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Skills problem or Alignment Issue?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
On Saturday I had a private lesson with a 50 year old women who was having problems with her tails not following her tips. We did many exercises to make sure that she wasn't in the back seat. I worked on edging as well as angulation and everything was great as long as she was turning to the right. However, when she turned to the left, she would stem her ski and it was having a real difficult time matching her skis before and even after the turn. I had her switch skis, and that didn't help so it wasn't a problem with the edges. I didn't think of it at the time, but I should have had her try some traverses on one ski to see if maybe she had a boot alignment issue.

My question is, do any of you have a really good ways to tell when a customer may have an alignment issue. I know first hand that when you see somebody doing an A-Frame, that there might be an alignment issue. But what other clues could I watch for?

Thanks for any advice you can give on this subject!

~Snowmiser~
post #2 of 25
I doubt it's alignment. everyone has a "good" side and a bad side. I bet you do too. sounds like she's left-footed... balances well on her left leg, and crap on her right (most of us are right footed).
She's not commiting her full weight and balance to her right foot on those left-side turns, hence the stems and other stuff.

If you watch any skiier, you'll notice that on one side they turn clean and strong, and on the other side there's all kinds of funky things happening.

People are too quick to jump to the alignment thing.
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hi Ant!

From a financial standpoint, I hope your right! It was just really frustrating trying to correct the problem. Nothing seemed to work.

If all else fails, blame it on the equipment!

Thanks!

~Anne~
post #4 of 25
Identify the side that's letting the person down, explain the problem, and watch the problem disappear. It's funny how so few uber-instructors notice this problem that ALL of us have. I can watch trainers and know which is their "good" foot. There's a stem, a hop, a lift, a lag. We all have it.
post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your suggestions Ant! I'll keep them in mind for next time!

Not sure that I've heard of an uber-instructor! Could you elaborate?

Thanks!
post #6 of 25

why would a left footed person turn better to the left?

i would have thought the right turn would be stronger. could you explain?
post #7 of 25
I'm left footed/handed, and I have an easier time with turns to the left...my right foot tends to stem on turns to the right as well. I wonder if somehow my right leg is "lazier" than my left.

I've been experimenting with some alignment adjustments recommended by a bootfitter which are helping even out the turns, but I still notice the problem...any advice would be appreciated.
post #8 of 25
All of us have, as Ant says, a dominant foot. For most of us, we feel better balancing on that foot so the norm is that a "left-footed" skier would do better going right and have more trouble letting go of the left foot to turn left. That's the circumstance Snowmiser describes. Her student didn't want to let go of the left foot and commit to the right, so she more hesitantly made a stem to get part of the turn entry over with before actually weighting the right ski for a left turn.

Occasionally, you will find a skier who can turn more easily toward the side of the dominant foot. That usually is because the dominance allows them to relax that leg and roll onto the outside edge of that ski, something they have trouble doing with the other foot even though they'll be weighting their favored foot.

In the case of the skier Snowmiser describes, I'd expect the client has a history of skiing from outside foot to outside foot and not really employing the inside ski in the turning process, just moving it to get it out of the way. I'd suggest some exercises on easy terrain to develop a feel for engaging the little toe edge in the snow. Maybe fanned traverses on corresponding edges. Then work on feeling equally weighted skis flat on the slope prior to edge changes. Long slow turns on easy terrain trying to feel cycling through the flats on the way from one set of edges to the other.
post #9 of 25
Two crude ways you can check for alignment issues are to watch straight runs on flat terrain from the front (coming at you) and from the side (going by you). From the front if you see the legs coming out of the skis at weird angles or the feet not under the hips in order to keep the skis flat - bingo - a canting problem. From the side is a little tougher, but if you see a straight line from the toes to the knees to the nose, there could be a fore aft problem.

A possible problem area could be the ankle. The turn to the left should involve extension of the right ankle. If the student is left handed/left footed, a weak ankle or a too stiff boot could inhibit this movement and necessitate an alternative. One way to test this theory is a progression of ankle movement drills that build to focusing on extending off the uphill foot into the new turn. Doing this makes it impossible to stem the outside ski. Start with lifting one ski during a straight run on very flat terrain where the ski is lifted off the ground by ankle movement instead of knee retraction. Work up to small hops (big hops require retraction - the height of the hop should be limited by the movement of the ankle). Take that to a traverse. Hop out of the track to uphill, then hop downhill onto new edges/a new turn. From there do the ankle extension only with the outside foot in "normal turns". If there's a weak ankle/too stiff boot it should show up right away in the straight run one ski lift exercise.

