Skier Stance

A FIVE STEP SKIER PERFORMANCE PROGRAM

Almost 40 years ago to the day, the head of the Whistler Pro Patrol, whose boots I had worked on, introduced me to Nancy Greene in the Roundhouse restaurant on top of Whistler Mountain. The rest is, as they say, history. Nancy asked me if I would work on her ski boots. She was so impressed by the results of my work that she approached the National Ski Team to make arrangements for me to work with some of Canada’s best racers.

Recently, while going through some archived files, I found copies of Nancy’s communication with the Program Director of the National Ski Team, Andrzej Kozbial. When Nancy approached me about working with our National Team, I stressed to her that I did not see any potential arrangement with the team as a job opportunity but instead as a vehicle where I could gain further experience and knowledge while providing a crucial service to the team and furthering the sport of skiing.

The graphic below is an excerpt copied from Nancy’s first letter of April 26, 1978 to the National Ski Team Program Director.

At the time that I wrote my US Patent 5,265,350 in early 1992, the intent and purpose of the detailed and lengthy specification was to provide a repository of the knowledge I had acquired to date to serve as a legacy for skiers and skiing to help advance the sport. While this information was in support of the inventions disclosed in the patent, the majority of the information was not subject to protection under the terms of the patent. The information was open access to the world. This was my intent.

In spring of 2000, I formed a company with 2 partners for the 2000-2001 ski season called Synergy Sports Performance Consultants Ltd. The objective of the venture was to gain further experience and knowledge and create a model that could be used as a template for future skier performance programs.

The following series of graphics are from Power Point presentations synergy made to ski schools.

The following graphic is the poster that described the synergy 5 Step Performance Program.

5 Step Performance Program description

The synergy Analysis Program looks at how your body interfaces with your ski equipment; primarily your footbeds and boots because this is the connection to your equipment and through it to the snow.

Synergy offers the program as a package made up of 5 components. They can either be taken as the complete package [recommended], several components or steps at once, or one component at time. Synergy recommends that you begin at step 1 and follow the sequence in numerical order. But the order can be arranged however you wish to suit your needs. The choice is yours.

1.Biomechanical Assessment

Good foot function is the key to control. That’s why the first thing we thing we assess is your biomechanical function. What that means is that we look at how well your foot and lower limb works. The examination is done by a podiatrist who looks at how your foot functions and how the lower limbs all connect.  Then we see how effectively your feet interface with the ground by putting you on insoles that read the pressures under your feet. We coach you through some balance movements while we watch how your foot functions while our computer records the results

2. Footbed Assessment

Footbeds can have a positive, neutral or negative effect on the function of your feet.

That’s why the next thing we check is how your foot interfaces with your footbed or orthotic.  We make sure that it allows your foot to function as well as it should without one.  And if your foot needs some assistance for optimal function we make sure the footbed is helping your foot do what it needs to do.

3. Ski Boot Assessment

Now that your foot is functioning optimally we make sure your ski boot lets it keep functioning. We conduct a thorough examination of your boot and provide you with a report that tells you how your boot is affecting your performance. Most important, we tell you what has to be done to fix the problem.

4. Kinesthetic Training

Skiing is about making the right moves. Kinesthetic Training is next. It teaches you how to tell when your body is making those moves. What is Kinesthetic Training? In simple terms it means to train your body to associate a feeling or sense with the right movements made at the right time. It is feeling and bringing about an awareness so you know when you are doing it right because we have taken you there and you have felt it. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in skiing a feeling is worth a thousand pictures. We bring you to understand what you should feel in your foot at the start of the turn and then what it feels like to settle and balance onto the foot that drives the ski. By acquiring this sense you become more aware of how to allow your foot to transfer energy directly to the edge of the ski by using the body the way it was designed to be used. Remember, your body was not made to be a lever.

5. On-Hill Data Collection

This is where everything comes together. We move to the ski hill for this part of the package. We meet up top on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain. We put our pressure insoles in your ski boots.  A pair of cables from the insoles goes up your ski pants where it connects to the data box [a kind of mini computer] we attached to your waistband.  Then we go out for a run on moderate, groomed terrain.  We record data in three takes in medium radius turns at a speed you are most comfortable with. While this is happening we videotape your skiing. Then we head into the lodge and synchronize the video with your foot pressure data. When this is done we watch your foot function in your boots on the computer screen on one side while we study your ski video on the other side of the screen. This way we confirm that your foot is functioning optimally as confirmed by analyzing your movement patterns and the timing of your skills.

My next post will be on the synergy Boot Assessment program.

 

BEYOND BIOMECHANICS BY DR. EMILY SPLICHAL

The following post appeared on the Evidence Based Fitness Academy (EBFA) fitness blog on February 6, 2018 under the title Beyond Biomechanics | Addressing Foot Pain with Sensory Stimulation (1.).

I have reproduced the post with the kind permission of Dr. Emily Splichal under the title Beyond Biomechanics by Dr. Emily Splichal because her emphasis on the role of sensory stimulation of the plantar foot on foot, lower limb and function of the entire body has both direct application to and implications for, skiing.

