Marcel Hirscher

WHY HIRSCHER AND SHIFFRIN CAN CROSS THE LINE

There has been a huge surge in interest in my post HIRSCHER AND SHIFFRIN WIN BY CROSSING THE LINE.

The reason Hirscher and Shiffrin can ski this way is that they have the ability to cross the rise line and establish balance on their outside foot and leg in milliseconds. This enables them to make what amounts to a hairpin turn. They are on and off their edges like a flat stone skipping off the water. The reason they can do what few other racers can is because their boot setup supports the requisite neurobiomechanics. I discuss this in my last post WHY HIRSCHER AND SHIFFRIN ARE DOMINATING.

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

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

 

 

THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS REVISITED

Since I started this blog with my first post, A CINDERELLA STORY: THE ‘MYTH’ OF THE PERFECT FIT (1.) on 2013-05-11, THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS (2.) is by far the most widely viewed post. This is significant because the content of this post challenges premises that are widely embraced and cited as knowledge that is fundamental to skiing.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.

                                                                                    – attributed to Stephen Hawking

Widely accepted false beliefs can negate incentives to pursue the acquisition of knowledge necessary to understand complex issues that fall outside the limits of established paradigms. A prime example being the ability to balance perfectly on the outside ski.

Observing great skiers like Marc Giardelli or Ingemar and more recently, Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn and Marcel Hirscher balance perfectly on their outside ski suggests it is possible. But uninformed observation in itself does not impart, let alone lead to, an understanding of the associated mechanics, biomechanics and physics of perfect balance on the outside ski as it equates with neuromuscular mediated dynamic balance of triplanar torques acting across the joints of the ankle/foot complex, knee and hip. The intrinsic need of those who regarded as authorities on ski technique to provide plausible explanations for the actions of elite skiers led to the fabrication of terms such as knee angulation that served to create an illusion of knowledge of the mechanism of balance on the outside ski. Knee angulation also provided an effective mechanism with which to demonstrate the mechanics of edge hold.

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

                                                                                                                          – Albert Einstein

While knee angulation provides a plausible explanation for a mechanism with which to rotate a ski onto it’s edge, it does not explain the mechanism of perfect balance on the outside ski in accordance with Newton’s Laws and the principles of functional anatomy. Solving this mystery required raising new possibilities and creating a new paradigm; one that looked at the function of the human lower limbs from a new perspective with new possibilities.

It took me from 1980 to 1990 to discover how the mechanism of balance on the outside ski works. Trying to impart an understanding of this mechanism to others has presented significant challenges because the illusion of knowledge within the ranks of the ski industry has resulted in a hardened mental model that makes the real mechanism all but invisible. The resulting information bias causes people to seek information that supports what they believe while filtering out information that conflicts with what they believe; i.e.

I don’t need new information on how to balance perfectly on my outside ski because I have been doing this for years and I don’t need to know anything more.

But the reality is, that with rare exception, while elite skiers and even World Cup racers may think they can balance on their outside ski they have no way of recognizing the correct feeling, let alone confirming that they are actually doing what they think they are doing.

I have designed and fabricated a device with which to train skiers/racers to create a platform under their outside ski on which to stand and balance perfectly on. The device can be used to capture what I call a skier’s personal Balance Signature using technologies like CARV. More on this in my next post.


  1. https://wp.me/p3vZhu-p
  2. https://wp.me/p3vZhu-UB

GIRARDELLI AND STENMARK DEMONSTRATE BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI

In my last post, I discussed the movements elite Ski Pros make to balance on their outside ski.  I used Big White Ski Pro, Josh Foster as an example and reproduced his key comments from his YouTube video, Strong Platform.

Since Foster was skiing on moderate terrain, his speed is the equivalent of slomotion in comparison to typical World Cup speeds. For this post I am providing a video clip of Marc Girardelli and Ingemar Stenmark from the 1987 World Championship SL in Crans Montana, Switzerland. The video will allow you to compare the movements that create balance on the outside ski at race speeds to Foster’s movements at recreational speeds. I added reduced speed clips at the end to allow the rapid extension movement to be more easily seen.

I don’t believe there is any question that Marc Girardelli and Ingemar Stenmark can actually balance on their outside ski, especially in view of Girardelli’s statement: –

Once you can balance perfectly on the outside ski, everything else follows.

Note that the movement occurs above the gate as Girardelli and Stenmark approach the rise line and it mainly involves a rapid extension of the knee. According the predominant view, as articulated in the mental model of ski teaching and coaching, a quick extension is an unweighting movement. If this were true, why would the best skiers in the world unweight their outside ski above the gate?

What Foster, Girardelli, Stenmark, Shiffrin, Hirscher and all the best skiers in the world are really doing is loading and engaging a dual rocker system by applying a high impulse load to their outside foot at ski flat between edge change. Without knowledge of the associated mechanics, biomechanics and physics, no amount of observation will provide insights as to what is really happening. This is why 30 years after the World Championships at Crans Montana, what racers like Shiffrin, Ligety, Hirscher and other World Cup greats are doing remains a deep, dark mystery.

In my next post, I will introduce you to the Rockers.

 

 

 

THE AUSTRIAN MOVE

The high loads in GS turns make it the acid test of the ability to control forces across what I call the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis of the outside ski. The rapid timing of slalom make it the acid test of the ability to maintain and control forces across the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis of the outside ski while rapidly applying whole leg internal rotation to the foot and ski. After struggling early in the season due to pre-season changes in equipment, in particular, her ski boots, Shiffrin has emerged as the preeminent female slalom technician. I believe that there are two reasons why Shiffrin has not dominated GS, 1) a less than optimal boot/ski setup for GS and 2) the failure to make effective use of her inside ski in appropriate turns using what I call the Austrian Move as exemplified by Marcel Hirscher and Ana Fenniger.

