Hogen: The International Skiing History Association – Article Date: Tuesday, June 3, 2014

IS SHIFFRIN ON THE LEVEL?

By on the level, I am suggesting that Shiffrin may have a much lower zeppa-delta ramp angle than her competition.

Here are some screen shots from the March 18, 2018 Are Slalom where Shiffrin won by  1.58 seconds. She is on and off her edges in milliseconds as she just seems to pop from turn to turn – Total Domination From Shiffrin (1.)

Compare the angles of Shiffrin’s ankle, knee and hip in the photo below to those of her competition in the second and third photos below.

Notice how extended Shiffrin’s lower body is as she exits the rise line and enters the bottom of the turn in the photo below from a training session earlier in the year.

Extended in the Are Slalom.

Out of the start her knees and ankles are almost straight!

In my next post I will explain what I think is happening and why.


  1. https://youtu.be/gQu-LkyfsRQ?list=PLo6mlcgIm9mzWPBpeXnH2CpFOXrWhBiEB