Thursday, March 19, 2015

Marcel Hirscher, about to set a new World Cup Ski record.

Marcel Hirscher closes in on FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup overall title

http://allsports.com.gh/other_sports/the-chase-marcel-hirscher-closes-in-on-fis-alpine-skiing-world-cup-overall-title-id3581935.html

Is this the turning point in Marcel Hirscher career? Is it time to focus on Super G and GS, and leave slalom behind. What are the advantages and disadvantages? GS and Super G skis are similar. GS is great training for Super G and vice versa. Slalom is the outlier in alpine ski racing. Skis are totally different and the turns are tight and results unpredictable. Slalom requires the most training to hold a top 3 finishing position. 
It makes sense from an energy expenditure stand point to use Super G as the second event to GS; if you are going for your 5th straight overall world cup title in a row (next season). It's one run and no practice on that run needed, you are in and out. Easy points?? If you can ski like Hirscher, yes.
It will be interesting. My feelings are that Hirscher likes the slalom turns, and he likes the athletic requirements of slalom. It would be a loss to ski racing not having him in top form for slalom. He also may see leaving slalom as a copout for achieving his historical overall wold cup legacy. I'm sure he wants to do it his way, win slaloms and GS. But what is the smartest way to do it. Stenmark was able to do it, but he didn't win 4 World Cup overall titles in a row. Hirscher has not yet, but at this writing, the odds are definitely in his favor. He can always, from time to time run a Super G to get insurance points. Either way, it will be very interesting to watch history in the making.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Foot and ski boot alignment isn't an accessary you can "afford" to ignore.

         Boots and Alignment, how they affects your skiing.

"Penny wise and pound foolish comes to mind when spending on ski racing!"

Parents spend an amazing amount of money on ski racing,  for suits, wax, tuning, camps, travel,  and of course coaching, just to name a few.

What would happen if you were to find that your coach can't make any changes in your skiing, if your boot alignment is off?

What would you do if you knew that going to another camp wasn't going to make a difference in your skiing ability?

What if you knew that waxing and brushing your skis didn't add speed to your race runs?

Without complete optimization of your ski boots, foot positioning, cuff adjustments and sole canting the above examples are true. None of the improvement you think you will achieve for the above list will occur without a perfect boot set up. Sure some minor changes can be realized, but will they last?

A complete alignment program has a huge impact on a skiers ability to move on skis. It's the tires that make the difference in a snow storm, well it's the boots that make the difference in a ski racer.

Few coaches have the training to see what needs to be done. Few coaches recognize the difference between technique and alignment problems. Although identifying alignment can be learned, trained and can be applied by coaches who have the training, few do.

How can I make these bold statements? I see the results of bad alignment every day in my ski shop and alignment center. I see racers from all over the country from numerous different programs. And those are the smart parents and coaches that bring their racers in to see us. In almost every case there are big improvements that are achieved. Most racers have less then optimal set ups, even on the world cup.

Very few skiers are perfectly aligned and set up in ski boots. Even Mikaela Shiffrin had to change her boots this season after the newer versions were damaging her results.
Five of the best Italian ski instructors. Can you pick which 3 have really poor alignment?

What is involved with proper optimization of a skier's set up?

First comes boot selection, no one's feet, legs and joints are the same. Even in the same family offspring have different needs for boot set up. Different boots by every company have different strengths and weaknesses.



Boot fit has a huge impact on skiing performance. Boot fit has to be modified in conjunction with needs for a footbed and proper hold or boot fit.



A proper bio-mechanical assessment of the foot and ankle determines whether a footbed will assist in edging and ski tipping movements. All of the lower body movements in skiing are directly attributable to boot fit and boot matching. The skier's ankle and leg must be aligned to achieve every possible performance advantage.

There are many footbeds that do not achieve proper alignment, some may make it worst.






Poor alignment, like this "A" frame can be caused by an aggressive cuff or a foot problem or boot sole misalignment. It is imperative that a qualified boot technician does all the measurements properly. Through measuring and on snow testing, good technicians and coaches can work together.






