Monday, January 15, 2018

Why is Marcel Hirscher so dominant?

Marcel Hirscher has been the number one skier on the World Cup for over 7 years. He has 53 overall victories and has won the last 5 slalom races, and also has 3 GS wins this season. He is skiing with total relaxation,  fluidity and confidence. The mistakes and recoveries he makes, he takes in stride, as if they were just minor interruptions.  He skis the most difficult turns with short arcs that wrap around the pole and releases with amazing energy, rarely losing ground. Below are a series of photos demonstrating how Hirscher masters a slalom arc. He does this while all his rivals are at a loss, splitting their feet, skidding low and traveling more distance. 

The frames are from the Wengen Slalom 2018 on the same turn. This is a small sample of what is happening in 95% of the arcs on the course. 
Although these frames may look the same,  they demonstrate the basic characteristics of Hirscher's technique and what that technique allows him to do. Look closely at the position of his ski tips, his inside ski boot and his leg angles, to recognize the changes he makes to create a decreasing radius turn, that is better than any other racers.
 The frame above, shows some slight inclination as he prepares to block. Notice the groove or rut from the 29 previous skiers, it is about 1 foot below his right ski. He is inside and closer to the gate than the others, as he is on most arcs in this race. Because this is relatively flatter terrain he can use some slight inclination while still tipping his feet and lower body, but he stays well within his counter-balanced state.

Frame above: Just before the block of the pole he tips his feet and legs and begins to shorten the arc.

Frame above: He has made contact with the pole or gate, he has increased the tipping action, which loads the outside ski, bends it while reducing pressure on the inside ski.

 Frame above: notice how the pressure on the outside or stance ski has moved from the tip of the ski to under the foot. You can see this by where the snow comes off the ski. The slalom gate is now on the snow, yet the arc is still tightening.

Frame above: Standing totally on the outside ski, Hirscher moves to release for the next turn.

What can we take away from this skiing Hirscher shows and how is it different from his competitors?

A list of things Hirscher does better than the rest, might be a place to start.

  1. He never stops tipping his skis to a greater angle through the arc. He never stiffens his outside leg or pushes with extension down on the ski.
  2. He's more compact, keeping his legs and feet closer together and his inside foot more pulled back then the rest.
  3. He starts every turn further forward on his skis, his hips move into the falline ahead of his boots. This is done with his amazing ability to pull his feet back under his hips at the release, and in the transition. His inside foot management is second to none.
  4. This all adds up to a shorter radius, shorter line, a slicing arc, a ski that moves forward in the arc relative to his CG,  rather than a breaking, dragging, and grinding.
  5. Hirscher rarely gets his feet so wide that he has to make a big move to the new outside ski.

Nothing that Hirscher is doing is revolutionary, but adding it all up and performing this way separates Hirscher from the rest of the field.

                     Now for a photographic comparison with Hirscher's main rivals.

Kristofferson above, shows a wider stance and his outside ski is a foot, to almost 2 feet further below the pole than Hirscher. This results in a wider line and a longer path,  with less outside ski pressure. Less pressure and less bend, means less rebound from the ski: therefore a slower transition and rounder longer line. Also, he's split his weight between both skis, and shows more inclination, limiting his ability to increase angles.  Hirscher on the other hand, this season, has become almost Gross like, keeping the inside boot very close, to the outside boot. Although Hirscher may at times use inclination above the slalom pole, he brings his upper body back over his outside ski, when the ski edge needs to hold and increase tipping angles.

Myhrer above: shows very similar movements and positions as Kristofferson. Both are less compact than Hirscher, have more body lean and extension. Both travel a wider line than Hirscher, they are both in the rut that Hirscher was able to stay above. Hirscher in almost every situation brings his upper body closer to and over the outside ski then other racers. Is this a function of body proportions and body length? To some degree sure, it's more difficult to control counter-balance and the core with a longer torso. However in other situations the longer limbs offer more leverage, if you can hold the forces.