Just because we are naturally stronger/more coordinated on one side versus the other does not mean we can't ski well. We may just need a little extra work/extra focus on that other side. You were right to start low with the skis. Maybe you just needed to keep working your way up.
post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ant View Post
I doubt it's alignment. everyone has a "good" side and a bad side. I bet you do too. sounds like she's left-footed... balances well on her left leg, and crap on her right (most of us are right footed).
She's not commiting her full weight and balance to her right foot on those left-side turns, hence the stems and other stuff.

If you watch any skiier, you'll notice that on one side they turn clean and strong, and on the other side there's all kinds of funky things happening.

People are too quick to jump to the alignment thing.

And some people know what they are talking about and some don't! People are right footed or left footed for a reason. They trust commiting to or putting weight on one ski more than the other.....for a reason. It is like touching a hot burner on the stove....it doesn't take you long to figure out that if you go there you will be burned time after time. This is why people generally favor one foot over the other because of an imbalance under one foot or an alignment issue that causes the ski not to react well so they avoid commiting to it. Alignment issues are far more common than you may think amigo!

Also one can not stem if all their weight is on one ski. A stemming movement requires a platform to push off of, so have the student try to balance on one ski, and if they can not balance on one ski perhaps there is an alignment issue. You can certainly do one legged traverses on the big toe and little toe sides and look for the lower leg tipped excessively to one side or an inability to balance on an edge. You can also go to a flat beginner run or cat track and try railroad turns and observe asymetry between right and left or the inability to make clean tracks, or if they are higher level skiers have them ski one legged down a cat track and try to carve their turns on the inside and outside edges and observe any difficulties on one side. Once your eye has become well trained as to what to look for you can see imbalances in a skier after only a couple turns.

I have balanced thousands of boots, and can safely say that the large majority of skiers can benefit from better aligned boots and that most people are asymetric. In fact most times without ever seeing a customer ski I can look at their alignment in the shop and tell them on which side they turn better. It is that apparent and that important to turning efficiently.

Si,
if alignment wasn't that important why does every non ski resort ski camp like ESA, NASTC, Harbcamps, etc. emphasize students have their boots balanced???? Why does every single elite level ski racer have their equipment balanced? The "grass is greener" after proper alignment. I am sorry for you that you have not walked through it yet.

b
post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
People are right footed or left footed for a reason. They trust commiting to or putting weight on one ski more than the other.....for a reason. .

b

Is this the same reason mothers favor one hip over the other when carrying a child? Or that we ALL commonly stand more on one foor than the other when waiting in a line or doing something like washing dishes?
post #12 of 25
Good point!
Yes, I would bet that something in our physiology makes it more comfortable for us to favor one side over the other. Most people are asymetric in many ways. One foot, leg, whatever, may be longer or larger than the other, consiquently if our hips are tilted to one side it is probably more comfortable to rest on one leg than the other. This is more common than one may think!

I believe we are right or left footed for totally unrelated reasons from right or left handed. I have seen no correlation between the two but then I have not done any scientific studies.

b
post #13 of 25
Where does a dominate side come from?
Consider, If you ever ran on a track (all track events go counter clock wise) the left leg will end up stronger because it has to work harder to keep you turning to the left.
Consider, if you reach up with your right hand for something on the top shelf, you will stretch by lifting your right hip/leg/foot. Your left leg does the work.

Consider, which foot to you plant to kick a ball? The planted foot/leg will end up stronger. The swinging foot may have better motor skills.

When you start up stairs which foot goes on the first step? I'll bet if you pay attention you will realize that your dominate foot always goes on the first step. We unconciously adjust stride length to ensure this happens.

If you drive a car which foot hits the ground first when you get out of the car? Is that your stronger leg?
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
And some people know what they are talking about and some don't! People are right footed or left footed for a reason. They trust commiting to or putting weight on one ski more than the other.....for a reason. It is like touching a hot burner on the stove....it doesn't take you long to figure out that if you go there you will be burned time after time. This is why people generally favor one foot over the other because of an imbalance under one foot or an alignment issue that causes the ski not to react well so they avoid commiting to it. Alignment issues are far more common than you may think amigo!

