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DRAFT POST ON TESTING THE THEORY BEHIND THE FLEX OF THE FREEMOTION BOOT

While reviewing the subject draft post on the theory behind the flex of the FreeMotion ski boot I accidently published it. This post has since been deleted.

The material in the draft post was from notes on a critical review of the issue of flexural qualities of ski boots in general and were not specific to the FreeMotion boot. In consideration of a recent Italian study that looked at shell distortion, I plan to discuss this issue in the context of flexural qualities of ski boots in a future post. I apologize for any confusion the publication of this draft post may have caused.

POSTS TO DATE: 266

My first post titled, A CINDERELLA STORY: THE ‘MYTH’ OF THE PERFECT FIT (http://wp.me/p3vZhu-p), was published on May 11, 2013. Since that time, I have published an additional 265 posts. Another 27 are in the draft stage. So there is a lot of information in this blog for those with an interest. It is a matter of making it easy to locate.

I am in the process of reformatting the blog to collate posts under categories that will appear under the INDEX OF POSTS menu on the main page. Drop-down sub menus under the main menu will eventually provide an index of posts under each category with a side sub menu that will take you to the actual posts. In addition, posts can be searched under ‘uncategorized’.

Please bear with as changes unfold. I am confident the end result will be worth it.

 

NEW MENU AND POST LINKS ADDED TO THE SKIER’S MANIFESTO HOME PAGE

Improvements are being made to the Skier’s Manifesto to make it easier to find posts on subjects you are interested in.

Drop down menus are being added under menu items such as INDEX OF POSTS that list categories that when clicked on, expand to the right to extend a menu that, when clicked on, will produce all posts associated with the category, in this example, all posts on the SR STANCE.

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I have added an SR Stance Index to the right of the SR STANCE menu. If you click on the index, a list of posts will drop down. You can scan the list to find posts of interest as opposed to having to scan through all the SR Stance posts. If you see a post or posts of interest, click on the 2nd submenu to the right of SR STANCE called Sr Stance Posts. This will bring up all the posts listed in the SR Stance Index.

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RACE BOOT SETUP: BODY ALIGNMENT CHECK

Since this is the time of year when racers tend to either make changes to their boots or change to a new boot brand, I will describe the initial steps in the process (and it is a lengthy process) that I follow in setting up ski boots for a racer. Although the process is similar for any skier, it may be less structured and less intensive depending on the desired end result.

As a general rule, the closer a racer’s boots are to creating an optimal functional environment for the feet and legs (lower limbs), the more critical any changes become. Optimal is a moving target in that ski boots have such a significant effect on racer/skier function that the body is constantly making small changes in an effort to maximize performance. In my experience, that the farther a racer/skier’s boots are from optimal, the more unlikely that any changes, even in the wrong direction, will create a noticeable impact on performance. But when the boot/binding/skis system is close to optimal, even small changes can have a large impact. In this situation, changes in boot board ramp angle of a tenth of a degree or changes in the thickness of an insole of a mm are usually readily perceived by an elite racer/skier.

Where to Start? The body

The process starts with a quick visual assessment of the racer’s posture to see if any obvious issue such as significant duck feet (toed out) of one of both feet are present. The ideal Plumb Line Alignment of the major body segments and joints is shown in reference books such as Muscles Function and Testing, Third Edition by Kendell and McCreary. The most mechanically efficient alignment occurs when the gravity line of a plumb bob as viewed from the side falls through the back of the ear lobe and passes through the center of the shoulder joint, just behind the center of the hip joint and just in front of the centers of the knee and ankle joints.

If any structural issues are obvious, I recommend that the racer/skier have alignment and kinesologic assessments done by certified medical professionals. This is especially important if a skier or racer has been injured. Often, full function has not been completely restored.

I am not talking about the static alignment usually done in ski or boot fit shops. I am talking about an assessment process that evaluates and corrects the processes responsible for the maintenance of dynamic alignment, generally referred to as balance. It is superior balance that gives elite racers and skiers the edge over others.

One of the several resources in Whistler that I personally use is Dr. Andrea Bologna, DC, CACCP of the Village Centre Chiropractic & Massage Centre. Dr. Bologna wrote the following as an overview of the process that she uses to assess Body Alignment (Structural).

Body alignment (structural) assessment gives a skier a baseline to determine any deviations from “normal” in terms of positioning and alignment of the structure of the body.  Correcting misalignments will give a skier the edge on not only skiing or any other activity pursued by taking stress off of joints and muscles, improving posture and allowing the body to move freely with the correct biomechanics.

