Ski Technique posts

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

IN THE BEGINNING: HOW I GOT STARTED IN SKI BOOT MODIFICATIONS

I originally published this post on May 12, 2013. This is a revised and edited version.


Before I started ‘tinkering’ with ski boots in 1973, I didn’t just read everything I could find on the subject of fitting boots, I devoured every bit of information I could find on the subject. The assumption I made at that time was that the experts in the field not only knew what they were talking about, but that they also had the requisite knowledge and understanding of the underlying principles to back up their positions with applied science and/or research. Based on this assumption, I started modifying ski boots by doing all the things the experts recommended such as padding the ankle to ‘support’ and ‘stabilize’ it in the boot shell and cuff and adding cants between the soles of the boots and the skis to make the skis sit flat on the snow. But the big breakthrough for me came when I started making footbeds to support the foot.

Within a year I had gained expertise in my craft to the point that skiers from all over Canada were starting to seek out my services. In  response, I started a company called Anatomic Concepts. Soon, I was spending most of my free time working on ski boots. But while I was helping a lot of skiers ski better, none of what I was learning or doing was helping my own skiing. I was still struggling after switching from low-cut leather boots to the new stiff, all plastic boots.

The (Un)Holy Grail

Despite the inability to solve my own problems, my thinking remained aligned with conventional thnking right up until my experience with Mur and the ‘Holy Grail’ of ski boots; the perfect fit of the boot with the foot and leg of the skier.

In 1977, Roger McCarthy (head of the Whistler Ski Patrol), whose boots I had worked, on introduced me to Nancy Greene Raine in the Roundhouse on top of Whistler Mountain. The timing was perfect. Racers on our National Ski Team were having boot problems. They needed help. It was a classic case of me being in the right place at the right time. Nancy recruited me, flew me to Calgary at her expense and introduced me to the National Team and Dave Murray. She set up a working arrangement with the team, one in which I was completely independent. Nancy also introduced me to Glen Wurtele, head coach of the BC Ski Team. At Wurtele’s request, I began working on the boots of members of the team.

I started working on the boots of NAST (National Alpine Ski Team) racers with Dave Murray; ‘Mur’ as he was affectionately known. My thinking at that time vis-a-vis the need to immobilize the foot and achieve a ‘perfect fit’ of the boot with the foot was aligned with the approach of the  ‘experts’ in the  field. Mur didn’t live far from me. When I was working on his boots, he seemed to spend more time at our home than his. Because of my ready access to Mur, I saw an opportunity to achieve the Holy Grail of skiing with a fit of the boot with the foot so perfect that the foot was for all intents and purposes rendered rigid and immobile and united with the structures of the ski boot.

To achieve this lofty goal I spent the better part of 2 weeks working for hours every night carefully crafting a matrix of heat formable 1 mm thick vinyl around Mur’s foot and leg and the shells of his boots with my inserts inside the liners of the boot. When Mur finally confirmed he was ‘loaded, locked and ready’ he went skiing to test the results. I waited for the inevitable confirmation of success and certain celebration that would follow. But after what seemed like an eternity, instead of the expected good news, Mur called to tell me that he could barely ski with my perfect fit. He had little or no balance or control. The Holy Grail had reduced a world class skier to a struggling beginner. I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that the industry had to be way off track especially in view of the recent publication of Professor Verne T. Inman’s seminal book, The Joints of the Ankle.

After this experience I knew that there was way more going on than I understood. I started learning about human physiology, in particular, about the mechanics, neuralbiomechanics and physics of skiing. I started asking hard questions that no one in the industry seemed to have answers for. And I started going off in a very different direction from the one the industry was acquiring increasing momentum in. If the perfect fit could impose what amounts to a severe disability on one of the world’s best skiers I could only imagine what such indiscriminate constraint was doing to the average recreational skier. It could not be good. For me it certainly wasn’t.

A major turning point came for me in 1988 when a husband and wife radiology team who had heard about my efforts to try and develop a ski boot based on anatomical principles presented me with a copy of a medical text called The Shoe in Sport published in German in 1987. This seminal work contains an entire chapter dedicated to The Ski Boot. I discuss the issues raised about the design and fabrication of ski boots by international experts in the articles in chapter on The Ski Boot in my most viewed post to date; THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS (1.)