I have a theory on what I call The NABOSO Effect that explains how I think NABOSO insoles improve dynamic stability in the biokinetic chain that I will discuss in a future post. I have been testing NABOSO 1.0 and 1.5 for months.


Beyond Biomechanics | Addressing Foot Pain with Sensory Stimulation – by Dr. Emily Splichal

I want you to picture a human foot.   Now picture a person standing barefoot, and then walking barefoot.   Do you see the foot striking the ground and flexing under impact, only to re-stabilize and push off just a few milliseconds later?

Often times when we think of human movement we can’t help but to be drawn to the thought of joints moving and muscles contracting.   Or in the case of foot function we are quick to consider the mechanics of flat feet, high arches, pronation and supination.   However when we delve deeper into the science of human movement there is more than meets the eye.

The Two Sides of Foot Function

When I teach on behalf of EBFA Global or speak to my patients I always emphasize that there are two sides to foot function (and dysfunction) – biomechanical and neuromuscular.    Now both play an important role in foot function which means that both must be appreciated – however to solely treat foot pain with just one belief system in mind is inherently flawed.

In most Podiatric Medical Schools we are taught foot function and foot pathology solely from a biomechanical perspective.

This means that every patient is tested for foot mobility and told to stand statically to determine arch height and foot type.   Based on this foot-focused biomechanical assessment and foot classification system the patient’s cause of injury and treatment protocol is determined.   Some of the favorite treatment recommendations include motion-controlled footwear and custom-posted orthotic both of which are prescribed with the hopes of controlling foot-focused biomechanics and thereby reducing their foot pain.

Beyond Biomechanics

The other side of foot function is one that is driven from a neuromuscular perspective and integrates the science of sensory stimulation and fascial systems.   In the case of neuromuscular function every patient would be assessed for sensitivity of plantar mechanoceptors as well as co-activation patterns between the foot and the core.  The role of minimal footwear, myofascial releasing, breathing patterns and compensation patterns more proximal would all be considered.

So which is more appropriate?  Well it depends.   In certain cases there will be a stronger argument towards a more biomechanical influence and in others it is more sensory.  This means it really is a marriage between the two approaches that provides the greatest patient outcome.

Sensory Stimulation in Foot Pain

My practice and Podiatry career is built around bringing an awareness to the important role sensory stimulation has on foot function and foot pain.

With every step we take impact forces are entering the foot as vibration.  This vibrational noise stimulates unique mechanoceptors on the bottom of the foot and is used to coordinate the loading of impact forces through coordinated contractions of the intrinsic (small) muscles of the bottom of the foot.   This co-contraction leads to a stiffening or strengthening response of the foot.

Researchers such as Nigg et al. and Robbins et al. have demonstrated a direct relationship between sensory stimulation of the plantar foot and intrinsic muscle strength concluding that one is necessary for the other.   This means that if our footwear or orthotics disconnect us from sensory stimulation – as in the case of cushioned footwear – this can actually weaken our foot making us susceptible to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures.

Beyond Vibration Stimulation

Vibration stimulation is an extremely important sensory stimulation that enters our foot however it isn’t the only stimulation.   Another important stimulation is the ability for our foot to determine texture and if a surface is rough or smooth.   This information is used to help maintain dynamic balance (think walking on ice).

Enter the merkel disk mechanoceptors.   These superficial sensory nerves are used to determine what’s called 2 point discrimination which is translated to roughness or the texture of a surface.  Surface texture and insole texture is one of the most studied aspects of foot stimulation and posture or gait.  From decreased medial lateral sway in patients with Parkinson’s or MS to reduced prefrontal cortical activity in atheltes post-concusion the applications are promising!

One area that hasn’t been focused on for sensory stimulation and foot function is foot pain.  I am here to change the awareness around this concept and share the powerful application of sensory stimulation and foot pain.

As we mentioned earlier sensory stimulation of the foot leads to a contraction of the intrinsic muscles of the foot.   Intrinsic muscle contraction is not only a criticial step in the damping of impact forces but has also been shown to increase the medial arch and build co-activation contractions in the core.

 The Evolution of Textured Insoles

In October 2017 Naboso Technology launched the first-ever commercially available textured insole!   Naboso Technology essentially brought the science of touch and years of textured insole research to the market place giving new hope to people with foot pain.

Available in two strengths – Naboso 1.0 (1mm texture) and Naboso 1.5 (1.5mm texture) Naboso Insoles are designed to be worn without socks (or at the most very thin socks).  They fit into all footwear, are freely movable in all planes of motion and are only 3mm thick.

FROM THE GROUND UP

Are you barefoot strong?


Learn more about the power of texture! – http://www.naboostechnology.com

  1. https://barefootstrongblog.com/2018/02/06/beyond-biomechanics-addressing-foot-pain-with-sensory-stimulation/

 

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

THE MECHANICS OF EDGE CHANGE

Comments made by followers of my blog suggest that significant confusion exists 0n the meaning of terms and representations of mechanics, biomechanics and physics used in typical explanations of ski technique and ski mechanics. In particular, there appears to be confusion between pressure and the representation of point forces.

Pressure is a physical force applied to an object that is distributed over the surface of the object.