Cuff adjustments are crucial in modern ski boots. They wrap around the leg above the ankle and have influence on developing edge angles. Mostly the cuffs are set up too strong against the leg, as in Mikaela's case with her boots early this season. An aggressive cuff gives the immediate feel of a strong edge, but it doesn't allow for better ski and arc development.


Sole canting is the final touch. this may seem very straight forward for many boot fitters, but it is not. There are many factors influencing the final canting of the sole. Mostly the final position is arrived at by a combination of understanding, boot design, shin curve, and leg length.






With a proper biomechanical assessment more than 15 measurements of each foot are required beginning with bare feet and then in boots.

















Determining and fine tuning balance with sole canting.

After all the indoor assessments and measuring are complete, the bottom line is still determined by the skier's movements on snow. In our system, we are fortunate to ski with more than 90% of the skiers we do a complete alignment assessment for in the ski shop

The others send us video after there assessment. From video we can determine the fine tuning.

In summary, you can spend many more dollars chasing points, summer camps in South America and on a fancy race programs, and never get it right, because the equipment is wrong. Not much can or will lower the points until the racer or skier can move their bodies without equipment restrictions that can't be corrected by training, technique or coaching.




Saturday, February 21, 2015

How Anna Fenninger wins GS.

In my last post I described how Mikaela Shiffrin used her flexing and increased tipping movements to win the slalom at the World Championships. Mikaela has of course all the rest of the package as well, but the lower body relaxation to acquire more angles is what made her runs stand out.

In the case of Anna Fenninger, who won, not only the World Championship GS, but also the recent  GS race in Maribor, she often uses and has refined the "weighted release".

What exactly is the "Weighted Release"?

I named it and referred to it, 18 years ago in my first video, "Anyone can be an Expert Skier", "The Von GrĂ¼nigen Turn". The Von GrĂ¼nigen turn is named after the great GS racer; who stayed on the outside ski and transitioned without changing weight to the new outside ski. The outside ski was weightless in the top 1/3 of the arc and often the first 1/2 of the turn. All the best, know how to use this release and transition, to get their "Center of Mass", into the turn faster. In fact, it is a purposeful, "late pressure" technique. 

Below in these video clips, we can see how Anna Fenninger uses the weighted release.

Here Anna has not yet transferred here weight or balance to the new outside ski, the top 1/3 of the turn is done.



Here we see how see is in the middle of her transition, but has not yet, and isn't attempting to pressure the new ski. This is a typical late pressuring move or technique.



Again the same release to the right turn.


The next two photo clips below, are from the same turn. Here Anna shows the true mastery of the weighted release. She is patient and lets her body totally cross her skis to line up, to deal with the forces of the arc, when they came. Trying to get early pressure would slow the skier, because of the increased friction of the pressured ski to the snow.

Here Anna has no pressure on the outside ski. Hirscher often uses this same movement even in slalom. It is therefore completely incorrect to say that early pressure is what world cup racers are missing. They know how to get early pressure, but don't want it unless absolutely necessary, because it's slow. The more accurate way of describing world cup skiing is to describe this part of the arc as trying to achieve "early angles", not early pressure. The whole idea is to get your body aligned to the "inevitable forces built at the lower 1/3 of the arc..



Another weighted released lower on the course.


The Weighted Release technique! How to learn it and when to use it.


In the "PMTS Ski System", by Harb Ski Systems,  we describe three releases, the one footed, or "Phantom Move" release, the Two Footed, and the Weighted Release. We don't include extension or pushing out of the turn as a form of releasing, (it's the most common and damaging) because that isn't a release;  it's further engagement and pressure on the outside ski. The push off, is the slowest and most energy zapping release. The weighted release is the most efficient release, but requires the most balance and also perfect timing.

How do you teach a weighted release and when? I teach the weighted release to juniors who have excellent outside ski balance and already use a two footed release, which we also teach to juniors.

In a weighted release, the outside ski remains weightless in the top 1/3 of the arc. All the best, know how to use this release and transition. And the goal is to get their "Center of Mass", into the turn without losing speed in the transition. 