The Root of Misinformation

Unfortunately for skiing, the relevance and significance of the knowledge contained in The Shoe in Sport was overshadowed by the publication in 1971 of the book, the Biomechanical Examination of the Foot, Volume 1 by Drs. Merton Root, William Orien, John Weed and Robert Hughes. The book lists what the authors call their “Eight Biophysical Criteria for Normalcy”. These criteria, which have since been challenged and shown to be largely invalid,  were claimed to represent the “ideal physical relationship of the boney segments of the foot and leg for the production of maximum efficiency during static stance or locomotion”.

A key component of the biophysical criteria was that a bisection  of the lower third of the leg be perpendicular to the ground and the subtalar joint rest in neutral. Root described neutral as occuring when the subtalar joint was neither supinated or pronated.

In order to be considered normal, a foot had to meet all eight biophysical criteria. The effect of this criteria, which was arbitrary, was to render the majority of the feet of the world’s population abnormal and candidates for corrective interventions. Although Root never stated, implied or suggested it, his neutral sub-talar theory appears to have been misinterpretated in the ski industry to mean that the foot functions best in static ski stance when its joints are immobilized in neutral (sub talar).

In recent years, Root’s Sub-Talar Neutral Theory has come under increasing challenge with calls to discontinue its use (2.).

Conclusions
Taken as part of a wider body of evidence, the results of this study have profound implications for clinical foot health practice. We believe that the assessment protocol advocated by the Root model is no longer a suitable basis for professional practice. We recommend that clinicians stop using sub-talar neutral position during clinical assessments and stop assessing the non-weight bearing range of ankle dorsiflexion, first ray position and forefoot alignments and movement as a means of defining the associated foot deformities. The results question the relevance of the Root assessments in the prescription of foot orthoses.

The results of the wider body of evidence have the potential to have profound implications for skiing in terms of the application of Root’s Subtalar Neutral Theory as putting the foot in the most functional position for skiing by supporting and immobilizing it in neutral (subtalar).


  1. https://wp.me/p3vZhu-UB
  2. https://jfootankleres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13047-017-0189-2

THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI: GLUTE POWER EDGE CONTROL

The New Year started off on a positive note with a great post on preventing sports injuries by Rick Merriam; Engaging Muscles (1.), a new YouTube video by LaGrandNeve (2.) on the importance of the feet in skiing and the long anticipated delivery of the CARV system.

In his post on preventing sports injuries, Merriam, cuts right to the heart of the matter when he states:

Sadly, most professional athletes don’t even know what it feels like to have muscles pulling at the right time.

Said another way, most professional athletes haven’t experienced what it feels like to perform with more stability throughout their chain.

By chain, Merriam is referring to the biokinetic chain.

My consistent finding over the years has been that most skiers, even racers at the World Cup level, don’t know what a stance founded on a strong, stable biokinetic chain should feel like. Even among those who have skied for decades, many have never experienced it. And the role of muscles is rarely, if ever, mentioned in discussions of ski technique or analysis of technique.

In Corso di sci Check Point 2018 – 03 (2.); Piedi cerca spigolo (Feet looking for corner) Valerio Malfatto states:

Contrary to what is believed in the curves with the skis the feet are very important we see how and why.

At about 1’50” into the video, Malfatta begins to draw a series of sketches. The first sketch appears to show how eversion of the foot puts the outside ski on edge by creating a flow of force into the turn. He appears to acknowledge how the ski and foot can either rotate to the outside of a turn (outside foot/ski inverts) or the inside of a turn (outside foot/ski everts). Then he appears to be showing how pressure applied under the ball of the outside foot rotates the ski onto it’s inside edge. Since I understand very little spoken Italian, it would be helpful if a follower of my blog who speaks Italian could post a comment explaining what Malfatto is saying in his video. My apologies to Malfatto if I have misinterpreted his graphics.

The graphic below is a screen shot from Malfatto’s video that shows how the foot and ski have rotated into the turn by pressure applied under the ball of the outside foot.

Although I have seen examples in that suggest rolling the ankles of the feet into a turn will apply edging forces, Malfatto’s video is the first example I have seen that appears to recognize that the outside foot and ski of a turn will tend to invert (rotate downhill) in the load phase under the force applied by the weight of the skier in the absence of a countering eversion torque.

While elite skiers and racers are usually aware of pressure felt under the ball of  the outside foot, it is difficult to replicate the feel in a static environment. So static exercises are often employed in an attempt to demonstrate what the skier is doing.

