ski equipment

CARVE, MEET BIRDCAGE – BIRDCAGE, MEET CARV

July 1991: Birdcage Research Vehicle – Cost approximately $140,000

Secret  Toshiba Prototype Portable Computer used for Birdcage studies – Value? Priceless!

Birdcage Co-Designer and Team Science Leader, Alex Sochaniwskyj, P. Eng.

After interviewing a number of candidates in the spring of 1991 for the science component of the MACPOD project to develop a ski boot based on anatomical principles, I chose Alex Sochaniwskyj, P. Eng. as the most qualified candidate and one of the most intelligent and creative persons I have ever had the privilege of meeting.

Alex provided the CV that follows in his letter in support of my nomination for the Gold Medal in the categories of Applied Science and Engineering in the 1995 British Columbia Science & Engineering Awards.

Alex Sochaniwskyj, P. Eng.

Alex is a professional engineer with 12 years of biomedical and rehabilitation engineering research experience in the Human Movement and Motor Functions Research Programmes at the Hugh MacMillan Rehabilitation Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The principle aim of these labs is to provide detailed information and objective analysis of movement, dynamics and motor function of persons with various physical disabilities. The information is used to objectively assess the effects of a variety of therapeutic and surgical interventions.

Alex holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto in Human Physiology and a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Toronto. Most recently, Alex has worked with several companies including ADCOM ELectronics Limited in Toronto, where he was responsible for the design and development of video conferencing and multi-media communication systems, and the Arnott Design Group, where he focused on physiological human factors in product system design, prototyping and testing.

Currently, as a principal at designfarm inc., he consults to design and manufacturing firms on the development of programs to evaluate human physiological, biomechanical, ergonomic and environmental response for product and interface design, and the planning of comprehensive technology implementation strategies for the integration of computing, telecommunication and telepresence technologies. Alex is also a Certified Alias Instructor in the Information Technology Design Centre in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto, where he teaches courses in computer literacy, three-dimensional design, modelling, simulation and animation.

Alex is a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (APEO), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and the University of Toronto, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine Ethics Review Committee. He is co-author of numerous publications in refereed medical and engineering journals and has produced several video productions regarding biomedical and rehabilitation engineering.

              – March 24, 1995

Team Birdcage


2000 – Novel Pedar In-Shoe pressure technology used by Synergy Sports Performance Consultants – Cost, approximately $60,000 with 2 Sony VAIO laptop computers

 


2017 – CARV: Cost? Approximately $300 US – See footnote re special price

 

Birdcage to CARV: “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting 26 years for you. Welcome! The future of skiing has arrived.”


FOOTNOTE
CARV is currently taking pre-orders at $249 at 
 http://carv.ai

WEIRATHER SWITCHES TO HEAD

This is a quick post to comment on a gutsy move by Tina Weirather; one that probably caught most off guard after her very successful 2016-17 World Cup season and especially just before the upcoming Olympics.

I believe Weirather’s timing is impeccable.  Said Weirather;

……….I’ve spent a long time thinking about all these steps. I asked myself a lot of questions and balanced the risks as well as all the potential advantages and disadvantages. The most important questions were: “How can I be most successful, how can I ski the fastest, how can I evolve the most?” The answers got clearer and clearer with every day I tested, every conversation I had, and the more I listened to my gut.

The tests went really well……………”

When I worked with Provincial and Canadian Team racers, I always made boot changes as soon as possible after the competitive season ended. The changes were done in a structured, systematic manner involving one-on-one testing where changes were made to one boot at a time and then compared to the unchanged boot. Only when the changes were proven better when compared to the unchanged boot were changes made to the other boot. In setting up new boots, it was standard practice to swap the liners from the current boots into the new shells to confirm they were properly set up and do one-one-one testing that compared the new shells with the liners from the previous boots to the previous shell/liner combination.

Always have an Escape Route

Even with a lot of testing that resulted in new boots that appeared to be an improvement, I always recommended that racers keep their old boots intact and with them during training right up until racing started. If last minute doubts arose, the best practice was to revert to the old proven setup. Recall Shiffrin’s disastrous start to the 2014-15 World Cup season after changes were made to her boots in the fall of 2014. Fortunately, Shiffrin was able to revert to her old boots, train in Italy over Christmas and get back on track in the New Year. Many racers are not so fortunate.