In fact, it is a purposeful, late pressure technique. To begin, you must be perfectly balanced and carving on the outside ski at the completion of your arc. You begin the release when you are under the turning poles and have the ski and body loaded and angled. 

Contrary to changing or moving to the new ski, (there is no effort made to do so in this release) you flex and bend the stance leg  (the one over the out side ski)  and let your body move toward and over the stance ski, as in the photo clips. You continue this transition until the stance ski becomes the new inside ski. In these situations you begin the top of the arc on this inside ski. 

This transition at racing GS speeds and forces, requires strong eccentric muscle control. Since the weighted release keeps the weight and absorbing ability in transition on the standing leg of the previous arc. It's not an easy technique to perfect. Once the transition is achieved and the body has the correct angles, it's simply a matter of reaching or stretching the outside leg to touch down on the snow. 


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mikaela Shiffrin is back on track and showing strong technical ability.

Mikaela had a bad bout with Atomic boots earlier in the season. She is on track now.

Mikaela is the best at the "inside" hand and pole prep, it stabilizes her core and adds counter acting. Counteracting is a movement, not a position. Just like tipping, it is not an angle you stop building. More of this and the other movements Mikaela uses that make her out perform her rivals, explained  below.


One rarely emphasized point, that is unknown and often disregarded in ski coaching, is proper inside half of the body development in turn movements. Inside half movements set up the outside half of the body, more powerfully and efficiently.

Points:
In this photo it's clear that Mikaela's inside pole tip, inside hand and inside shoulder are driving forward. The same is happening with her inside hip, she turns her pelvis away from the direction of the turn. This is counteracting.

Mikaela developed more tipping angles in every turn during the race than her rivals. She used a combination of early lower body tipping to create angles and hip dropping,. Hip dropping is achieved by relaxing the pelvic area and flexing the inside leg. Once the hips relaxes it gets lower to the inside of the arc, then, again, more leg tipping after her hip dropped inside could be added.

This requires relaxation and confidence. How does this confidence develop, through proper, "inside half movement development". When "inside half development", takes place the skis hold and confidence for more tipping develops.

This also requires more patience, because turning of the skis doesn't happen immediately at the top of the arc, as most would like to create.  If you watched closely Mikaela's rivals all turned or pivoted their skis at the top of the arc, in an effort to catch up to the course demands. This is a wrong technique.  Also, most of her rivals were pushing and extending in an effort to get the ski pressured, again, incorrect technique. The pushing and extending "stops" all the tipping and angle creation. As a result, the skis don't hold and they do bounce instead. This is lost on the commentators and the coaches.

Remember the "golden rule" of ski racing. Don't turn your skis!! You should tip your skis and change angles and then your skis  turn you. If you are using PSIA/USSA coaching, don't be surprised if you hear the opposite. Remember question everything your coaches tell you!!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A "Harb Ski Systems" Camper report, from boots to little toe edge.



Harb Ski Systems, Granby Ranch Ski Camp.


This is my 4th year skiing and first full year using PMTS movements in my skiing. I decided to give the Green/Blue camp a go as it fell perfectly with a vacation week. At the end of last season I purchased Harald's ACBAES I and II books and read them and watched the DVDs REPEATEDLY. I built my own slant board and practiced this fall with it.

Before this camp I went to my local mountain for a couple of days of practice with some of the book drills to get ready and it was a help. Flew into Denver on the Sunday before the camp and drove an hour to Dumont to the Ski Shop for an alignment and boot check. I was really looking forward to this and it paid off tremendously . When I arrived Harald and Diana greeted me warmly which was welcome after a long trip across country. 

Harald performed my foot analysis and measurements and alignment assessment himself. We discussed some of my challenges and goals while skiing and then he checked my current boots. Much to my wallet's dismay I discovered the ski boots I already owned had not been properly fitted and were a size too large. I had too much volume in my boots which allowed my feet to slip encouraging a lot of back seat skiing. As an aside I bought these boots from a certified US ski boot fitter but NOT a PMTS boot fitter. Don't make the same mistake I did, find a PMTS boot fitter, it will be worth your trouble.