At about 5’30” into Malfatto’s video there is a dryland demonstration of the outside foot of a turn being rotated into the turn by contracting the muscles that evert the foot while the inside foot is rotated into the turn by contracting the muscles that invert the foot. There are a number of problems associated with attempting to hold skis on edge by contracting the inverter and everter muscles:

  • The muscles are in concentric contraction; i.e. they are physically shortening.
  • Both muscles are extensors of the ankle; i.e. as they shorten, they will plantarflex the ankle. This will shift the weight of the skier back under the heel, pushing the skier into the back seat.
  • The use of muscles to evert and invert the feet require conscious effort in what is called Executive Control. The processing rate of the brain in this mode is limited to about 60 bits per second compared to that of processing in Automaticity (subconscious control) which is about 11 million bits per second.
  • Both muscles are relatively weak compared to the glutes and soleus which are among the most powerful muscles in the human body.
  • Neither the everters or inverters cross the knee joint.

At the time that I wrote United States Patent 5,265,350 in February of 1992, I described the lack of knowledge of the complex biomechanics of the human muscle-skeletal system as it relates to the interaction of the foot with footwear such as skates and ski boots. In consideration of this, I made a concerted effort to provide as much information as possible to those knowledgeable in the field with the objective of advancing the state of knowledge on the subject. Since the writing of my patent my knowledge has evolved and continues to do so.

The following statements are excerpted from my patent.

The most important source of rotational power with which to apply torque to the footwear is the adductor/rotator muscle groups of the hip joint. In order to optimally link this capability to the footwear, there must be a mechanically stable and competent connection originating at the plantar processes of the foot and extending to the hip joint. Further, the balanced position of the skier’s centre of mass, relative to the ski edge, must be maintained during the application of both turning and edging forces applied to the ski. Monopedal function accommodates both these processes.

As a result of the studies done in 1991 with the research vehicle called the Birdcage, I had come to recognize the importance of a mechanically stable and (physically) competent connection extending from the plantar processes of the foot to the hip joint to facilitate the power of the glutes for balance and edge control.

Yet a further problem relates to the efficient transfer of torque from the lower leg and foot to the footwear. When the leg is rotated inwardly relative to the foot by muscular effort, a torsional load is applied to the foot. Present footwear does not adequately provide support or surfaces on and against which the wearer can transfer biomechanically generated forces such as torque to the footwear. Alternatively, the footwear presents sources of resistance which interfere with the movements necessary to initiate such transfer. It is desirable to provide for appropriate movement and such sources of resistance in order to increase the efficiency of this torque transfer and, in so doing, enhance the turning response of the ski.

Precise coupling of the foot to the footwear is possible because the foot, in weight bearing states, but especially in monopedal function, becomes structurally competent to exert forces in the horizontal plane relative to the sole of the footwear at the points of a triangle formed by the posterior aspect and oblique posterior angles of the heel, the head of the first metatarsal and the head of the fifth metatarsal. In terms of transferring horizontal torsional and vertical forces relative to the sole of the footwear, these points of the triangle become the principal points of contact with the bearing surfaces of the footwear.

A control point in the form of a counter set medial to the head of the first metatarsal is used in order to restrain the first metatarsal against medial movement, such as would occur when internal torsional force is applied to the foot.

In skiing, the mechanics of monopedal function provide a down force acting predominantly through the ball of the foot (which is normally almost centred directly over the ski edge). In concert with transverse (into the turn) torque (pronation) arising from weight bearing on the medial aspect of the foot which torque is stabilized by the obligatory internal rotation of the tibia, the combination of these forces results in control of the edge angle of the ski purely as a result of achieving a position of monopedal stance on the outside foot of the turn.

The edge angle can be either increased or decreased in monopedal function by increasing or decreasing the pressure made to bear on the medial aspect of the foot (turntable rotation) through the main contact points at the heel and ball of the foot via the mechanism of pronation. As medial pressure increases (by glute torque), horizontal torque (relative to the ski) increases through an obligatory increase in the intensity of internal rotation of the tibia. Thus, increasing medial pressure on the plantar aspect of the foot tends to render the edge-set more stable. The ski edge-set will not be lost until either the state of balance is broken or the skier relinquishes the state of monopedal function on the outside ski.

The skiers demonstrating the use of the feet to apply edging forces to the skis at 5’30” in the LaGrandNeve video (2.) clearly show the skiers engaging the second rocker by impulse loading the outside foot and ski and then rotating the outside leg into the turn as they exit the fall line and enter the load phase.