It was my policy to not make changes to a racer’s ski boots should during the competitive season unless there was no other option. Making an equipment change now, such as Weirather has done, provides a big window in which to make adjustments in technique and fine tune equipment before the start of competition.

A Formula (One) for Success Team

Weirather impressed me when she said;

It took a while, but I’m now 100% convinced I’ve found my dream team: HEAD (new) Tech: Reini Berbig (new) Coach: Charly Pichler (new) Dryland training: Micha Eder / @rotorteam Sports therapist: Fabienne Frommelt Team: Swiss Ski WC 1 Manager: Christopher Holzknecht (new).

I have long maintained that in order to succeed, ski racers need to adopt the Formula One model where the racer drives the skis and a whole team works together to support the racer.

In important ways, I believe Tina Weirather is the role model for World Cup ski racers.

 

THE NEW MOST VIEWED POST: THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI: TIMING OF EDGE CHANGE

THE MECHANICS OF BALANCE ON THE OUTSIDE SKI: TIMING OF EDGE CHANGE  joins THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS and FAILURE TO CARVE as the most viewed posts to date.

WHY YOUNG TALENTED SKI RACERS FAIL AND EVENTUALLY QUIT RACING

The impetus for the subject of this post came from interest in my post FEATURE POST: MIKAELA SHIFFRIN: THE POWER OF SHEAR FORCE and an article (1) in the  February 14, 2017 edition of Ski Racing by sports psychologist, Dr. Jim Taylor.

Taylor’s article is aimed at U14 and younger ski racers. He points out that this is the age where the foundations are laid which often determine how well a racer does and especially how long they will remain in ski racing. Taylor cites statistics that show that qualifying for Topolino or Whistler Cup (international competitions for 13-15 year olds) isn’t highly predictive of success even five years later. Specifically, only 25% of those who qualified for those race series later earned a spot on the USST. Moreover, 35% were off the elite ski racing radar within four years; some before their 18th birthday. The problem, that is the focus of Taylor’s article, is that parents enter what he calls the “too” zone, where the parents of kids, who are 11 years old or younger, have become “too” important to the parents who have become “too” invested in how their kids do (or don’t do).

The question I have is what events preceded parents getting to the “too” zone? I have seen more than one situation where a child who started ski racing at a very young age and who would be considered a child ski racing prodigy, had a promising career unravel soon after they reached their teens. Why? What, changes happened that could have caused this tectonic shift?

Let’s go back to beginning when the racer first showed promise. Many racers demonstrate prowess when they are only 4 or 5 years old. Often, one or both parents are elite skiers. One of both may have raced. So their child has an excellent role model. As a result, the child quickly becomes comfortable following one of their parents down the ski hill. But there are also some important factors in their favour when a child is young;

  • They are light weight.
  • They are short in stature.
  • Their muscles and skeleton are not yet fully developed.
  • Their feet are small.

A significant factor is that young racers often learn to ski in their mother’s ski boots or boots that would be considered too big for their feet if they were older. The implications? Young racers acquire a kinesthetic sense of how to stand in their boots in what I call the SR Stance (3 to 10). As a consequence, they learn to utilize the mycostatic reflex balance response.

The authors of the Polish study on skier balance (2) note that three types of postural reactions to the loss of the body’s balance can be observed.

  1. The first reaction is the mycostatic stretch reflex, which appears in response to changes in the position of the ankle joints, and is recorded in the triceps surae muscles. This is the earliest mechanism, which increases the activity of the muscles surrounding the joint that is subject to destabilisation. The reflex caused by a mycostatic stretch reflex causes its contraction, which then results in the stiffening of the surrounding joints as a response to the stimulus that has disturbed the balance. For example, changes in the angle of the joints of the lower limbs are followed by a reflexive (fascial) tensioning of the adjacent muscles. The subsequent release of the reaction prevents an excessive mobility of the joints and stabilises the posture once again.
  2. The next reflex in the process of balancing is the balance-correcting response, which appears in response to a strongly destabilising stimulus. This reaction has a multi-muscle range, and occurs almost simultaneously in the muscles of the lower limbs, torso and neck, while the mechanisms that initiate the reaction are centrally coordinated.
  3. The last of the three types of muscular reactions is the balance-stabilising response. In a situation of a sudden loss of balance, a stretch reflex first occurs and then is followed by a balance correcting response, which prevents a fall.

