Originally Posted by dmourati
I guess my meta point is this:
I'm contemplating whether my pre-existing stance was too narrow given my physical structure. If this was the case, does it make sense that I would be "blocked up" and unable to get good edge positions and that by slightly opening the hips/knees/feet would enable better turns?
That sure seemed to be the case for me. I have taken many lessons and have the feeling my instructor yesterday was beyond competent. Above that, widening the stance, I was able to "clean up" my turns and *feel* much better carving action that I had prior to the lesson. The other thing I've been taught that has helped me is to move the inside knee into the center of the turn. That really reinforces the weighting on the outside ski and helps me get better angles as well.
The complicating factor for me is watching someone ski with what looks like a narrower stance and yet still get really good edge angles. The visual input I see watching them doesn't match with the physical sensation I get when emulating that stance. I think more experimentation is in order!
you said a number of interesting and good observations above. First, if your feet and legs are not actually locked together, but you have good independent foot and leg action, then there is no stance that is too narrow. Skiing is primarily a one footed activity, we balance on one foot, then the other, back and forth. What advantage is there to having your legs and/or feet wide apart if you are mostly standing on just the outside ski? Actually having them closer together is far more advantageous in that light.
You mentioned moving your inside knee inside. This is actually quite a bit easier with a narrower stance. You don't have to move it as far.
Where the stance width matters a bit more is during transition, through neutral, during the brief period you are standing on both skis at the same time. Often times that period is so brief as to be non-existant from a practical perspective, but it doesn't have to be. With a wider stance through flat neutral, you can have lateral stability as long as you are standing evenly on both legs. Ironically, that is exactly the time when we are usually wishing to have lateral in-stability in order to move the CoM across into the new turn.
Narrower stance through flat neutral makes it easier to get the new inside knee inside and tip the inside ski. If you are standing evenly on both legs, its less stable then wide stance, but perhaps we want instability there in order to move across into the new turn. Or perhaps a wider stance would provide a slower crossover, if that is what you want, and providing you stand more evenly on both legs during that time.
On the other hand if you adopt a very wide cowboy stance during flat neutral, standing evenly on both legs and then suddenly transfer weight to the uphill leg, you will be extremely unstable and your CoM will topple very quickly. That is also a valid tactical choice, but I consider to be an occasional move, one that is also quite athletic.
Good skiers do use a narrow stance and for a reason: it works. The idea of a wider stance really only makes sense when you are evenly standing on both legs and don't wish to make lateral moves. The wider stance PREVENTS the lateral movement, but only as long as you continue to be standing evenly on both legs. Stand on only one leg and wide stance becomes the polar opposite, less stable.
Cowboy turns, as a drill, are interesting. I don't like them because I think it sends the wrong message, but they can be fun for learning something and for feeling what its like to have the legs so wide. I find they encourage independent leg action, which can be good. They also really force you to make extra efforts to get that inside knee inside. Once you have woken up the inside knee, bring it back to a narrow stance but keeping working that inside knee and watch how easy it becomes.
Another important point in terms of anatomical alignment, a functional leg stance is fairly narrow. I'm going through rolfing and she keeps telling me to stand with my feet closer together to line everything up right. The hip socket is inside our leg, not out at the edge of our hip. If you were opting for a leg truly lined up with the hip socket, it would be quite a bit more narrow then most people realize, your boots would only be a few inches apart. I see no reason whatsoever why that is not effective for skiing, which is primarily a one footed activity anyway.