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A (long) Alignment Anecdote

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Note, I am posting this here in the Technique instead of Gear forum because I think this topic is more about the effect on skiing performance than the gear alignment issues.

I have posted about my explorations with alignment in the past but thought I might update the story in the thought that it might be helpful to others and to receive further comment and suggestions. I previously have tried a number of approaches in working to optimize my alignment. Over Thanksgiving weekend I made further strides.

I have custom footbeds and have canted my own boot soles based on my own on-slope and in-home assessments as well as in-shop assessments. I canted my boot soles (2 seasons ago) by inserting a canting wedge between the heel/toe pads and hard plastic boot bottom and then routing the toes back to din. Since I did the canting I have felt that my right was very close to "locked in" but I couldn't get the left to the same level of alignment. The canting was done after a right hip replacement but before my left replacement last March. I had stopped trying to improve the left because it was difficult to distinguish between alignment issues and limitations (especially with internal rotation) from the arthritic left hip.

With my first skiing since the left hip replacement over Thanksgiving I found that the left still wasn't nearly as good as the right. With improved internal rotation, however, I could better compensate for the "misalignment." After three days of skiing to see if the accommodation on the left would further improve, I decided to once again try some alignment interventions on my last day of skiing (given that there were just a few groomed runs open anyway).

The sensations I felt on the left had been a center of pressure that is back under the heel, a feeling of having to use a lot more muscle (as opposed to "skeletal alignment") to hold a turn to the right, and an inability to gradually increase edge angle. It felt in part like I needed to move my knee more to the inside to achieve better skeletal alignment and edge control. As I had previously experimented with different combinations of increased and decreased canting (the boot sole on the left is canted 2 degrees thick side out) I didn't choose to go that route (using canting wedges between the boot sole and binding). Instead I went back to trying changes under the footbed combined with boot cuff canting adjustment (as well as other attempted changes that didn't make any big differences).

In order to move my knee more inside, I placed a cant (about 3-4 layers of duct tape) under the outside part of my footbed heel. I then adjusted my boot cuff canting to move the cuff inside. Surprisingly this made a huge difference. I found much better skeletal alignment with less muscle required, the ability to move my center of pressure forward on my foot, and much better control of edging going into and continuing through a turn. Additionally, my (mostly) one footed skiing remained pretty well balanced (although I can't handle 100% of my weight on my left quite this soon after surgery). This was quite surprising as my early attempts at alignment had included a lot of experimentation with internal canting and cuff alignment. That experimentation seemed to show that I could only improve my edging control in a turn at the expense of 1 footed balance.

I know a lot of people discount the need or importance of alignment but having now achieved reasonable alignment on both sides (at least for a day) I can't imagine not being conscious of alignment and trying to improve it. As my last day of skiing over the Holiday progressed I couldn't believe how much more enjoyable playing on the groomers became (I much prefer off-piste and generally spend the vast majority of my time there). I could find earlier gradual edge engagement, more effectively work on moving my CM forward (I think I am too far back in general), play a little bit with concepts like waist steering, etc. Also, while the off piste was rutted, crusty, catchy, etc. I found what I thought will be improvement there as well with much greater confidence in my left side during a right turn. I also discovered how my previous, relatively lower confidence with my left side (right turns) seemed to carryover to decreased performance on the right side (left turn) as well and how improved alignment on the left might lead to further improvement on the right.

Surprisingly, this empirical attempt seems to have worked out pretty well. I would like to think that perhaps I have tuned my feelings to better feel and understand my alignment. On the other hand, maybe I was just lucky. I will probably try to tweak my alignment a little bit more but mostly I will spend the rest of this season enjoying the reduction in effort required to make a good turn and more time to explore the pure joys of "just" skiing (along with some further effort to work on technique).
post #2 of 3

duct tape alignment

i love duct tape, and especially duct tape alignment. its fun, inexpensive, reversable, and can be used on the footbed, footboard, and probably other spots. but 3-4 layers doesnt seem like much. i havent done the math, but is this even 1/2 degree?
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
I would guess half a degree. It's a little hard to really use a rule of thumb when adding underneath a footbed (as opposed to a very flat and hard boot sole). I think I can cant the cuff enough to handle a bit more and will add what I can as I think I could use a little more in the same direction. I won't be able to evaluate the results until I get out to ski for a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Years.
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