All of these points are what may seem to many as minor issues, however they add up. The results are obvious Hirscher is quicker, makes a tighter arc, and has more time to set up for the next arc, even though he's traveling at a faster speed, .93 of a second faster, to be exact in this race.

Although Hirscher has won the last 6 overall World Cup titles, as well as numerous individual discipline Globes, this is the first year in 4 that his boot set up or alignment has been this good. The boots being almost perfect, make everything he does that much easier for him.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

When Schffrin skied her best!

Thanks to Ron LeMaster for posting this photo series

In my view Mikaela Saffron was a better skier 4 years ago then she is now. This is the 2013 season. Here she shows more upper body discipline, better foot control and balance in every sense. She was also skiing faster compared to her competition. Much of her trials and tribulations when is wasn't winning during short periods, is attributable to her boot design and set up over the last 3 seasons. She has had to fight harder with less ease, from her regular fluid, easy movements. Her legs have become stiff and spread due to the compensation needed to get edge hold.

Just compare this photo clip, from this year, 2018 to the montage above. This is dreadful, yet because of her natural ability, and strength, she overcomes really, really, bad boot set ups. As I have said many times; the women's slalom skiing and field right now, is horrendous. If Marlis Schild, Hosp and Zettle were in their prime, this would not be a winning set up for Shiffrin.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Riders of the Lost arc: Getting to the top of the "New Turn!"

This coaching should be read after the "Transition Posts" which are published 3 articles below this post. Study those posts first, to understand and achieve the full benefit of this one. 

After the release, increasing the flexing and tipping of the inside leg, moves the hip inside the turn, and closer to the surface.

As the skis tip to higher angles the upper body and hips turn toward the outside ski boot. Called counter-acting!

Keep relaxing the inside leg, and tipping it further. The outside ski and boot should be active to match the tipping of the inside ski. 

The inside ski pole tip should keep moving forward to help create a strong counter-balance and counter acting movement of the upper body.

 There is no pole swing in the PMTS Direct Parallel system. The pole is prepared and placed due to and with the counteracting of the upper body. This only leaves the pole tap straight down from the lower boot to be accomplished. A pole swing, is a negative movement, it squares up the hips, and shoulders, which destroys the energy in the body and ski. 

The "Key Movement" in skiing that 99.9 percent of skiers will never realize.

                          Releasing from the old turn!

This is how the best skiers in the world ski, not the experts that call themselves this, I'm referring to the best skiers in the world. The best world cup skiers and the best free skiers make and use these movements time and time again. If you always wondered why they are the best and you were never able to achieve these levels, here's why? It's because you were being coached incorrectly, with the wrong movements. You are being told to ski like a ski instructor, with a ski instructor's system. No experts ski like ski instructors. If you want to ski like the best skiers, follow this sequence, it's very short and simple.

Here, below, I'm still in the bottom of the turn, about to begin the release phase. 

 To release relax or bend the legs to let go of the hold on the edges. As you retract the old stance leg, (knee bending toward the chest) lift the tip of the ski to engage your core. Tip the old outside ski to the new edge, the "Little Toe Edge". 

Now look at the bottom of the skis and compare both of these frames.  The Edge change is happening. 

The tip is lifting, that transfers balance early. The balance has changed to the new outside ski, the free or lifted foot is tipping toward the little toe edge of the ski and foot. This is the action during the transition after a completed arc.

Most instruction and coaching will tell you to extend to get or hips forward. Many coaches won't like this position, however this isn't "Sitting Back" there is no need to extend, or make an up movement, this is perfect balance. It's perfect balance because the skis are not weighted, they are light as they go through this transition.

A complete edge change has occurred and the new arc is about to begin.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Riders of the Lost Arc, A PMTS Transition!

A new look: "How Transitions and High Angles are Developed.

Leaving the last turn, which is ending, in this 1st photo. I am looking for a release with a flexing movement of the outside leg. 