The following components make up the Body Alignment (Structural) Assessment

Step 1: A complete history is taken that includes past injuries, activities, etc.

Step 2: Body posture is assessed to determine how the body lives in space.

Assess main postural alterations and compensatory changes.

Anterior-Posterior Posture:

  • The pelvis may show a high ilium on one side and/or rotational component to the sacrum which may stem from changes in the spinal structure or in ankle or knee alignment and biomechanics.
  • One shoulder may be elevated and/or a rotational component observed to the rib cage.
  • Head tilt and/or a rotational component may be observed.

Lateral Posture:

  • An increase or decrease in the lumbar lordosis and/or thoracic kyphosis may be observed.
  • Knees may be hyper-extended.
  • One or both shoulders may be rolled forwarded.
  • Head forward position may be observed.

Step 3: Two computerized spinal scans are performed (thermal and EMG or electromyography) to determine which areas of the spine have nerve irritation or interference and which muscles are working harder or pulled tighter due to physical stress.

Step 4: A 3D digital foot scan is performed to determine changes in the arches of the feet, compensating posture affecting the knees and pelvis, and weight imbalance between the right and left sides of the body.

Step 5: A palpatory spinal assessment will determine spinal misalignments causing altered structure and resulting aberrant biomechanics.

The body evaluation process is key to determine what changes need to be made to correct the body structurally to allow for ideal biomechanics during ski training and racing.  The evaluation will determine the most specific way to adjust the spine and related joints for lasting results in the shortest time possible.

Dr. Andrea graduated from Parker University in Dallas Texas with a doctorate of chiropractic in 2005. She completed a 180 hour certification in Chiropractic Pediatrics from The Academy of Chiropractic Family Practice and the Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics. She is Webster Certified through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

Dr. Andrea specializes in pediatrics and pregnancy, and sees a variety of world class athletes as well as weekend warriors. She moved back to BC to work together with her brother Dr. Michael Bologna after living in Texas for 10 years, resides in Whistler, and enjoys downhill and cross country biking.

In addition to body alignment, it is also important to assess foot function. There are many excellent resources that I will discuss in future posts.

In my next post, I will discuss where I start the process of racer boot setup.

 

 

 

AN OPEN INVITATION TO ACADEMICS

I am inviting academics and those with an interest in the mechanics, biomechanics and physics of skiing who are reading this blog to contribute. I started this blog as a manifesto with which to empower those with the knowledge and inclination to come together for the purpose of contributing to the sport for the purpose of enabling skiers everywhere to enjoy skiing at the same level as the great natural skiers who ski with minimal effort. Comments, suggestions and objective criticism are both welcome and appreciated.

THE SATISFACTION FACTOR

Some people reading my blog probably wonder why I bother having a blog let alone going into such detail on the mechanics, biomechanics and physics of skiing. If I ski well simply and with minimal effort as Ken Chaddock describes in his book, Ski Well Simply, why would I bother telling others. A good part of the reason is that as an intensely curious individual I am fascinated by the potential performance of the incredible human system. Perhaps it is this intense fascination in me that has created a conscious awareness of the factors that limit human performance. The ski boot can certainly be a significant limiting factor.

When I resumed skiing in the 2012-2013 season after an 8 year hiatus, the first thing that struck me was how badly most people ski today. I have always loved to watch the elegant, fluid movements of the best skiers. I make a habit of watching skiers as I ride the lifts. Compared to the fluid movements I saw years ago in the best skiers, the majority of the skiers I see from the lifts today are locked in static positions. As the saying goes, “Watching them makes my eyes bleed”.  It is difficult for me to imagine why anyone would want to work so hard to look and ski so badly. To me, the majority of skiers today aren’t really skiing. They are simply, ‘going down the hill’. Do I feel smug? Sometimes. It’s hard not to. When you can ski with minimal effort, it is easy to start to feel superior. But the truth is that the satisfaction I felt when the racers I was working with were winning races and when the recreational skiers I work with today are able ski to their full potential, is what really drives me.

I often find myself wondering, “How does not helping the majority of skiers ski with the ease that my spouse and I and a minority group of skiers enjoy, serve the interests of the ski industry and the sport of skiing when the ski boot is an obvious source of most of the problems?” Some of the most satisfying moments in my life have come from helping others ski well or in some cases, just to be able to help people ski again after a horrific trauma.