The graphic below shows the device I designed and constructed to train skiers and racers in the movement and muscle patterns required to enable the power of the glutes to be engaged to establish a balance platform under the outside ski and control edge angle as described in my post THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI: CLOSED CHAIN OUTSIDE LEG ROTATION. Two forces acting together are required to to create the mechanics that rotate the outside ski on it’s inside edge into the turn.

  1. The center of the weight applied by must be under the ball of the foot and,
  2. Rotational force must be applied to the medial (inner) aspect of the ball of the foot in what I described as Rocker TurnTable Rotation (4.).

If the center of the weight of the body W lies on the anatomical center axis of the foot (under the heel), it will act to oppose turntable rotation applied to the foot by the glutes.

In my next post, I hope to have data from CARV showing the loading pattern that enables the use of Glute Power for edge control.


  1. https://www.engagingmuscles.com/2018/01/01/prevent-injuries/
  2. https://youtu.be/aAJSqzcxrS0
  3. https://wp.me/p3vZhu-2cC
  4. https://wp.me/p3vZhu-2bb

HIRSCHER AND SHIFFRIN WIN BY CROSSING THE LINE

When a World Cup racer wins a GS by a commanding margin, it’s a sure sign they’ve crossed the line and the gravity of the situation is significant. But I’m not talking about  breaking any rules. Instead, I’m referring to Hirscher and Shiffrin mobilizing the force of gravity by jumping across the rise line above the gate and/or minimizing pressure while rotating their skis across the rise line towards the gate so the edges of their outside ski progressively engage and lock up as they extend and incline closing the kinetic chain. Knee extension, in combination with ankle extension, uses the momentum of COM in conjunction with the force of gravity to progressively engage and apply force to the outside ski.

Reilly McGlashan has an excellent YouTube analysis of Marcel Hirscher using this technique in the 2017 Alta Badia GS (1.) The technique Hirscher and now Mikaela Shiffrin are using relates directly to the second rocker/internal rotation, impulse loading mechanism I described in a series of posts. The text below is excerpted from a comment I posted on McGlashan’s YouTube video analysis of Hirscher.

Hirscher progressively engages his edges, especially on his outside ski then hooks a tight arc close to the gate to establish his line. Once he has established his line, he no longer needs his outside ski. He gets off it in milliseconds and uses the rebound energy to project forward with only enough pressure on his uphill (new outside) ski to influence his trajectory of inertia so his COM enters the rise line at a low angle of intersection. He gets rebound energy from the loading  of his outside ski and from what amounts to a plyometric release of muscle tension from the biokinetic chain of muscles extending from the balls of his outside foot to his pelvis. The energy is created by the vertical drop from above the gate to below the gate similar to jumping off a box, landing and then making a plyometric rebound. Hirscher is skiing the optimal way and it shows on the clock and leader board.

Replicating the mechanism in a static environment is not possible because there is no inertia. But a device I have designed and constructed enables the mechanism to be rehearsed with the same feeling as in skiing.

The key is loading the forebody of the outside ski with a shovel down position as the leg is rotating the ski into the turn. This sets up the second rocker impulse loading mechanism that tips the ski onto its inside edge. Extending the knee and ankle uses momentum to exert a force on the snow with the ski.

The photo below shows the training mechanism head on. The white horizontal arms represent the sidecut of the ski. The platform under the foot can be adjusted transversely to change the sensitivity. Vertical plates set beside the ball of the foot and on the outer corner and behind the heel transfer turntable rotation torque to the ski created by rotating the leg internally with the glutes. The platform will only tilt under impulse loading if the second rocker can engage. Few skiers can use this mechanism because their ski boots do not accommodate second rocker biomechanics.

The link below is to a video that shows the effect of extending the knee and ankle while moving the hips forward and over the support foot (monopedal function). The stack height and minimum profile width of are FIS 93 mm/63 mm. Rotation in itself will not cause the device to tip onto its inside edge if centre of pressure is on the anatomic centre of the foot (through the centre of the heel and ball of the second toe).

Dr. Emily Splichal’s recent webinar on the Science of Sensory Sequencing and Afferent Stimulation (2.) is relevant to motor control and cognitive development associated with high performance skiing. Pay careful attention to Dr. Splichal’s discussion of the role of mechanoceptors and the fact there are none on the inner (medial) aspect of the arches of the feet which is why footbeds or anything that impinges on the inner arch is a bad thing. I will discuss the implications of Dr. Splichal’s webinar in a future post.

