Any thoughts on how tight hip flexors will affect a skier's performance, or the effect it will have on their skiing?
A lot depends on which direction the stiff or tight hip flexors limit movement.
If those tight hip flexors are also affecting rotational movement (ability to turn the femurs in the hip sockets) it will limit how well or accurately the skier will be able to guide the ski under the stable upper body.
Just one of many possibilities.
At my previous mountain we always did some ROM exercises at the beginning of the season during early indoor training. I found it amazing how stiff and inflexible some of the older instructors appeared to be. Stretching, yoga. and so on were recommended, but I'm not sure how many put any time into doing stretching to fix this. They were unable to rotate the femurs in the hips sockets, too, which would make pivot slips virtually impossible.
Kitchen cabinets can be a good diagnostic tool for resistance to hip flexion. If a person at home has difficulty reaching the pots and pans that are stored at the back of the bottom shelves in the kitchen, then there is a problem with hip flexion. This might be caused by tight muscles at the rear of the hips (hamstrings, glutes, biceps femoris) that simply won't slacken enough to allow the forward bending to happen.
Lying on the floor with legs lifted and bent, then turning the thighs to point left-right will diagnose rotational inflexibility in the hip socket. It's possible that tight hip flexors as described in the link above would limit the ROM needed for rotating the femurs in the hip sockets, but that inflexibility might also involve the muscles at the rear too.
Tight hip flexors (the muscles in the front) would resist opening the hips, aka moving the knees back behind the hips by straightening up. Functional (not tight) hip flexors allow us to sit down and stand up, something pretty much everyone does often. I think you mean the opposite (correct me if I'm wrong).
RE: rotating femurs, Boot arcs (sort of static drill) at the beginning of each day will get you loosened up a little. They will also give you personal feedback (instant) as to how you are doing in the rotate femur category.
It depends how tight, but general answer is the skier may be taller through transitions and may have trouble with too much weight on the inside ski due to excessive inclination and not enough angulation (inside leg needs to come up and inside, but can't).
While possible, I don't think I've ever had someone (skiing or otherwise) that had that particular area of hip flexor tightness. Usually it's abduction/adduction or rotational where the real tightness comes into play. If they are so tight they can't bend forward (leg coming up), they would probably have a problem sitting down as well. Not being able to abduct the leg at the hip would keep someone from not angulating but then again how many of us mortals really get that far over anyway. I wish I were that good!
I find it amazing how many skiers fresh out of ski high school are incredibly inflexible, particularly in the hip flexors. Virtually noone can do a couch stretch. I suppose it is because they spend a lot of time in compromised positions
Very good video. Thanks for posting. This is exactly what I should be doing. And what I'm going to do. Stretch in the hip region.
Here's a good verbal description of the couch stretch for tight hip flexors, with images of bad and good:
good back is straight):
bad (back is arched):
and here it is while watching TV:
I second that motion! I more appreciate her ski technique frame picking skills.
To the OP:
C) Just as additional food for thought, the most important thing for me to loosen up before skiing is my mind. By the time I make it to my first chair, my head can be cranked on so tight that the discipline of bomb diffusion comes to mind. More typically, many more normal people still arrive to the slope with a set of preconceived notions regarding what they can do, what they can’t do, what their limits are or “should” be and what they are likely going to accomplish. I feel some of us set limits in our own heads without being very conscious of it. For skiing, a conceptual endeavor, this is especially unhelpful. Consequently, I make sure to arrive for my first run with my head spun on correctly in terms of being forward driven and open minded. What that means to me is adopting and maintaining the attitude that I am going to operate at the edge of some DIRT related factor for some specific motor pattern/s and push at least one of those envelopes every time I ski. Physics will speak out should I push too far with an ugly feeling of something flat and/or cumbersome, the buzz kill of the buzz I seek. When I am pushing for high angles in my long radius turns, I will go too far at times and slide out on my hips. A fall but not a crash and an acceptable risk factor for possible improvement. A good day of skiing will see me on my ass 2 to 4 times in that way. I often ski with lesser caliber skiers who never fall. To me, that represents slow development. For me it seems to be the pressure mistakes (wrong timing or location) when going fast that can do a number on the body with something more upsetting and disappointing than just a slide out. I always make sure I become familiar with a slopes undulations that have direct effect on where and when to pressure the ski. I do this in warmup mode before I attack it with all guns firing so that type of fall, a crash, is less likely occur.