When I had my boot fit company, Anatomic Concepts, several skiers from the east made special trips to Whistler to see if I could help them. One poor fellow had both feet severely crushed in an accident. He could walk after fashion which was amazing considering how bad his feet were damaged. He used to be an avid skier. But he could no longer ski since his accident. The poor fellow lived to ski. He used to heli ski several times a year. No longer. I didn’t have the heart to suggest that he quit. So I made overly supportive insoles for him and did something I would normally never do. I padded his liners to hold his ankles away from the shell. It was an act of desperation. I sent him to the ski hill, crossed my fingers and waited. He called me after a few runs. He was ecstatic. He could ski again and was loving it. He may not have skied the way I would have liked him to ski. But he was able to do something again that he loved. To me, that was everything. After he left Whistler he wrote me every year for years thanking me for helping him to ski again.

I had two other rewarding experiences similar to this, both with very wealthy men. One had developed an ankle issue that only bothered him when he skied, which was a lot. He consulted a prominent orthopedic surgeon who told him, “If it only bothers you when you ski the solution is simple. Give up skiing”. He was devastated. He came to me for help. Shortly after I sorted out his boots  and got him skiing again he found out that he had terminal cancer. This was to his be his final ski season. Days before he passed, he sent me a letter thanking me for making his last ski season the best ski season of his life. The other wealthy fellow I helped sent me a case of Dom Pernignon every Christmas for years after I fixed his boots and refused to let him pay me for my work. He also died of terminal cancer. But he died happy because he too lived to ski.

These stories are the most satisfying part of my skiing experience. That I am able to ski with incredible ease is a bonus.

 

MAC MEETS POD: THE MACPOD CONNECTION

By 1979 things were going so well with the BC Ski Team that Glen Wurtele (the coach) asked me to accompany the team to the Pontiac Cup finals and the Spring Series in Quebec.  The Spring Series are especially important for provincial teams because it gives junior racers a chance to compete against National Ski Team and US Ski Team racers. But spring is also a time when warm weather can bring out the worst in ski boots as racers’ feet swell. Because of the importance of these races, most provincial teams brought extra coaches along. But in his typical ‘take the enemy by surprise’ fashion, Wurtele brought a boot technician. Little was he to know that this bold move would set the stage for a successful Canadian assault on the European Juggernaut of World Cup racing, the World Cup Downhill title.

Although I was getting good results with BC Ski Team racers, most of what I was doing, aside from ramp angle, cuff canting and forward lean cuff adjustments, was what I considered band aid boot work. Where the boot allowed, I was starting to do foot alignment. My challenge was that the construction of most boots didn’t allow for significant modification. But in those days any modification was usually an improvement over a stock product.

After the Pontiac Cup finals at Mont St Marie the team moved on to Sutton, Quebec for the Spring Series.  The opening race was a GS. The men and women  were running the same course. As usual, DeeDee (Diana) Haight was blowing her competition away. She was even beating a lot of the men when the times were compared. For the first run of the men’s GS I was standing about half way down the course at a position beside some National Team coaches. When an National Team racer in a white downhill suit came zooming past me I was taken by how good this guy was skiing. I knew right then and there he could win World Cup races. I turned to one of the coaches and asked, “Who was that racer that just went down the course?” “Podborski“, the coach replied. I had to meet this Podborski. I asked Wurtele to introduce me. He agreed and gave me a quick introduction during lunch. After the second run of the men’s GS, Pod and I retreated to the base lodge to discuss my ideas on ski boots. I rambled on for what seemed like hours. Most would have thought me possessed or perhaps more than a bit eccentric. But after I finished my spiel Podborski calmly said, “When can I come out to Whistler to work with you?” I replied, “As soon as you can get there”. It was game on.

A few weeks later Pod arrived in Whistler. He was skiing on the Austrian Dynafit boot. In those days, it was the most successful boot on the downhill circuit. But it was bloody awful to work on. The large cuff hinge made altering the cuff cant to align with the racer’s leg, something I considered essential, impossible. During the day Pod and I worked on his Dynafits. At night we listened to his favourite group, Steely Dan……..at concert level volume. Working with Pod was a new experience for me. I likened our working relationship to my favourite race car team, Roger Penske and Mark Donahue where results sprung from a collaboration of the crew chief (Penske) who tuned the race car based on input from the driver (Donahue).

I did the best I could with Pod’s Dynafits. As an exceptionally talented skier with the right foot structure (his foot was US men’s size 6 and what was I referred to as ‘stiff’), he could ski in gum boots and probably be competitive. Still, I wasn’t satisfied that the Dynafit allowed me to make the modifications necessary to enable him ski to his full potential. Pod had an OK 1979-1980 season culminating in a bronze medal run in the downhill at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Seeing a photo of him airborne with his skis oriented on their outside edges convinced me that he needed to change boots for the next season. Besides, I had a new idea that I wanted to try.