In my next post, I will provide detailed information on the training device.


  1. https://youtu.be/OxqEp7LS_24
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qPnrQ85uec&feature=youtu.be

 

 

EDGE CHANGE INERTIA + ROCKER ROTATION INERTIA

As I was in the process of writing this post, a FaceBook group on skiing posted a link to an article From PSIA: Examining Transitions. The article is based on a presentation last fall by US Ski Team Head Men’s Coach, Sasha Rearick, in which he shed new light on transitions (1.).  While Rearick did shed light on some events associated with transitions, as with previous efforts by others on this subject, Rearick failed to shed light on the mechanics and physics associated with edge change.

As I explained in my last post, transferring the weight from the outside foot and ski of a turn to the inside foot and ski in the transition phase sets in motion what I call the Eversion/Internal Rotation Cascade that rotates the base of the ski into a transient moment of full contact with the surface of the snow between changing to the new (downhill) edge.

At the start of the transition leading up to ski flat between edge change, the center of pressure (COP) of the weight of the body applied by the sole of the inside foot will be under the heel where it is aligned on the proximate center of the ski. In this configuration, the force applied to the ski by the skier is working with gravity to rotate the ski.

The post left off by showing how rotational inertia will tend to make the ski continue rotating about the uphill edge past ski flat and penetrate into the snow surface on its downhill aspect as shown in the graphic below.

Rotational inertia will tend to make the inside edge of the new outside ski automatically rotate into the turn except for the fact that the force FW applied by the skier is on the wrong side of the new edge.

The graphic below has a dashed red reference that is parallel with the snow surface.

If the force FW applied by the skier is still aligned on the transverse center of the ski, it act will act to oppose edge change as shown in the graphic below. When the axis of rotation of the body of the ski changes with a change in edges, the transverse aspect of the base of the ski and the platform under the skier’s foot will tend to accelerate into an eversion translation. But this can only happen if the associated biomechanics are not interfered with by the structures of the ski boot.

The graphic below shows the change in the mechanics of rotation associated with edge change.

At the start of the transition, movement of the mass of the skier’s upper body is in phase with the downhill rotation of the ski and the force FW applied to it. But when the ski changes pivots at edge change and the mass of the skier continues to move downhill, the force FW applied to the ski will tend to rotate it back to ski flat; i.e out of the turn, unless the point of application of force FW changes during ski flat as shown in the graphic below and COM of the skier is aligned with force FW.

………. the angle between the platform and force you apply to it, the platform angle, must be 90 degrees or smaller.  – page 19, The Ski’s Platform Angle, Ultimate skiing; Le Master

The shift in center of pressure from the heel to the ball of the foot in a turn sequence seen in pressure studies of expert skiers is well documented (2., 3., 4). What the studies are really confirming is the use by expert skiers of the Two Phase Second Rocker mechanism to rock (tip) the outside ski on edge and control the edge angle during the load phase of a turn sequence.

Since the limit of the position of the application of force by the foot in relation to the inside edge of the outside ski is the center of the ball of the foot the effect of ski width underfoot and stand height should be obvious. Both rotational inertia and torque will increase as the width of a ski underfoot (profile width) is reduced and stand height increased. When Ligey says he creates pressure, he is creating far more than just pressure.

While LeMaster appears to recognize the importance of a platform angle less than 90° for edge control and, to some degree, the effect of stand height, the explanation offered for superior edging is that this can be attributed to waist width and stand height making skis more like ice skates.In my next post, I will discuss the role of Turntable Rotation in setting up a platform under the body of the outside ski for a skier to stand and balance on while maintaining edge angle.


  1. http://eliteskiing.com/2017/03/31/from-psia-examining-transitions/
  2. WHAT THE TWO HIGH PRESSURE COPS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA STUDIES MEAN – https://wp.me/p3vZhu-1fV
  3. IMPLICATIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA PRESSURE STUDIES –https://wp.me/p3vZhu-1e2
  4. AN INDEPENDENT STUDY IN SUPPORT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA FINDINGS – https://wp.me/p3vZhu-1gR

 

EDGE CHANGE INERTIA: WHY THE TRANSITION PHASE MATTERS

One of the most important events in the turn sequence is edge change. Yet, it is rarely mentioned in technical discussions. One of the few references I was able to find on edge change is in the CSIA Technical Reference which states:

Edge Change = Balance Change: Changing edges requires a change of balance.