Whether your chosen next level is regarding more speed, tighter line, reaching for higher angles or longer tipping durations, an increase of power, more dynamic rhythm and flow, a simple increase in overall aggression/intensity or a better application of the finer and more subtle movements that allow for more efficiency, skiing structurally looser or tighter, perhaps more equity in the stack, a finer carving of that inside ski or simply working the ski a little differently, the goal is to always be experiencing something new and different in my skiing each time I go out. As a matter of fact, it is probably the most complex laboratory environment many of us have in our lives (unless you are cooking meth in your basement). I do it in the attic, anyway, I also pay “open” attention to how the snow surface is different from last time I skied and seek out the adjustments that best compliments that surface along with whatever the turn intent is. Ultimately, what I seek and usually find is what will become my most efficient technique of the day by the first hour or two based on all of that day’s variables. A large portion of the entire day becomes a hunt for a number of things that my head will be “loosely” wrapped around.
After skiing all day, if I wish to continue, the hunt for the right adjustments changes from the goal of a cost/benefit efficiency to the goal of effortlessness (lower cost but less efficient) to compliment legs that have turned into three o'clock rubber. Allowing oneself to ski “weak” (responsibly to your own health status, if not others) at the end of the day can be seen similarly to skiing difficult conditions where a strong focus on technique is all the more important to success and can provide a technical perspective where you may be shown things that would otherwise remain hidden. Skiing “weak” forces you into a desperate battle of economy to reach an efficiency upon which your return with fresh legs that will devour that efficiency like a famished animal. A successful hunt will almost always lead me to the last chair on any given day or night. When people say “bring it”, it usually/typically means an intensity of focus but just don’t forget that the “open” mind is an analytical mind. Intensity and analysis, opposites on a certain scale that brings the stability of tension to the balance of equity which is a fundamental characteristic of force to force management within ski technique itself. What do you bring in your head to the slope? That said, stretching ALL of our soft matter, gray and red tissue alike, for increased mobility and function should come hand in hand.
Thanks to an endless mix of fluctuating variables, skiing is a sport where the theory of chaos is alive and well. Therefore, the concept of perfection, especially for racers, all ski competitors, is the gold of fools. Ultimate improvement is not about obtaining a platitude of perfection but rather the ability to reside at the edge of the moving, living platform that is your ability, challenging yourself, knowing where that line is and not being afraid to cross any line that may otherwise represent the concept of perfection to others. Only when crossing a line itself does it give you what you need to know where it truly lies. The only true perfection in skiing is one containing a healthy mix of the rewards of success and the agony of failure. It is that agony that polishes the shine into those rewards of success. Again, the dynamic balance of equitably dueling opposites.
More than just a scientific discipline like medicine or engineering, ski technique is more conceptual and therefore, unlike those and other scientific disciplines, it is an artistry as well as a science that puts skiing in a much higher category of sophistication than the crudely abrupt, cut throat disciplines of conventional sciences. There are rules to be followed but there exists an “option margin” lying within that set of rules that contains options for limited movement to differentiate your technique from others based on how you personally choose to use that “individually conceived” margin. Some use that margin to seek the highest level of biomechanical efficiency, to some that margin can represent a less popular perspective on technique, some use that margin to dial in a certain rhythm and/or flow, some may use that margin to address an injury, some use it to exaggerate a movement to ingrain, some use it to convey elegance while others, crude efficiency. Some use that margin to reach a state of effortless and some, perhaps few, may apply an external source to utilize that technical margin with the rhythm and beat of music specifically chosen for those reasons. There are probably many more. It is when these option margins are pushed beyond its boundaries that we get into the type of technical trouble that can be spotted from 100 yards away. While we may never be able to agree where and how wide that margin is on paper for any individual, on snow, it becomes painfully obvious. For some, this margin represents the freedom of expression to those who do not cross the margin that violates the relationship between foundational athletic skills and the laws of physics. I believe that this margin is the place for something called "style" for those who define the term as do I. Style residing outside of these margins is not style but rather something much less fortunate.
When a “margin rupture occurs”, it can be good to have a second pair of eyes that you trust to make that margin call, so you know what needs to be “dialed in”. One day I got a margin call from a lower level skier. She simply asked me “where are your hands supposed to be?”. She asked obviously for my benefit and not hers. I became immediately cognizant of the fact that I have ruptured my option margin and thanked her. While learning to stomp on my shovel without the benefit of my forward arms, I think some of that pattern actually started to seep into my standard technique in a manner that of which I was not aware. Looking back over my path of development, she definitely saved me some hassle. I owe her a beer, or two.