I call these responses green (1), orange (2) and red (3).

As young racers enter their teens, a number of significant changes have occurred.

  1. They are much heavier.
  2. They have grown in height
  3. Their muscles and skeleton are more developed.
  4. Their feet have grown larger and are more defined.

It is about this time in what is appearing to be a child’s promising racing career, that parents turn to the experts in a well intended effort to maximize their child’s chances of success. One of the key things parents often do is to get race boots for their child and have them customized with footbeds, form-fit liners and increasingly, heat molded shells. The process typically involves race fit which is downsizing ski boots to the smallest possible shell that the feet can be squeezed into. Custom footbeds or orthotics are integral to race fit because they prevent the foot from spreading and elongating; they prevent the fascial tensioning that enables the mycostatic reflex associated with ultra high speed spinal reflex balance response (11).

No longer able to use the mycostatic reflex (Green = Normal) balance response, the CNS shifts to Level 2 (Orange = Caution) or even Level 3 (Red = DANGER).

What happens next? The young racer starts to become intimidated by courses and conditions they were previously comfortable with. When this happens, their brain senses imminent danger of serious injury or worse and resorts to what I call the Survival Technique. Survival becomes the priority at the expense of speed. Racers start losing ground to other racers. Not understanding the cause, parents and coaches start pushing the child in an effort to get results. The more the child tries, the worse things get. When this happens, frustration sets in. Eventually, the child no longer wants to race. Defeeted by their boots, the child eventually and takes up soccer or some other sport.

Unfortunately, this story is all “too” common. This is also one of the “toos”.


  1. What Young Ski Racers Need – http://www.drjimtaylor.com/4.0/young-ski-racers-need-dont-need/
  2. Influence of a nine-day alpine ski training programme on the postural stability of people with different levels of skills  (April 2016, Biomedical Human Kinetics (DOI: 10.1515/bhk-2016-0004) – Michał Staniszewski, Przemysław Zybko and  Ida Wiszomirska,  Józef Piłsudski University, Warsaw, Poland.
  3. THE SR STANCE: SURFACE EFFECTS,
  4. THE SR STANCE AND TOTAL BODY CORE INTEGRATION
  5. SR STANCE: ROUNDING THE BACK AND SHOULDERS
  6. THE SR STANCE: AFFECT OF JOINT ANGLES ON COM
  7. LEARN THE SR STANCE IN 3 EASY STEPS
  8. SR: ACHILLES-ARCH TENSION
  9. SR STANCE BASICS: ECCENTRIC MUSCLE POWER AND THE STRETCH REFLEX
  10. I-C-E: SR
  11. INNATE FLOW BALANCE

A FOLLOWER OF THE SKIER’S MANIFESTO COMMENTS ON BOOT BOARD/BINDING RAMP ANGLE

The universal boot truisms that David puts forth in his blog is a ‘blueprint’, ‘computer program’, what ever you want to call it which is applied on an INDIVIDUAL basis. Each individual is measured with the system and then the results are applied to the boot. Unlike ‘one boot fits all skiers’ which is the current system the industry provides. I can’t believe that anyone would buy a boot based on a ski magazine test but that probably is hardly worse than the info one gets in the ski shop which gave me nerve damage in my feet (gratefully healed now since I gave up on ‘race fit’). David talks about using flat shims of varying thicknesses to fine tune ramp angle just like canting shims or duct tape are used for lateral experimentation; 2.5-6 is his starting point while I would start with zero but with current ski bindings only millimeters of fine tuning can be done when some individuals need centimeters from the current setups. Obviously if one changes the ramp angle the shank angle may have to be adjusted also which is why skiing is believing, David gives a perfect example in his reply on what lower ramp angle did for his skiing. Also the extremely high starting point on ramp angle makes it impossible for many skiers to loosen their cuff for normal forward flex because they need to be clamped tight to prevent falling one their noses; that’s where I got fooled for a couple of decades.