Looking at this from above the release has begun. The main function in the release is flexing action of the outside leg.

The skis are going flat, because the angles are no longer held, relaxation of the leg lets skis go flat, the legs are moving to the new angles, the movements are generated from the ankles and feet. The hips and upper body will follow.

The legs move from one set of angles to the other through flexing and tipping. The skis have little or no pressure on the surface during the release. In PMTS Skiing this is called, "The float!"

Angles develop further using increased tipping and flexing of the inside leg. The hips are dropped to the inside following the actions of the tipping leg. This isn't done by pushing, it's done by relaxation and counter balance.

The upper body increases counter acting, which means turning the hips toward the outside of the turn. Notice the forward movement of my inside hand and pole, this increases upper body counter acting.

The key to developing angles like this, is the bending and tipping of the inside ski, boot and leg, but not by pressuring or extending the outside leg. Don't be concerned about pressuring he ski, with angles like this pressure will be developed, and it will come to you. Keep tipping the feet and turning the body to stay balanced.

A few words about selecting and using the boots correctly!

A word about ski boot flex. Many coaches these days think they should cut down boots and advise racers to get boots that are too soft. Here, in this photo, you can see the forward angle of my shins. I weigh 140 lbs, these are Head RD, B2 150 flex boots. It's not the weight or the size of the skier that should determine the boot flex, it's the quality of the coaching. Coaches who don't understand how to get a skier into movements that create forward moving hips in the turn, will try to make up for it by cutting down boots. This approach, makes boots so ridiculously soft, that the kids no longer trust the boots. If you coach properly and teach the kids to pull the feet back in transition; (instead of extending) the boots have plenty of forward angle to accommodate tip pressure. It's the coaching not the boots! I don't bend plastic when I ski. I use the resistance in the plastic at the front of the boot; it gives more than enough tip pressure if my hips are in the correct position to pressure the tips. This, if taught correctly, by pulling the feet back, in turn moves the hips forward,  should be the way to achieve tip pressure, not by extending or by cutting down boots to make them bend.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Riding the Lost Arc! Dialing in the boots: closer to what I want, every time!

Do you want to ski like an athlete? Like this 69 year old athlete, the way he skis is the way we teach all skiers, at Harb Ski Systems.
Join a Harb "Ski Systems Camp" and you will end up skiing like this old guy!

December 7th, 2017
Different Phases of different turns!

 Not all the way there yet, but a few more tweaks and few more days, and it will be where I want it.

                                 Working on matching one side to the other!

Monday, November 20, 2017

When is the ski boot is a liability for a ski racer?

Getting a boot set up on world cup skiers, is not as easy at it may first appear. The best skiers are in very stiff boots, and they dictate how you will stand on your skis. If the angles are not correct relative to the leg and ankle, adaptive movements are required to overcome the mis-alignment.

How is the correct set up achieved? The process starts with a complete analysis of the foot and ankle. Also, a fitting evaluation is incredibly important, especially for how the ankle and foot sit in the boot.  Next is analysis of how the boot cuff acts on the leg. This is measured statically standing and can also be done dynamically indoors on an angled slant board. The last but not least part of the set up is the boot sole canting angle. 

All of these steps leads to a functional alignment of the leg, boot and ski. This helps the skier move the body optimally to align with the forces working on the body.  When one part of this process isn't right, adaptive movements become part of the skier's technique. 

The top racers on the World Cup are great athletes and they can adapt to a compromised boot set up. Although to the regular viewers the skier maybe skiing fine, the ski actually isn't doing the job it could with the right set up, therefore, it affects speed down the course.