So I bit the bullet and purchased the correct size Head Raptors at Harald's suggestion. This turned out to be a key to success at the camp. Harald spent 3 hours with me on the day I bought boots getting them to fit right and then modified them a bit more during the camp. The other boot fitter, maybe an hour and a half with NO foot evaluation or alignment evaluation.

Monday morning arrived and I believe there were 25 for so campers and we were divided into 4 groups with 4 instructors...Harald, Diana, Bob H and Rich. For those that haven't been to Granby Ranch Colorado it is mix of mostly green and blue slopes which are perfect for the kind of drills and practice PMTS uses. It is a pretty little place nestled in Granby Colorado.

I was fortunate enough to be placed with a great group of 5 other people, some were as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Nova Scotia. Ages in my group ranged from mid 30s to low 70s. The group was randomly put together based on general skill level evaluated on the first morning by the instructors. Our group turned out to be very cohesive and supportive of each other. Also have to put a big plug in here for the coaching. Our group had Bob H for the first 3 days and he was excellent. Bob has a no nonsense approach to teaching drills but also has a great sense of humor and likes to have some fun . The group and both of our coaches (Bob and Harald) joked back and forth.

The last two days we had Harald. I have to admit I was a little bit in awe of Harald and a bit nervous about what he might do to us. Turns out Harald is one of the most down to earth and fun loving people I've ever met. It was a special treat to be coached by the person who developed PMTS. 

Over the course of the 5 days many weakness were exposed and we were put through various drills to help us deal with them. We had a great time with each other and our coaches all week.

If you are reading this and haven't been to one of the PMTS camps I would highly recommend that you sign up. While the exercises in the books and DVDs are well explained there are definite nuances that tie it all together that were made clear at the camp. A certified coach with an eye like a hawk is watching you to help you progress and one last point......VIDEO DOES NOT LIE. Video may be the single biggest thing to clearly show you where you are not performing when analyzed by someone who is trained in PMTS.  

There were many important points made during camp by Bob and Harald but the biggest in my mind is Little Toe Edge....Learn to balance on it, learn to tip with it, and learn to love it. Think about it before you go to bed and think about it when you wake up. While walking through the airport in my boots I found myself walking more on my little toe edges. Did I mention that the Little Toe Edge was the most important? If I didn't Bob H will call my cell and remind me. Also for Bob's sake.... Flexion, Pull feet back, Tipping, Counter Balance and Counter Acting.

I believed in PMTS before I went to camp and after camp I know it will be the only method that I continue to use while skiing. Again if you are even remotely interested in PMTS, buy the books and DVDs, study them and get some time in a camp. The camp was unbelievably great and I would consider it indispensable in implementing PMTS.

Thank you again to Harald, Diana, Bob H, Rich.

Ben S

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Panel-gate" Bode's last stand.

http://youtu.be/lJz6csWCWdU

Is this how we will remember Bode's last race??


Bode Miller has done many great things to create excitement for skiing in the USA and around the world. He has had an outstanding career. He sure had many great races and as he says, "Did it his way". Bode is nothing, if not exciting to watch and thrilling many times over, to every spectator. 

Unfortunately, he was not always been the smartest racer. Two huge opportunities recently come to mind, and are just a glimpse into his mistake ridden career. We all know what Bode would say to this comment. In a nut shell, it's Bode's attitude, at least in the public one,  he shows no regret. He says he is in it for the thrill, to go straighter and faster then any man can. You can see this macho, the go for broke, "devil may care", super skier in him. Or you can view it as rather cavalier and destructive. It's rather tough to be cavalier at 80 mph on sheer ice, but he managed it.  

One of Bode's greatest missed opportunities came  last year at the Sochi Olympics, in the Downhill, he had the thing wired, 2 second plus leads in all the pre-runs, but all for nothing. Bode decided he could cut the line even more in the race. So he took a new and different line, he had not yet dialed in. Huge mistake, and therefore no gold! Would he have won the Olympic Downhill Gold if he skied exactly like he did in training, of course, ask any informed observer of ski racing, he had the Gold around his neck. 

