Ramp Angle posts

WHY STANCE TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL

When readers click on my blog address at skimoves.me, analytics give me a hierarchy of the countries with the most views and the most popular posts in ascending order. This helps me identify which content resonates most strongly with viewers and which content draws a blank.

As I write this post, the top five countries are the US followed by Croatia, the United Kingdom, Slovakia and France.

The most viewed post today is THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS; far and away the most popular post I have published to date. But the most important posts by far that I have ever written, A DEVICE TO DETERMINE OPTIMAL PERSONAL RAMP ANGLE and STANCE MUSCLE TENSIONING SEQUENCE EXERCISE barely sputtered in comparison. This strongly suggests that far from just some small gaps in the knowledge base skiing is founded on, massive craters exist.

Arguably the most important aspect of skiing is a strong stance. Any variance in the fore-aft angle of  the plane of support under the feet and the plane of the base of the ski has significant impact on stance. Yet these subjects are barely blips on the Doppler Radar of the ski industry.

Since I started the dynamic ramp angle assessment project a few weeks ago I have found that when asked to do so, it is rare for a skier of any ability to be able to assume a strong ski stance in an off the ski hill environment. Even when a skier  skis with a relatively strong stance, they seem to lack a sense of what a strong stance feels like. Because of this, they lack the ability to consciously replicate a strong stance. If asked to do so, they would be unable to coach a skier in the sequence of events that I described in my last post

In the dynamic ramp angle assessment project, I  have also observed that skiers with with a boot/binding ramp angle greater than 2.8 degrees appear to have become accustomed to the associated unstable, dysfunctional feeling and identify with it as ‘normal’. Before I can test them, I have to spend time coaching them into the correct stance because it feels unnatural to them.

When I go back and forth between a strong functional stance on a flat, hard level surface to a stance on the dynamic ramp angle device set to an angle of 4 degrees, I can get close to the same angles of ankle, knee and hip. But when I do, I feel strong tension, stiffness and even pain in my mid to lower back which is  common in some skiers and even racers.

Based on results to date with the dynamic ramp angle device, it appears as if strong skiers ski best with ramp angles close to zero. But depending on their sense of balance and athletic ability, they may have a wide range in which they sense little difference on the effect of ramp angle until they approach the upper limit of stability. While they may be able to ski well with a ramp angle close to the maximum limit of stability, ramp angles much above 1.2 to 1.5 degrees may not offer any benefits. This can only be tested on skis where balance is tested by dynamic forces which cannot be replicated in a static setting.

Issues affecting skier stance were discussed in detail in my post, THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS. Here are the excerpts I posted from the chapter on The Ski Boot in the book, The Shoe in Sport (1989), published in German in 1987 as Der Schuh Im Sport– ISNB 0-8151-7814-X

“If flexion resistance stays the same over the entire range of flexion of the ski boot, the resulting flexion on the tibia will be decreased. With respect to the safety of the knee, however, this is a very poor solution. The increasing stiffness of the flexion joint of the boot decreases the ability of the ankle to compensate for the load and places the entire load on the knee”. – Biomechanical Considerations of the Ski Boot (Alpine) – Dr. E. Stussi,  Member of GOTS – Chief of Biomechanical Laboratory ETH, Zurich, Switzerland

“The shaft of the boot should provide the leg with good support, but not with great resistance for about two thirds of the possible arc, i.e., (14 degrees) 20 to 22 degrees. Up to that point, the normal, physiologic function of the ankle should not be impeded”.

“Previous misconceptions concerning its role in absorbing energy must be replaced by the realization that shaft pressure generates impulses affecting the motion patterns of the upper body, which in turn profoundly affect acceleration and balance.