Having built an adjustable plate for ramp/delta in the early 2000s I can tell you one thing for sure; the skier knows instantly if things are better or worse. That by no means indicates an optimum net ramp because there are so many other aspects of the boot that are factors such as toe crunch (race fit) and ankle flex restricted to virtually zero. I started from the wrong end with ramp/delta whereas David starts in the boot first which is what I would do but took me about a decade to loosen my boot cuff significantly enough to make a difference; that due to a hip joint that was killing me from skiing. 2 months after loosening the boot cuff and removing the power strap which is only good for carrying the boots (my opinion), I was introduced to The Skier’s Manifesto and learned from that how to create an ankle glide path, free the toes, free the arches, etc. What amazes me is 2 things; first that when I first decided to build the BalancEnhancer as I call it (due to a friend’s prodding), that it actually worked , and second, how hard it is to even get skiers to try something different and the number that do try it and then don’t even try to modify their own equipment to their needs based on what had made there skiing better!!

  • Michael Pupko

BOOT BOARD (ZEPPA) RAMP ANGLE VS. BOOT SIZE

It is becoming clear, the angle the boot board (zeppa) establishes for the skier’s foot relative to the ground, is vitally important to the ability to balance and function on skis. Therefore, knowing boot board angle (ramp angle) and skier preferences should become part of every boot setup and purchase. Yet there appears to be a fundamental error in the understanding of ramp angle in boots. This is evident when someone states, for example: “The head Raptor has a ramp angle of 4.5 degrees”. The statement may only true if the angle is linked to the boot size.

There are production controls applied to boots just as controls and standards are applied to all other things mass produced. In boots, it means the first prototypes are designed to a specific size (generally Mondo 26). All other sizes are scaled up or down from it. Each Mondo size is a change of one centimeter. Zeppas are fixed in both rear foot and forefoot height in the prototype standard. Only the zeppa length changes as boot size changes.

It means; if the prototype size is twenty six, the zeppa of a twenty three is three centimeters shorter with the same toe and heel heights. Therefore, the ramp angle of the zeppa of a twenty three is steeper than the ramp angle of the zeppa of a twenty six. Since many women’s boots are scaled from the twenty-six Mondo standard, boot set-up problems can be more difficult to solve for women than for men. This is the reason women are more adversely affected by boot configuration than men. The graphic below compares the boot board (zeppa) ramp angles of larger and smaller boots to the standard Mondo 26 boot.

Zeppas Mondo 26

 

Bindings obviously confer the same effect, since with most models heel height is greater than toe height. As the heel and toe change distances from each other according to boot size, binding angle (delta) changes and its angle is additive with the boot ramp angle to determine gross equipment angle as shown in the graphic below. Binding delta has a double effect, since as delta increases boot cuff angle relative the ground also increases.

Zeppas Mondo 26 bindings

When talking about boot boad ramp, we should include the boot size or always use the ramp of the Mondo 26 as a known reference.


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 Press, Super 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.

MORGANS’ EXPERIMENTS WITH BOOT SETUP: 2013 TO APRIL 2015

When Morgan Petitniot, from Font Romeu Ski Resort in Southern France, sent me a video titled ‘Ski Gear Comparison – David MacPhail‘, in which he documented his experiments with different ski boot setups, I was both suitably impressed and flattered. Morgan came across as an athletic individual; one who took skiing very seriously. He was determined not to let anything stop him from reaching the highest possible technical level. And yet, his ski equipment had been doing precisely that. In viewing Morgan’s video, I was both moved and impressed by his dedication and logical approach. Even more impressive is that Morgan realized his equipment was adversely affecting his skiing and impeding his progress. In many ways it was a deja vu experience for me; one that reflected my own journey.

Here are a series of screen shots of title scenes from each of Morgan’s experiments between 2013 and April of 2015.

TITLE

(Click on images to zoom in)

Morgan, “For the first time in 2013 I saw me skiing (on video). It was the worst day of my skier’s Life ! I saw me totally blocked, tall, with little flexion at the ankle, knee and hips.”

Jan 2013

Morgan, “So I applied what I was understanding on skier’s manifesto.”

Dec 2014 copy

 

Feb 2015

 

Mar 16

 

Mar 28

 

Mar 2015
April 10

 

April 17 soma

 

April 17

FINALLY SUCCESS!

April 17 Lange tongue

In my next post I will analyze Morgan’s skiing in his video and describe the events and sequences I look for that indicate problems caused by the ski boot