Center of Pressure or COP is the point center of ground reaction force opposing a corresponding center of applied force acting on a object supported on the ground or a stable surface that acts in the capacity of ground in terms of providing a source of reaction force.

Torque or Moment of Force results from an offset between the centers of opposing physical forces acting on either side of an object.  This offset results in a torque or moment arm that tends ti create rotation about a center. When one force has a greater magnitude than the other force, rotation of the object will occur around the point of rotation.

Why typical balance explanations of skier balance are wrong

Balance in skiing is often depicted as a simple alignment of opposing point forces, usually a resultant force R acting in opposition to a snow reaction force S. The mechanics that make the edges of a ski grip are often shown as a simple alignment of opposing forces acting a single point on the edge. Explanations of this nature are physically impossible. What the authorities in skiing seem to conveniently be ignoring is the fact that pressure is applied by the snow along the entire running surface of the edge in contact with the the snow while an opposing area of pressure applied by the weight of the skier is acting on the body of the ski with an offset between the two centers of pressure. The authorities in skiing also seem to conveniently ignore what is arguably the key even in establishing a platform under the outside ski for the skier to stand and balance on, edge change.

Mikaela Shiffrin’s Get Over It drill on the Burke Mountain YouTube site makes a good segue to an explanation of the Mechanics of Edge change in the my next post – https://youtu.be/Bh7KF49GzOc

Bridget Currier is the model every skier should aspire to. She perfectly executes what I call the skimove. The skimove engages the external forces at ski-flat/edge-change to drive multi-plane torques acting about her outside ski into the turn while setting up a solid platform under her outside foot for her to stand on. Magnificent! This video should have at least a million views.

My comment from 2 years ago

Note carefully Currier’s stance in balance on her new outside ski, in particular, the angle of her torso with the snow. This is key to loading the ball of her outside foot.

Note carefully Shiffrin’s comment to move forward onto her new ski and how she used to think the movement was a lateral (sideways) move.

Most important of all – Patient Initiation. The reason? Shiffrin and Currier, don’t tip their outside ski on edge. They rock it on edge with a rocker impulse loading mechanism. The sequence is Rock, Roll n’ Rotate then Rotate the outside leg.

ERROR IN LAST POST ON EVERSION

In my last post, I erroneously stated that the sole turns inward, towards the center of the body, in eversion. I meant to state that the sole turns outward, away from the center of the body, in eversion.

I have revised the paragraph in my post so it reads correctly.

In order for the torso and Center of Mass to stack vertically over the ball of the foot, the sole of the foot must turn outward, away from the center the the body. This is called eversion. It is enabled by the joint that lies below the ankle called the sub-talar joint. The sub-talar joint is tied to the tibia where it acts as a torque converter. When the foot everts or inverts, the sub-talar joint translates this on an approximately 1:1 ratio into internal or external vertical axial rotation of the leg.

I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

ADDENDUM TO THE ORIGINS OF KNEE ANGULATION

The intent of my last post was to create an awareness of the lower limb alignment indicative of stability and how a lack of stability, whether intrinsic or caused by footwear, especially ski boots, will cause a skier to default to the use of knee angulation in what will be a failed attempt to hold the edge of the outside ski.

A skier will be unable to develop the requisite biomechanics to balance on their outside ski if they lack stability in barefoot monopedal stance under the minimal challenges associated with a flat, level unperturbed surface. If they lack lower limb/pelvic stability, there could endless combinations of causes which is why I listed a number of resources to help address this deficiency.

If a skier/racer exhibits good to excellent  stability under this basic test and they become unstable with the addition of any form of footwear, it suggests, but does not unequivocally prove, that the footwear is the cause. In more 4 decades of working with skiers and racers at all levels, I have consistently found that I can turn monopedal stability off and on at will. That I can do this without limitation, is indicative of cause and effect. In the 2 world class racers I am presently working with, even a small change in a liner or the over-tensioning of a shaft buckle or power strap has an immediate and noticeable effect on outside limb/pelvic stability and balance.

A key exercise I like to use with racers and elite skies I am working with is the vertical stacking exercise shown in the graphic below. This exercise is performed by starting from bipedal stance with the feet stacked under the heads of the femurs and the head and torso vertical and then making fluid arcing movement of the COM over the ball of the big toe while keeping the torso and head stacked vertically and the pelvis and shoulders horizontal as indicated by orange vertical and horizontal references in the graphic below. The torso should be aligned with the transverse or frontal plane, square with the foot.

A lack of stability in the biokinetic chain is typically evidenced by a drop of the opposite side of the pelvis and a leaning in the opposite direction of the torso and/or the head or both. While this reduces the load on the pelvis side of the  leg it creates a myriad of issues. Inside hip drop will cause the inside leg of a turn to assume the load as the skier inclines thus creating further instability on the outside leg.

Elite skiers and racers like Shiffrin are able to get over it (find stability on their outside foot and ski) in milliseconds. This enables them to retract the inside foot and ski with knee flexion as they incline into a turn similar to the mechanics cyclists use when they corner; outside leg extends, inside leg retracts.

The vertical stacking exercise is best performed in front of a mirror.