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

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.