In my post VONN VS FENNINGER ( https://skimoves.me/2015/01/24/vonn-vs-fenninger/), I criticized Fenninger for using a dominant position on her inside in gates where Vonn was quicker with the use of a dominant position on the outside ski. Vonn flowed seamlessly from turn-to-turn while Fenninger often appeared choppy. When used inappropriately the Austrian Move can actually slow a racer. But when used appropriately, a race can be won with the effective use of the the Austrian Move in only a few turns.

Here’s the video clip where I compare Vonn to Fenninger. Note how Fenninger lifts the tail of her outside ski so she can drop in the hips and create an impact load on the tail of her inside ski. This move is most effective when it is done before the force exerted by the snow on the sidecut of the outside ski exceeds the load transferred by skier across the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis.

 

The Austrian Move is not skiing on two skis or skiing with all the weight on the inside ski during a turn. Nor, is it the same as the transition move associated with the Ski Move, although the Austrian Move often evolves out of a turn that starts with the Ski Move. The Austrian Move is often a divergent move of the inside ski away from a dominant ‘over it’, position on the outside ski.

In the photo sequence below,  Marcel Hirscher makes a very rapid Austrian Move in about a tenth of a second from a dominant position on his outside ski (left leg) to a dominant position on his inside ski (right leg). Hash marks overlaid on Hirscher’s skis make the Austrian Move easier to see.

Austrian Move

Hirscher makes this move so quickly that it is not easily seen at anything less than frame-by-frame.

In the clip below, Hirscher uses what I call the Sudden Impact Austrian Move where he comes down hard on the inside edge of the tail of this inside ski. High impact loading is not possible on the outside ski which must be progressively pressured with leg extension in order to prevent the edge from being overloaded across the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis.

 

The clip below shows Fenninger using the Austrian Move.

 

The problem with the use of a dominant inside ski in a turn is that it is risky. Once a racer commits to the inside ski, the mechanics of the Austrian Move severely limit the ability to make directional changes. So if a racer’s line is off, especially if it is too high, they usually need to make an athletic move to correct it. In turns where the load is not great, a dominant position on the inside ski can actually be slower that turns made with a dominant outside ski. In the video clip below, Fenninger  shows in the last sequence what happens when the Austrian Move goes wrong.

 

Racers with small feet typically have an Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis of the outside ski that is less than optimal because it is dependent on the position of the proximate centre of the head of the first metatarsal being aligned over the inside edge. The Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis is the point where the vector of the load W emanating from CoM intersects a vertical line emanating from the inside edge perpendicular to the transverse aspect of the base of the outside ski. As it becomes increasingly offset to the outside turn aspect of the inside edge, the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis becomes increasingly unfavourable. The Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis is optimized by aligning the proximate center of the head of the first metatarsal directly over the inside edge of the outside ski. While FIS regulations appear to allow the use of skis with the appropriate Minimum Profile Width underfoot required to align the head of the first metatarsal over the inside edge, female World Cup racers do not seem to be using GS skis with less than a 64 mm Minimum Ski Profile Width.

Until such time as female racers use skis with a Minimum Profile Width that will allow the Inside Edge-Load Transfer Axis to be optimized, the Austrian Move may be the only option by which to be competitive in GS.

WINNING BY A FOOT

Numerous studies have attempted to find a correlation between foot size and height. I believe there is a reasonable correlation between foot size and height if stature is considered. Ski racers tend to have moderate body masses. When I worked on racer’s boots, most female racers had a US ladies size 7 foot (US men’s 6). Male racers tended to have a US  8 or 9 foot size. Ski boot makers usually make prototypes in a US men’s size 9 then scale the shell up or down to create other sizes.

Lange recently introduced a size 4 US men’s race shell. Perhaps it is more accurate to state that Lange reintroduced a size 4 race shell.  After I learned how to read the shell mold codes forty years ago, I knew that Lange made size 4 shells. However, they only sold them in softer children’s boots in North America. The XLR Race boot was only sold in Japan. After I got the Canadian distributor to bring in a supply of size 4 XLR Race boots, I was inundated with calls from all over Canada from female racers with small feet who heard that a size 4 XLR was available.

In my experience, I was usually able to estimate the size of a racer’s foot by looking at their stature and height. Here is a list of 6 top World Cup racers in order of height.

Ted Ligety 1.80 m
Lindsey Vonn 1.78 m
Marcel Hirscher 1.73 m
Tina Maze 1.72 m
Mikaela Shiffrin 1.70 m
Anna Fenninger 1.66 m

Based on Lindsey Vonn’s stature, I estimate that she has bigger feet than both Tina Maze and Mikaela Shiffrin who are very close to the same height. Vonn is  close to the height of Ted Ligety. I estimate that she has at least a US ladies Size 8 to 8.5 while Ted Ligety’s foot is in the order of a US men’s 9. Anna Fenninger is 1.66 m and small boned. She probably has small feet, smaller than Shiffrin who probably has a size 7 ladies (6 men’s). Anna Fenninger’s foot will be no bigger than a size 6 ladies (US men’s size 5). Marcel Hirscher at 1.73 m probably has a size 7.5 to 8 US men’s foot.

With a ski that is 65 mm in Minimum Profile Width who has the winning feet? Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn.