Mikaela Shiffrin

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.

 

 

 

A SKI PRO DEMONSTRATES BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI

I have long maintained that the main reason skiers and racers ascend through the ranks to the elite is because they are able to stand and balance on their outside ski using the same natural processes of balance we were born with. My theory leading up to the Birdcage studies in 1991, was that those who are able to stand and balance on their outside ski do so by creating what amounts to solid ground under their outside foot through the application of a combination of rotational forces to the ski. It is the combination of these forces that has the effect of cantilevering the ground acting along the running length of the inside edge of the outside ski, out under the base of the ski underfoot.

I have also maintained that skiers who can stand and balance on their outside ski, don’t fully understand how and why they can do this.  So they can’t explain what they do, let alone teach it. It’s also why they don’t understand why other skiers have trouble balancing on their outside ski, something they can easily do.  Thus, Ted Ligety talks about ‘creating pressure’ while Mikaela Shiffrin talks about ‘getting over it’. This may be all they need to know. But it doesn’t help those who want to know.

Yesterday, I found an excellent YouTube video demonstration of the movement and timing associated with balance on the outside ski (1) by Big White Mountain Ski Pro, Josh Foster. Foster provides a real life visual example that most skiers can relate to. His demonstration also provides a reference I can use for future posts. To date, this is the only description I have come across that accurately describes some of the main elements. 

While Foster misses a key point, he gets the role of rotation of the outside leg in combination with edge angle, right.

His comments from various parts of the video appear below. The number preceding each comment is the number of seconds into the video. The link to Fosters YouTube video is at the end of the post (1).

  • 0.25 – For any structure to be in balance, it starts with a really strong platform. Skiing is no different than that. I need a strong platform.
  • 0.43 – So, I need a good strong platform from the snow up so that I am balanced. 
  • 1:04 – But here’s how I create this platform or this foundation that I want to ski on.
  • 1:11 – But it comes with a turning of the lower body. Watch how I turn my leg here. That  combination of turning also puts my ski up on its edge. So when my ski is on its edge and I turn my leg, that’s what creates that solid platform or that foundation that I am looking for.
  • 1:53 – I need that platform first so I can be better balanced all the way through the turn.
  • 2:14 – We do it with turning the lower body and getting balanced on those edges.

The 3 frames below are from Fosters’ video.

In the first frame below, he is approaching what I refer to as the moment of truth. This is the point where the new outside ski goes flat on the snow between edge change.

In the frame below, Foster’s new outside ski is flat on the snow. Notice the quick extension he has made in the knees since his stance in the first frame. This move is the most important part of the sequence that sets up balance on the outside ski. The move, which I will describe in the next post, is an impulse heel-rocker-forefoot loading move. This move must be made just as the outside ski is going flat on the snow. If you watch carefully, you will see all good World Cup racers make this move as they approach the rise line above a gate.

The fact that Foster does not even mention this impulse move suggests that he may not even be aware he is making it. Some ski pros and coaches confuse this move as unweighting. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It is a high impulse loading move. It tensions the forefoot and loads the inside edge under the ball of the foot. The high impulse load tips the ski on edge and causes the shovel to hook into the turn. It also starts the outside leg passively rotating internally (into the turn), from the foot up. You can see the rotation starting in the Fosters left leg.

In the frame below, Foster’s leg has switched gears and is actively rotating the outside leg from the pelvis down. This is the action that cantilevers the GRF acting along the running surface of the inside edge out under the base of the ski. This is possible because the internal rotator muscles of the pelvis have different origins of insertions on the pelvis than the hamstrings. The two muscle groups are complimentary while having a synergistic effect on balance and edge control.

In my next post, I will discuss impulse heel-rocker-forefoot loading.


  1. Ski Tips: Josh Foster – Strong Platform   https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=a8b5HRupcoA

You can reduce the speed on YouTube videos to 0.5 or 0.25 from Normal using the Speed menu item shown below. Slower speeds will allow you to see the timing of Fosters extension impulse loading move.

THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI: WHERE IS GROUND?

It was my intent to discuss the key move in the First Step to Balance on the Outside Ski; Impulse Loading of the Forefoot. However, it has become apparent that it is necessary to preface this subject with a discussion on the source of ground in relation to the outside foot in order to impart an appreciation of why a mechanism is required to extend ground from the running edges of the ski in order to create a platform for a skier to stand and balance on when the outside ski is on its inside edge.

In typical discussions of ski technique and the mechanics, biomechanics and physics of skiing, the prevailing mental model assumes that a skier is in balance (see REVISION TO FEATURE POST: CLARIFICATION OF DEFINITION OF SKIER BALANCE) if they are able to stand upright and exercise a degree of control over their skis. In studies of balance performed in gait labs, ground reaction force in the form of stable surface for subjects to balance on is assumed.

Mental Models

Mental models are a form of cognitive blindness. Once people assume they know something, they not only don’t question what they believe, they filter out information that conflicts with their mental model. And they typically fail to see the real issue even when it is in plain sight.

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

                                                                                                                 –  Albert Einstein

The Skier Balance Paradox

Even though I quickly became a competent skier soon after I started skiing,  I struggled to hold an edge on firm pistes and especially glare ice. It was disconcerting to see elite skiers hold an edge on ice with minimal effort while making controlled turns. When I sought the advice of the experts, they claimed that holding an edge on ice was matter of sharp edges and/or driving the knees into the hill. When I protested that after trying both and found it harder to hold an edge, the experts claimed that the ability of some skiers to do what I couldn’t was due to superior technique. They were just better skiers. No further explanation was needed.

The inability of experts to explain why a small number of skiers seemed able to balance on their outside ski and hold an edge even on ice provided me with the impetus to look critically at this issue with the objective of formulating an explanation based on principles of applied science.

The only plausible explanation for the ability of a skier to be able to stand and balance on their outside ski when it is on its inside edge is that some source ground (reaction force) must be present under ski that they are using to stand and balance on. Hence, the question, Where is the Ground?

On very hard pistes, ground as a source of reaction force, is limited to the running portion of the inside edge of the outside ski and the small portion of the base adjacent the edge with the edge and base supported on a small shelf cut into the surface of the snow/

In Figure 2.11 on page 26 of his book, Ultimate Skiing, LeMaster explains how the sidecut of a ski creates a smaller radius turn as the edge angle increases.

In Figure 2.12 on the following page, LeMaster shows misaligned applied (green arrow) and ground reaction (purple arrow) forces creating an unbalanced moment of force (yellow counter-clockwise rotation arrow) that  rotates the ski down hill (out of the turn). LeMaster goes on to state that as the skier edges the ski more, the ski bites better. But he fails to offer an explanation as to how the skier can edge a ski more against an unbalanced moment of force acting to reduce the edge angle.

The mechanism that generates a moment of force that opposes the moment force shown by LeMaster in Figure 2.12 and has the effect of extending ground (reaction force) acting along the running length of the edge of the ski  is the subject of this series of posts.

Edge Angle Sidecut FXs

A simple way to acquire an appreciation for the location of ground relative to the outside ski on edge is to make a simple model out of flexible piece of sheet plastic material a few mm thick.

The photo below shows a model I made from a piece of sheet plastic about 8 inches long. The upper portion of the plastic piece has a shorter sidecut with less depth than the sidecut in lower portion of the piece of plastic piece. Both the model and sketches that follow are for illustrative purposes to demonstrate the effects of sidecut geometry on edge angle and a source of ground. Although the basic principles are the same, it is not intended that they be viewed as an accurate representation of actual ski geometries  The symmetrical geometry is for the benefit of the simplifying what is already a complex issue.

sidecut-1

There is a relationship between the depth and length of a sidecut in that the greater the ratio of the depth to the length of a sidecut, the lower will be the edge angle it forms with the surface in relation to the camber radius. In the sketch below, the upper rectangular ski shape will maintain a vertical relationship with a surface regardless of the camber radius.

There is also a relationship between the edge angle a ski with sidecut will form with a uniform surface and the radius of the camber with the edge angle formed with a uniform surface. The edge angle will increase (become more vertical) with a decrease in the radius of the camber. This explains why GS skis that are longer and have less sidecut depth than SL skis can attain much higher edge angles.

side-cut-factor

The photo below shows how the aspect of the model I made with the smallest sidecut ratio forms a steep angle with a uniform surface when bent to sufficient camber radius to allow the sidecut to become compliant with a uniform surface.

sidecut-2

When viewed from the rear of the model, the location of ground in relation to the structure of a ski with sidecut and camber should become readily apparent.

The graphic below shows what a photo taken at a low enough vantage point to the snow would capture looking straight on at a ski carving a turn with its edge compliant with the surface of the snow. This may seem foreign, even extreme to some. But when the edge of a ski is compliant with a uniform surface, the curve of the sidecut becomes linear.

The left image below depicts the schematic model of the ski shown in the second graphic with the camber angle sufficient to make the edge in contact with the uniform surface compliant with it. The angled line represents the surface of the snow. The schematic model of the ski represents the proximate end profile associated with a high load GS turn. A photograph in Figure 1.18 on page 17 of the Skier’s Edge  shows a similar profile in Hermann Maier’s outside (left) ski which is at a very high edge angle.

The graphic on the right shows some penetration of the running surface of the edge of the ski in conjunction with the forces commonly shown in the prevailing mental model that are used to explain how forces acting on the outside are balanced.

 

side-cut-angle

The reality is of the applied forces acting on the ski are shown in the vertical profiles in the graphic below as captured by digitized force plate data. Once the foot is loaded on a surface there is what is called a Center of Pressure as shown by the peaks in all 3 graphs. But when the foot is in compliance with a uniform surface, some pressure is expressed by the entire contact surface of the foot. So, the point application of applied force in opposition to a point application of GRF as depicted in the right hand graphic above is a physical impossibility.

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 9.59.06 PM

Viewing a transverse vertical profile of a ski on edge from the perspective of ground as a source of GRF for a skier to stand and balance on puts the issue of skier balance in a whole new, albeit unfamiliar, perspective. But it is a reality that must be dealt with in order to engage in realistic narratives on the subject. Overly simplistic explanations of skier balance attributed to a basic alignment of opposing forces do not serve to advance the sport of skiing as a credible science.

I concur with LeMaster’s position that the platform angle a ski forms with resultant and GR forces must be at 90 degrees or slightly less in order for the edges to grip. In my next post, I’ll start to introduce mechanical principles that explain how this can be accomplished.

It is the ability of racers like Mikaela Shiffrin to stand and balance on their outside that enables them to consistently dominate World Cup competition.

THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI: FIRST STEP

In this post, I am going to begin the first of what I expect to be a series of posts on the Two Step Process to Balance on the Outside Ski.

Prelude

Before I start, I am going to caution the reader that they should not expect that the ability to learn and engage the processes responsible for balance on the outside ski to be easy to understand or quick to learn.  Many obstacles stand in the way of the ability to balance on the outside ski. As Benno Nigg’s experiments in the early ’90s at the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary demonstrated, the human body is highly adaptable. If a person puts their feet in footwear that prevents natural barefoot function, the body will find a best case work around compromise.

This is what happens to skiers when they put their feet in ski boots. As the Polish study showed, over time, the body will adapt. But adaptation always comes at a price.  Some skiers may adapt to constraints of a ski boot to the point where they are considered expert skiers by the prevailing standards. But they typically reach a point where they can no longer advance. Given same ability, the least compromised skiers become the best.

The problem faced by skiers who wish to learn balance on their outside ski (foot) is that the ingrained motor patterns their brain has created as a work around to address the limitations caused by their ski boots can be exceedingly difficult to erase. A skier will typically make some progress only to have their brain revert to motor patterns that have worked in the past when it senses danger. When this happens, the odds are great that even the most athletically gifted skier may have to relearn skiing to some extent. I have seen many graphic examples of this pattern over the past several years in skiers and racers I have worked with.

WARNING: The Mechanics of Balance on the Outside Ski is Not Simple

About the simplest way I can describe the mechanics is that the First Step involves a heel to 1st MPJ rocker loading mechanism while and the Second Step involves an intertia-driven turntable, over-centre mechanism. The mechanics is unified sequence of events. The reason I have broken it two steps is to make it easy to understand the critical nature of the first part of the sequence.

More than 25 years ago, I tried to make the First Step simple and easy to understand with the model I fabricated shown in the photo below and that graphic illustration that follows that shows how the Achilles tendon tensions the Plantar Aponeurosis (aka the Plantar Fascia) and enables foot to pelvic core sequencing. Note the annotation in graphic to Late Stance and (SR) Ski Stance Zone.

In my demonsrations, I  would drop the model on a table from a height of a few inches.  The rotation of the leg of the model would be quickly arrested by simulated isometric contraction of the Achiles. The model and the demonstration failed to garner attention or interest because the importance of the forefoot to foot function was not on the radar screen. Instead, the focus was on the hindfoot and addressing the known looseness of the forefoot associated with the mid stance phase of gait. A late stance phase was not yet part of the gait cycle narrative. The importance of late stance and fascial tensioning of the forefoot to foot function and foot to core sequencing has only recently been recognized.

sr-tripod-demo

Plantar Apo Dynamics

First Step

The First Step is to tension the biokinetic chain that extends from the MPJs of the foot to the pelvis. The timing of this event, which is critical, will be discussed in a later post.

The key move is the loading of the outside foot. This should happen in the top of the turn as the fall line is approached. This is the point where a skier should become the tallest in relation to the snow. At the end of a turn (in the bottom) is where a skier should be lowest.

It is not possible to replicate the loading move except when skiing because of the dynamic nature of the 3-dimensional forces associated with ski maneuvers. But the forefoot loading move that creates fascial tension the forefoot is essentially the same move we make when we move forward on the stance foot in walking in preparation to take a step. Once the foot has adapted to the ground, forward rotation of the shank (ankle flexion) is arrested by isometric contraction of the calf muscle. At this point, further forward movement of the torso occurs through knee extension in what amounts to a heel to ball of the foot rocker mechanism; i.e. a forward and downward action that applies force to the ground to prime the energy return foot spring in preparation to propel the body forward.
One way to get a feel for this mechanism is to stand sideways across the bottom of a stair and place one foot on the first tread about a whole foot length ahead of the foot on the floor. The knee of the leg on the floor should have slight bend so the calf muscle is in isometric contraction (SR Stance). The angle of the shank of the foot on the tread should be a little less than 90 degrees in terms of dorsiflexion. From this base position, the torso is projected forward in order to achieve a position of balance over the foot on the first tread. This is roughly what the loading move should feel like in skiing that is made as the fall line is approached. Once a feel for this has been acquired I can discuss how this integrates with rotation of the leg.
It is important to not have the ankle flexed for the above exercise because the ski boot limits ankle flexion. At the start of the transition at the end of a turn, the weight will be under the heel of the inside (uphill) foot. It is also important that the calf muscle of the foot on the stair tread go into isometric contraction so that further forward movement of the torso occurs through knee extension.
In a ski turn, the forefoot loading move is one of a quick heel to 1st MPJ forward rocker knee extension pulse that loads the ball of the foot (1st MPJ). Loading of the 1st MPJ (ball of the foot) is caused by forward movement of the torso (CoM), not plantarflexion. This loading move is made in the top of a turn as the fall line (aka rise line) is approached. The window in which to make this move is narrow and the time required  to complete the move, brief.
If you watch video of Shiffrin slowed to 0.25 normal speed or step the video in frame-by-frame, you will clearly see her make this loading pulse which usually involves a lifting of the fore-body of the old outside ski due to swing leg reaction force.
In my next post, I will discuss Step Two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN AND THE SIDECUT FACTOR

A follower reminded me today that at the end of my post THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI (February 18, 2017), I said I was going to explain the 2 steps to balancing on the outside ski of a turn. I got sidetracked for the two reasons below. This post is an essential lead-in to the discussion of the 2-step balance process.

  1. The dynamics of my blog has shifted significantly since I re-categorized my posts. Where possible, I try to tailor my material to the interests of my followers as indicated by blog stats. Stats show me a hierarchy of the countries reading my blog posts and the posts of interest from the most read to the least read on a given day. As an example, the top post today is THE SIDECUT FACTOR.  This just happens to provide an ideal segue to a discussion of Mikaela Shiffrin and her use of the 2 step process of balance on the outside ski.
  2. Understanding and embracing a new paradigm requires a shift in perspective especially when it is commonly believed that an issue was explained and put to bed ages ago.

In his book, Ulimate Skiing, LeMaster says:

All skiers learn early on the importance of edging skills. Ask them how they edge their skis, they crank their knees in (to the hill).

After the higher, all-plastic ski boots took over from low-cut leather boots, I distinctly recall ski pros demonstrating how easy stiff plastic boots made holding an edge by driving one of their skis on edge with their knee or holding a ski on edge with one of their knees as they moved over the snow to demonstrate how sidecut made a ski turn all by itself. Voila, knee angulation was invented as a universal explanation for all edge hold.

If a ski pro or coach saw an elite skier hold an edge on ice, they assumed they were using knee angulation. If the alignment of the outside leg appeared more linear (less knee displacement) than lesser skiers, it was explained away as unique to that skier. Knee angulation was knee angulation. Edging and balance? Easy. It was all done with the knees. Except it wasn’t what elite skiers were doing and still isn’t.

Since Shiffrin’s dominance at St Moritz, I have spent considerable time studying video of the races. Properly analyzing what is happening in terms of mechanics and biomechanics requires good quality video. While the quality of race video isn’t excellent, is better than most.

Let’s start by studying a screen shot of Shiffrin about to enter the bottom of a high load, red gate (left) GS turn.

shiffrin-red-gate

The first thing to note is the angle of her outside ski with the plane of the surface of the snow. I am estimating the angle to be between 75 and 80 degrees. The low minimal spray pattern off the ski from the forebody back indicates that the edge is engaged and following the path of the shovel with no chattering. The shovel is locked and higher relative to the portion of the ski under foot. It is powering Shiffrin’s line. Shiffrin maintains this high edge angle into the bottom of the turn, below the gate, without the ski slipping. In some turns, Worely holds even higher edge angles than Shiffrin.

The spray pattern on Shiffrin’s inside ski is radiating from about the binding toe piece back. The spray pattern suggests that the portion of the ski underfoot, while controlled, is displacing towards the outside ski.

How is Shiffrin able to establish and hold such a high edge angle especially with such a linear alignment of her knee with the line of her outside leg?

Some would immediately claim knee angulation explains the ability to hold such a high edge angle. Others would cite LeMaster’s 90 degree Platform Angle which posits that a ski sitting flat in a notch cut into the snow will not slip. I agree. That is why curves are banked on highways and race tracks. At high speeds, race cars will stay on steeply banked walls. But it they try to run with on set wheels on the top edge, they will exit the wall. Except Platform Angle explanation won’t work because the piste is so hard that even the sharp edges of Shiffrin’s outside ski are barely penetrating the surface of the snow. So there can no be no platform angle under the whole ski.

In order to understand how Shiffrin and Worely are dominating ladies WC GS and SL, we need to start by looking critically at ski sidecut, especially what happens when a ski is running on the entire portion of the edge in contact with the snow. Start by reading THE SIDECUT FACTOR. After I expand on sidecut in my next post, it should become obvious why the first step in the balance process is essential to the second step and how the second step enables racers like Shiffrin to carve clean turns at extreme edge angles.

THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI

In the next series of posts, I am going to focus on the single most important, but least understood, aspect of skiing; skier balance, in particular, the ability to balance perfectly on the outside ski. Given its univerally recognized importance in the ski culture, it is both perplexing and disconcerting that little attention appears to be given to the study and analysis of the mechanics associated with balance on the outside ski.

For decades, the worlds greatest skiers, including Patrick Russell and Marc Giardelli, have stressed the importance of standing on the downhill (outside) ski. Giardelli said that once you can balance perfectly on the outside ski, everything else follows. The ability to stand on the outside ski and balance perfectly on it, implies the same mechanics of balance we engage in when we balance perfectly on one leg when we take a step to move forward in locomotion. Balancing perfectly on one leg requires a stable surface under the entire plantar aspect of the foot to provide a source of GRF. The reason why the ankle-foot complex has a triplanar joint system is so the tripod-like structure of the foot can seek stable ground. This is the classic text book definition of one-footed or monopedal balance and the standard for studies on balance performed on one foot.

The problem is that there is no ground or any form of stable GRF under the outside foot of a turn when the ski is on its inside edge other than the GRF acting along the portion of the edge in contact with the snow surface and a small portion of the base of the ski adjacent the edge. If elite skiers such as Russell and Giardelli really can stand on their outside ski and balance perfectly on it the question is where is the source of GRF coming from that acts to support weight of the body expressed on the plantar foot?

By 1990, I had an explanation in a hypothesis I had articulated. According to my hypothesis, elite skiers extend GRF acting along the portion of the inside edge of their outside ski from the snow to the base of the ski by rotating their outside leg and foot into the turn. This action causes the base of the ski on the outboard side of the inside edge to pivot upward about the portion of inside edge underfoot with sufficient force to support the weight of the body. The Birdcage studies done in 1991 were designed to find out if my hypothesis were right.

Balance on the outside ski is a Two-Step process

Having seen great skiers like Nancy Greene Raine and Toni Sailor ski with ease on pistes that would be difficult, if not impossible, for most skiers to hold an edge on, I was convinced that some skiers really could balance perfectly on their outside ski when it was on its inside edge, the same way that every skier could easily balance on one ski when the base of the ski was fully supported on a firm, stable surface.

I set out to try and figure out how this was possible. It took me about 10 years between 1980 and 1990, to formulate a hypothesis that explained the mechanics. Once I had an explanation, I understood why no one else had been able to figure it out.

Balancing on the outside ski does not adhere to the text book descriptions of single leg balance where a stable source of GRF under the plantar foot is assumed. The ability to stand on the outside ski when on its inside edge and balance perfectly on it, is a Two-Step Process. The key is that the Second Step is dependent on the First Step.  The First Step makes the Second Step possible. Without getting the First Step right within a very short window of opportunity, the Second Step is not possible.

Since my hypothesis predicted that sequence and timing is the critical, it was quite simple to prove my hypothesis with strategically placed strain gauges mounted in the Birdcage on discrete force plates positioned opposite the predicted force transfer points of the foot. The critical nature of the sequence was easily confirmed by preventing the First Step from occurring.

In my next post, I will discuss the Two Steps of the balance process and provide examples using screen shots and video clips from recent World Cup races showing the sequence in a turn where racers such as Mikaela Shiffrin make the two steps to balance on the outside ski.

 

 

DETERMINING OPTIMAL BOOT SHAFT/BOOT BOARD RAMP ANGLE

A follower of skimoves posed the following;

“I’m trying to determine my optimal boot shaft angle and ramp angle given my physiology – i.e. what works best for me. I’ve done some of this work on my own by adjusting binding ramp angle (last season). What is interesting is the shaft angle of my newer Head vs. Lange boots”.


As discussed in recent posts, the importance of the cumulative effect of boot board ramp (zeppa) and binding ramp (delta) angles on stance is becoming increasingly recognized. Although binding ramp angle (delta) typically varies widely from one binding to another in recreational bindings, boot board ramp angle seems to be coming into line with functional reality in race boots. Reliable sources in Europe tell me that the boot boot board ramp angle in World Cup boots is in the order of 2.6 degrees. After I eliminated the arch profile in boot boards for a 23.5 Head race boot, I calculated the ramp angle at 2.35 degrees, a far cry from the 5 degrees claimed for the boot boards. I calculated the boot board ramp angle of an Atomic race boot of a local ski pro at a little over 2 degrees. I have also been told that shim kits are available for all race bindings that allow the delta angle to be zeroed.

The default barefoot ramp angle for humans is zero. It has been unequivocally established that anything more than a small amount of ‘drop’ (heel higher than forefoot) in footwear will have a detrimental effect on stance, balance and movement patterns. This especially true for balance on one foot, something that is fundamental to sound ski technique.

Elevating the heel relative to the forefoot will cause the muscles in the back of the lower leg to contract. Over time, these muscles will become chronically shortened. The key muscles affected are the calf muscles; the gastrocnemius and soleus. But the small muscles that stabilize the knee and pelvis are also adversely affected, not a good thing.

If I want to find the optimal boot shaft angle and compare the shaft angle of two or more boots, I start by making the boot boards perfectly flat with the transverse aspect horizontal with the base of the ski. I set the boot board ramp angles for both boots at 2.5 or 2.6 degrees. Since it can take a long time for the body to adapt to even small changes in ramp angle underfoot, the angle is not hypercritical.   I have settled on 2.5 to 2.6 degrees of total ramp (zeppa + delta) as an arbitrary starting point. Although there appears to be a positive effect of a small delta binding angle in SL and GS, I prefer to work with a zero delta angle initially since a positive or negative delta affects the shaft angle of a ski boot.

When moving from one boot model to a different model or to another boot brand, the first thing I do is remove the boot boards and calculate the ramp angles with the top surface monplanar. If the boot boards are not flat, I plane or grind them flat. If a new boot is to be be compared to a current boot with a boot board angle of 2.5 to 2.6 degrees, I modify the boot board of the new boot so it has the same angle as the current boot.

Next, I compare the shells and the angles of the spine at the back of the shaft of each boot. Even if the angles of the spines of the boot shells appear similar, there is no guarantee that what I call the static preload shank angle (more on this in a future post) will be the same.

A quick check of how the structure of the shell of the new boot is affecting the functional configuration of the foot and leg compared to the current boot, is to put the current boot on one foot then put the new boot shell with the liner from the current boot on the other foot. If a significant difference is perceived, the source is the new shell.

At this point, it may be apparent that there is a difference in the shank angles of the left and right legs when comparing the current boot to the new boot. But whether one boot is better than the other or even if one boot eanables the optimal static preload shank angle would not be known. I will explain how I identify this angle in my next post. For now, study this recent video of Lindsey Vonn starting off by skiing in what appears to be a strange ski stance. In fact, the exercise Vonn is doing is a familiar routine to me, one that I do before I start skiing – https://www.facebook.com/LindseyVonnUSA/videos/10154672700589728/

Why is Vonn skiing this way? What is she trying to do?

Also, check out this screen shot of Anna Fenninger. Note her compact, forward in the hips stance.

fenninger-1

Finally, watch this video in which Brandon Dyksterhouse compares Shiffrin and Fenninger – Shiffrin GS Analysis – https://youtu.be/phchHWwDhdY

What do Vonn and Fenninger have in common? Why?