Edge change occurs during an unbalanced, controlled fall in the transition phase that leads to the development of a balanced position on the outside ski as it crosses the fall line in the bottom of a turn. Properly executed, edge change leads to the development of a platform under the outside ski for the skier to stand and balance on.

The edge change sequence starts in the transition phase when a skier begins to transfer weight from the outside (downhill) ski to the inside (uphill ski). At the start of the transition, the edges of the inside ski are uphill and on the lateral (little toe) side of the foot. From a perspective of the gait cycle, the base of the ski is inverted (turned inward towards the center of the body). This is the normal configuration when the foot is unweighted in the gait cycle. The foot strikes the ground on the lateral (little toe) side and rotates about it’s long axis in the direction of eversion to bring the three points of the tripod of the foot into contact with the ground. As the foot everts, the leg rotates internally through torque coupling in the subtalar joint. The normal kinetic flow from foot strike to the support phase in mid to late stance is one of inversion of the foot/external rotation of the leg to eversion of the foot/internal rotation of the leg. Put another way, the human lower limbs will naturally rotate into a turn so long as the biomechanics are not interfered with.

At the start of the transition leading up to ski flat between edge change, the center of pressure (COP) of the weight of the body applied by the sole of the inside foot will be under the heel where it is aligned on the proximate center of the ski.

The Eversion/Internal Rotation Cascade

Transferring the weight from the outside foot and ski to the inside foot and ski in the transition phase sets in motion what I call the  Eversion/Internal Rotation Cascade. When the cascade starts, the force F W applied to the ski by the foot  by the weight of the body will impart rotational inertia as the ski rotates about the pivot point formed by its inside edge.

For the sake of simplicity, the stack of equipment between the sole of the skier’s foot and the snow is represented by a rectangle in a 3:2 ratio where the stand height is 50% higher than the width (FIS maximum stand height = 93 mm – maximum profile width = 63 mm). Sidecut is also not shown.

The following graphics show the sequence of the Eversion Cascade. Note: Internal rotation of the leg is not shown in this sequence.

The first graphic below shows the moment or torque arm ma that is set up by the offset that exists between GRF from the firm piste acting at the inside edge and the point where the center of pressure of the weight of the body acts in the plane of the base of the ski. The large red arc shows the radius of rotation. The small red arc shows the radius of the moment of force. In this sequence, the ski is rotating downhill away from the pivot at the uphill edge.

When the base of the ski comes into full contact with the surface of the snow, rotational inertia, will make it want to continue rotating about the uphill edge and penetrate into the snow surface on the downhill aspect. If the force FW applied by the weight of the body is still aligned on the transverse center of the ski, it will oppose edge change.

In my next post I will discuss how the Second Rocker affects the mechanics of edge change at ski flat.

 

THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI: CLOSED CHAIN OUTSIDE LEG ROTATION

A recently published study on foot pressure data acquired during skiing (1.) recognized that compressive force pressure data acquired in skiing is underestimated by 21% to 54% compared to pressure data acquired on a force platform in a controlled environment.  The underestimation varies depending on the phase of the turn, the skier’s skill level, the pitch of the slope and the skiing mode. The paper states that other studies have stated that this underestimation originates from a significant part of the force actually being transferred through the ski boot’s cuff (to the ski). 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.

In conclusion, these studies have highlighted a major contribution of different factors to the nGRF applied throughout a turn, such as the foot’s position during a turn (inside vs. outside), the CoP A-P (front to back) displacement, or precise loading of different foot sole regions.  Unfortunately, these results have been studied separately.

There is a lack of continuity across the various positions in skiing and, in particular, a lack of a model with which to explain mechanisms such as balance on the outside ski and open and closed chain internal rotation of the leg and foot in conjunction with progressive inclination and G force loading on it as the skier crosses the fall line in the bottom of a turn. The associated mechanics and biomechanics represent a new paradigm requiring new thinking and new insights. Existing text-book explanations are not sufficient to explain these mechanisms.

Open Chain Whole Leg Rotation vs. Closed Chain Rotation

Rotation of an unloaded (non-weight bearing) lower limb is relatively straight forward when there is a small angle at the knee. As resistance to rotation of the foot is progressively introduced with increasing weight imposed on it, the kinetic chain begins to close. As it closes, the points at which the foot transfers torque to the walls of rigid shell footwear such as ice skates and ski boots starts to emerge as an issue as does the loading of the foot created by the weight of the body imposed on it and the position of COM in relation to the foot.

In order to tension the biokinetic chain and trigger the two-phase Second Rocker, COM must be aligned over the foot as shown in the grahic below.  This alignment requires that the leg adduct (move towards the center of the body) approximately 6.5 degrees. To bring the 3 points of the tripod of the foot into contact with the ground, the foot must evert (sole turn outward) the same amount. Eversion is accompanied by a corresponding torque coupled 6.5 degrees of internal rotation of the leg as shown in the left hand figure in the graphic below (see my post – OUTSIDE SKI BALANCE BASICS: STEP-BY-STEP). The bipedal figure on the right shows adduction, eversion and internal rotation as 0.0 – 0.0 – 0.0 for reference. The monopedal figure on the left shows the changes in adduction, eversion and internal rotation as 6.5 – 6.5 – 6.5.

 

The alignment of COM with the foot can be achieved by moving COM laterally as shown by the arrow emanating from COM in the Monopedal figure or by moving the foot medially as shown by the white arrow or through a combination of the two movements.  The act of positioning COM over the outside foot (Getting Over It), sets in motion internal rotation of the outside leg and eversion of foot into the turn. This engages an over-centre mechanism between the platform of the ski and the inside edge underfoot.

The over-centre mechanism results in an alignment of the resultant force R forming an angle with the transverse aspect of base of the ski that is slightly less than 90 degrees. In order to Get (COM) Over It (the foot), it is essential that the outside leg is not only able to adduct and rotate internally as the foot everts, but to achieve this configuration without delay in order to set up the over-center mechanism. The problem for the majority of skiers is that the objective of most boot fit systems and boot-fitting procedures is to support the foot in a neutral configuration. Eversion of the foot is a component of pronation. Impeding or preventing pronation, restricts or even prevents the required amount of eversion.

Closing the Kinetic Chain on Whole Leg Rotation

Open kinetic chain leg/foot rotation with the foot unloaded (not bearing weight) is relatively simple. But the mechanics and biomechanics begin to get complicated when resistance is progressively introduced that starts to close the kinetic chain as happens when the outside ski is rotated across the path of the skier in the fall line in the bottom of a turn.
The graphic below shows a foot supported on a platform with 2 points of resistance (FR) applied to the platform opposite the 2 points of application of the moments of force, ML (green) and MM (red). The forces tangent to the arc of the moments of rotation are shown as FT.
When the weight of the body is progressively shifted to one foot (i.e. Monopedal Stance) and the foot everts, the talus (shown in gray in the graphic above) moves inward towards the center of the body and shifts slightly rearward as evidenced by the corresponding movement of the inside ankle bone.  This is easily seen when moving from bipedal to monopedal stance on a hard, flat surface while barefoot. In order to effectively transfer torque from the foot to the platform, the forefoot and ankle and knee joints must be fascially tensioned. This requires that the big toe (Hallux) be aligned on the anatomical axis (dashed line) and the forefoot fully splayed. This stabilizes the heel and head of the 1st metatarsal (ball of the foot).  Torque from internal rotation of the leg will be transferred to two discrete points adjacent the Load Counters mounted on the resistance platform.

Removing the resistance force FR from the inner (big toe) aspect of the platform provides insights to what I refer to as the Turntable Effect that is associated with internal rotation of the leg and eversion of the foot that creates an over-center mechanism. The turntable rotation is shown in light yellow. The effect will vary for different structures of the foot depending on the location of the center of rotation of the platform under the foot.

The location of the blade of an ice skate on the anatomical center of the foot has been used to explain why it is easier to cut into a hard ice surface with a skate compared to the edges of a ski. But the real reason it is easier is because ice skaters use the Second Rocker, Over-Center, Turn Table Mechanisms as shown in the graphic below. The skate is positioned under COM. It can be readily seen that the skater is not using the inner aspect of the shaft of the skate to hold the skate on edge.

In my next post, I will discuss the progress of emerging CARV and NABOSO technologies after which I will continue with my discussion of the Mechanics of Balance on the Outside Ski.


  1. Influence of slope steepness, foot position and turn phase on plantar pressure distribution during giant slalom alpine ski racing: Published: May 4, 2017  – Thomas Falda-Buscaiot, Frédérique Hintzy, Patrice Rougier, Patrick Lacouture, Nicolas Coulmy
  2. http://wp.me/p3vZhu-29n