“When the lateral stability of the shaft (the leg) is properly maintained, the forces acting in the sagittal direction should not be merely passive but should be the result of active muscle participation and tonic muscular tension. If muscular function is inhibited in the ankle area, greater loads will be placed on the knee”. – Kinematics of the Foot in the Ski Boot – Professor  Dr. M. Pfeiffer – Institute for the Athletic Science, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

It has been over 40 years since international authorities on sports science and safety raised red flags concerning the adverse effects of ski boots design and construction on skier stance, balance and the potential to cause or contribute to injury. It is time that their concerns were taken seriously and acted on. Research on stance and the effect of such things as zeppa and delta ramp angles is urgently needed.

 

MORE ON ZEPPA (BOOT BOARD) RAMP ANGLE

Slowly, but definitely, the ski community are learning the positive boot board (zeppa) ramp in many boots is excessive and not beneficial to many of us. Excessive seems to be anything over approximately 3.0 degrees. The lowest ramp I have measured to date was 2.4 degrees in the latest Dalbello DRS boot in a Mondo 27. A size 23 is still over three degrees.

I believe most manufacturers have too much ramp in their boots. As explained in a recent post, the problem is worse for smaller boots, since as boots shorten, ramp increases. Still, even if boot ramp is correct, we should wonder if binding designers think boot designers need some design help, since nearly all bindings have positive ramp (delta) of at least a few degrees for Mondo 27 boots.

Like boot zeppas, as binding toe and heel are mounted closer together, delta increases and is additive with boot ramp. Further, there are additional changes to boot angle since binding delta tilts the entire boot, It also alters effective forward lean.

I believe when we demo skis, a portion and perhaps a substantial portion, of the differences we feel between skis, may be accounted for by the differences between ski binding ramp angles. At the very least, binding angles can corrupt on-snow testing of skis and/or boots. If you are working to get your boot setup perfectly adjusted to your preferences, why allow binding ramp variables to alter an optimal configuration?

In my opinion, the best solution is a 0 degree binding delta. If this is not achievable, at least set all skis bindings to the same delta. This may be easily, achievable. Most manufacturers make shim kits for at least some of their bindings. Shims appear to be available for most bindings used on race skis that allow incremental changes to 0 degrees delta. However, not all shops know of the existence of these shims since  kits are usually in the race catalogue, not the recreational product catalogue.

If alterations to either binding heel or toe height are made, an equal change must be made to screw length or there will definitely be an unsafe situation. Binding holes are between 8.5 and 9.0mm deep. Be certain screw threads do not extend more than that amount from the bottom of the binding.

One last thing to remember is that moving binding position forward or backward on the ski could subtly alter binding delta since the top surface of skis are crowned. Moving the bindings to a new position on the crown will affect the height of the heel and toe. If bindings are moved after setting binding delta, it should be checked again.

I always prefer to direct measure rather than use a calliper and calculate zeppa or delta. The photos below show a device I had fabricated that allows the angle of a zeppa to be measured between the two primary load points under the heel and the head of the first metatarsa (aka ball of the foot). The distance between the rods can be adjusted to these two points on a zeppa or to the 2 points of contact of a boot sole on the heel and toe pieces of a binding.

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The SmartTool digital level shown in the photo below accurately reads to one decimal place.

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The SmartLevel is too long to sit properly on a zeppa. The two rods of the frame that supports the level lets me avoid toe kick or any other shapes that can distort ramp angle.  I just measure the angle directly between the two points of support.


Lou Rosenfeld has an MSc. in Mechanical Engineering with Specialization in Biomechanics earned at the University of Calgary Human Performance Laboratory. His research was titled, “Are Foot Orthotic Caused Gait Changes Permanent”.

While at HPL, he assisted with research on the effects of binding position for Atomic, and later conducted research for Nordica that compared Campbell Balancer established binding position to the Nordica factory recommended binding position.

Lou is one of the invited boot-fitters on the EpicSki forum “Ask the Boot Guys” and has authored articles on boot fit, balance, alignment and binding position for Ski Canada, Ski PressSuper G, Calgary Herald, and Ski Racing, USA. He is a CSIA Level 2 instructor and CSCF Level 1 coach. He currently resides in Calgary where he owns and operates Lou’s Performance Centre. A selection of his articles may be found at www.Lous.ca.