Yesterday, another sad ending.  Bode Miller, 9 weeks out of back surgery, with almost 1/2 second lead, half way down the Super G course at the World Championships at Beaver Creek, he made, by ski racing standards, another stupid mistake. He cut uphill sharply and ran over, into and through a gate. The result was a horrible crash, which could have easily been much worst. It's terrible to see anyone crash and especially one resulting in a deep cut from a ski to the back of the leg. This accident resulted in a severed major hamstring tendon.

With these two races Bode would have again topped his career with miraculous comebacks. Was yesterday's win still a possibility, was a win in the cards up to the point of tragedy? It was a possibility right up to the moment of "Panelgate"? I think Bode could have been on the podium, and that would have been miraculous. 

Aggression is good in ski racing, but when it is taken to the extreme and becomes the predominant approach, and it interferes constantly with your preservation and even finishing, my view is it's self defeating, shows insecurity and immaturity. Taking nothing away from bode's athletic ability as a skier. He is one of the most gifted skiers of all time. Athletic gifts don't always come with a calculating, quite, peaceful mind. Bode had a great ski career, the question is, will he question his own behavior as he grows older, that reminds me of a commercial for Audi I saw recently.
Panelgate, Bode's last stand.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Anna Fenninger World Champion, shows us it's not weight or pressure that makes the difference.

Most skiers develop early angles then stop tipping, to make it worst they think they need to straighten the out side leg, which just makes the ski bounce or chatter. You saw that in almost all the skiers in this run, except Anna. 

Tipping your leg isn't a position, it should be a continuous movement. First with bent legs, then with hip counter, then more lower body tipping and relaxing. It's an intricate set of movements and combination of relaxation and foot and ankle lateral movements. I'm not saying it's easy, or everyone would do it. Hirscher isn't as supple at it as Anna.
It's not your weight or your size either, that makes a World and Olympic champion. Anna Fenninger is the first to win both, back to back. It's her ability to tip her skis, relax her legs and flex to in crease the ski angles and absorb the energy, that makes the difference.

 Coaches always talk about pressuring the ski early and "got to be softer boots to flex the boot". Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!!! Anna is 5-3" and weighs about 120 wet. Lindsey Vonn has 50 pounds on her.
Proper technique and tipping ability that is what creates pressure at the right time and you don't have to be heavy or big to get it done. Notice the counter acting on this girl, no leaning and no rotation. I called this women out as a champion years ago, and if you follow this Blog you know so. It's no secret to me that she was going to be very special, how did I know? She finishes the turn like no one else. Bigger angles through tipping her skis. Harb Ski Systems, with the PMTS method has been coaching this for decades, yet USSA and PSIA, know little about this and don't teach it. And you know what, they don't care, or they would have asked?  But you can ask and you can learn how to get it done with PMTS and Harb Ski Systems..

PMTS trained skier shows angles developed in  turn through relaxed flexing and tipping. Not with extension and rotation.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Are you always working on your skiing??



Marcel Hirscher at 14
The biggest change he made was getting his feet closer and more organized as he matured, especially with releasing for the transition. Otherwise his upper body is still the same.


Harald at 62



Harald at 65, my biggest changes are in upper body discipline, inside hand more forward in the arc and earlier outside preparation of the no swing pole tap.


I have to chuckle when I hear from ski instructors that my skiing is old school. Sorry, but if you look at these photos my skiing evolves every year. I am constantly watching and changing my body movements. Especially relationships of counter acting (facing toward the the outside ski) and my inside arm and hand. This all adds up to better counter acting and "holding" of counter acting at release and transition. My skiing has gotten better over the last 6 years because I am following the evolution of ski technique on the world cup by the best skiers. I constantly work on my skiing and on our teaching system based on how the best do it.
The only "old" school I see is from snowplowing and PSIA up movements and rotation. Now that is truly old school,  amazing how little understanding and ability there is to do correct movement analysis out there in the ski world.