Balance boots for optimal ski performance
Fiddler on the Boot
Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part series by North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) director Chris Fellows on ski boot customization. Part three will look at boot balancing and boot sole planning.
Boot balancing and grinding takes equipment that you may be fighting and changes the geometry to produce a harmonious relationship between skier, equipment and snow. For some people the difference is dramatic; for others it’s negligible. Here are a few indicators that may mean you are a good candidate for a boot balancing session.
Stance appears bowlegged.
Turn entry is often initiated by a heel push.
The knees seek a functional position but can’t find it, which results in outside leg wobbling. This can lead to knee pain.
Skis seem grabby or stuck on an edge.
The hip rotates to assist in edge release.
Gross muscle movements are used to balance and turn the skis.
After the footbed is made and the upper cuff is aligned, it’s possible to get a true read of how the structure of the lower leg is affecting the skier. Use a carpenter’s plumb bob to assess the knee mass position relative to the foot. The center of the knee mass needs to be aligned over the center line of the boot. Depending on personal preference, this line can move inward or outward a few millimeters. External shims can be applied to achieve the desired amount of adjustment to the lateral angle of the boot sole. The most effective and permanent way to make this adjustment is by planing the bottom of the boots to meet the optimum degree of correction. There are a few shops around the country that specialize in this service.
You should notice a quick response, accompanied by the ability to move in both directions without gross movements. You will exhibit improved balance and feel more comfortable while skiing.
The lower legs form an “A frame” position.
There is an abstem (loss of edge grip, resulting in the tail skidding out) or downstem (a technique used to bleed speed).
Due to the lack of edge engagement, the skier skids through the turn.
Delayed edge reaction time.
Asymmetry or a weak turn is also an indication of alignment problems.
The assessment is the same as in the overcanted example. The actual work will require shims on the medial side under the boot or planing that will remove material from the lateral side of the bottom of the boot. This service should be done by a trained boot fitter who will bring the boot back to the manufacturer’s criteria for boot binding interface.
You should feel more natural on the skis and feel confident enough to be spontaneous and playful. Functional movement patterns will override affected and forced ones, and the element of relaxation will dovetail with efficient movement. The intuitive side of skiing begins to emerge.
Establish the correct connection and interplay between your body and your ski equipment, and you’ll set yourself up to succeed with ingraining solid ski movements and clean tactics. If you can identify areas that are blocking you from a clean interface, half the battle is won.
In summary, these diagnostic techniques and fixes will help you recognize areas that may need attention to produce optimum ski performance. Once you are properly aligned in your equipment you will be able to tap into the incredible technology that ski engineers have built into today’s skis, boots and bindings.
Chris and his wife Jenny are the directors of Truckee’s North American Training Center (NASTC), and Chris is a member of the PSIA National Demonstration Team. Chris will be writing a weekly column all winter. He can be reached at ski@skiNASTC.com or 582-4772.
For video tips on boot customizing go to http://www.skinastc.com
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