The lines or arrows demonstrate the mis-alignment, those lines should be more parallel and in line with each other. The ankle/boot is leaning or positioned outboard relative to the angles the skier would want to produce. Although the ski is bend at this instant in the sequence, this cannot and it will not, be held, or sustained. The ski will let go because the forces are not in line with the boot. The forces are too strong for the boot to be holding the ski/ski on edge. Notice how far the skier is leaning, this is adaptive, when the boot can't get to the angles needed the skier adapts by creating less ideal angles with other parts of the body or movements, that they feel can help. With this set up the ankle is locked out of the most necessary movement a skier at this level should be able to create.
Above the gate the angles are not developed yet with the lower body, the legs are stiff, not moving to create angles. All the weight is on the inside ski.

The blue arrow points to a de-cambered ski, which has no pressure on it. The red bent arrow shows what the ski should be doing, bending into an arc. All of the body is balancing on the inside ski, not ideal for this phase of the turn. The upper body is leaning away from the forces under the foot, rather than toward them. When the ankle is blocked and the cuff too strong this is a common look, at all levels of racing.

The untrained eye will except this as the best one can do in a tough turn on very hard snow. However if you compare this to the same skier in the same type of turn in previous boot set ups, there is a huge difference. You can visit other posts here on this Blog, to see the differences for this skier's technique.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The previous post featured "Greg" here he is: Carving a Steep Pitch!

Comments about Harb Ski Systems Alignment Manual and Video, by expert skiers!

Hi Harald, 

I’d like to commend both you and Diana on another excellent production with the newly released Alignment – On Snow Assessment Video. This new video, combined with the Alignment Technician Course Manual is an impressive body of work, and the only one like it in the industry. The very detailed, clear, concise visual cues you have linked to diagnosable alignment issues based on experience across thousands of skiers is the only example that is this thorough and complete that exists—certainly the only one that is so easy to obtain and access. The video should be required viewing for any serious race coach or instructor—along with Essentials and the Alignment Manual. 

As you know, I’ve been studying PMTS for over ten years. During that time I have coached college racers, adult racers, been part of a ski school and still pick up the occasional junior racer or expert skier as a student in order to help them rebuild their skiing with solid fundamentals. I am however, primarily a weekend skier—with my day job being in banking strategy. Despite limited snow time over the past ten years my understanding of skiing and boot setup, and thus my coaching ability, have reached very high levels thanks largely to the body of work that you and Diana have created. With that, my skiing has reached an extremely high level, and it keeps getting better. 



For a look at the Alignment Manual and videos Greg is referring to, they are on these pages on my web site!

Mikaela Shiffrin struggles! Ski boot set can make you or break you,!!!

If you compare these photos of Marlis Schild and Mikaela Shffrin when she had a reasonable boot set up, you can see many similarities. 

The line of force in a ski turn has to go through the center of the knee from the ski edge under the foot to the Center of mass of the body. If this is off by 1 degree it can make the skier struggle. The line of force in these turns and skiing is almost perfect. 
                                Here is a sequence of Mikaela Shiffrin in the same turn below. The line of force in these photos and skiing is so far off the knee center; Mikaela can't get early angles and doesn't develop balance on the ski.
Above the gate she can't develop angles, she has to skid into position. Here the boot set up is too strong in all respects. This can be caused by two things in the boot and two outside the boot.
Same turn, she skids the skis into a place when she can't slam the door, or get something to make the ski hold or turn. She has no angles yet, and no balance on the ski. She will have to drive the ski to an edge at the last second. I call this "slamming the door", or ski on edge. It dangerous to ski this way, because all the loads happen at once, the forces will act violently and sometimes uncontrollably. It's a dangerous set up. It's testament to how great an athlete Mikaela is to be able to pull off runs in the top three skiing this way.

In this photo below, she "Slams the ski",  to an angle, but has to lean away because it's still too aggressive, and  the ski still doesn't hold, it's still skidding. Her knee is driven into the turn hard, yet this doesn't yield good results. No carving, no arcs, just a horrid skid.

Below is a photo of how her alignment was, when it was working, when she had the correct boots and a reasonable set up. Completely different! Mikaela didn't unlearn or forget how to ski, she is adapting to a bad boot set up on every turn. This is costing her seconds a run.