Also one can not stem if all their weight is on one ski. A stemming movement requires a platform to push off of, so have the student try to balance on one ski, and if they can not balance on one ski perhaps there is an alignment issue. You can certainly do one legged traverses on the big toe and little toe sides and look for the lower leg tipped excessively to one side or an inability to balance on an edge. You can also go to a flat beginner run or cat track and try railroad turns and observe asymetry between right and left or the inability to make clean tracks, or if they are higher level skiers have them ski one legged down a cat track and try to carve their turns on the inside and outside edges and observe any difficulties on one side. Once your eye has become well trained as to what to look for you can see imbalances in a skier after only a couple turns.

I have balanced thousands of boots, and can safely say that the large majority of skiers can benefit from better aligned boots and that most people are asymetric. In fact most times without ever seeing a customer ski I can look at their alignment in the shop and tell them on which side they turn better. It is that apparent and that important to turning efficiently.

Si,
if alignment wasn't that important why does every non ski resort ski camp like ESA, NASTC, Harbcamps, etc. emphasize students have their boots balanced???? Why does every single elite level ski racer have their equipment balanced? The "grass is greener" after proper alignment. I am sorry for you that you have not walked through it yet.

b
Hey Bud,

I think you've got a case of mistaken identity!!!: I agree with you 100% In fact, I was thinking about responding to this thread but thought I'd let someone with more experience and credentials do so. Don't forget all the threads I've started based on my own personal alignment experiences.

Best, Si
post #15 of 25
Hey Si, I apologize, it was Ant that made that statement not you!
post #16 of 25
And ain't it funny how a boot fitter wants to jump straight to alignment to fix an issue that pretty-well every human has?
post #17 of 25
I don't think it's funny, I think many times it is true! pretty-well every human is not in perfect alignment! I was a ski instructor for many years before becoming a boot fitter or alignment specialist and it was my years as a ski instructor that I began to notice your fundamental understanding of right footed left footed. Then I began to gain a better understanding of what was really going on. I became excited about alignment after discovering the benefits for myself when I was fortunate enough to have my boots balanced for me. So much so that it changed my career path. My heart is still in helping skiers reach their full potential and I believe wholeheartedly that it takes both proper alignment and technique. You can believe what you want but if you want to reach your full potential it may take some rethinking your view of proper alignment. A good instructor today is one that has an in depth understanding of alignment issues as well as good technique and can recognize improper alignment in students before wasting time trying to change what can not be changed without some adjustments to equipment. Sure we can all compensate for imbalances but to a trained eye they are rather obvious and detract from good skiing by wasting energy and innaccurate movements to compensate.

b
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
Sure we can all compensate for imbalances but to a trained eye they are rather obvious and detract from good skiing by wasting energy and innaccurate movements to compensate.
b
i spent several frustrating days working with a poorly aligned 50 something female this winter. i had tried everything i could think of and finally went to our ssd to discuss the matter.

in recognizing my plight he finally made me feel better by pointing out the crux of the issue was i was dealing with a disabled skier.

she could keep taking lessons and i could keep trying to teach her to release and tip her skis, however, it certainly would have been a whole heck of a lot cheaper and easier had she been aligned.
post #19 of 25
My story is similar to Bud's. I became a bootfitter/alignment specialist after my own alignment was corrected. I can now recognize and alignment problem very quickly and agree that most skiers are missaligned. Even so, technique has a lot to do with it and hip rotation can often be mistaken for alignment and vis versa.
post #20 of 25
Thanks Rusty and Pierre, I am not saying every skier's ailment is alignment but it sure is good judgement to eliminate this possible cause before working on technique. This is simple cause and effect movement analysis to me and I would think that hip rotation is pretty obvious to see if that is in fact a culprit to tails washing?

I personally would like to see this type of analysis included as part of the PSIA certification process because it is so important and an obvious benefit to the progress of a skier. Every level II instructor should posess the basic understanding of recognizing gross misalignment issues and suggest solutions. A level III instructor should understand and be able to do on hill experimentation with shims to open the awareness of the student to the benefits of proper alignment then send them to a reputable boot fitter to have the adjustments done permanantly.

Ignorance to the benefits of proper alignment hurts our sport. Our resorts' ski schools have the ability to greatly improve skier retention by incorporating skier alignment assessments in their on hill curriculum! The time has come for this service to be incorporated into resort based ski schools.

Ignoring this important area of alignment or bad mouthing the need for it, is just counterproductive for the sport of skiing!

b
post #21 of 25
Simple on-snow alignment check:
"The dynamic on-snow balance assessment consists of exercises that isolate and test one-legged balance. High-performance skiing requires that a skier can balance comfortably on each leg, and engage and modulate the edge angle of each ski. Four exercises simulate these fundamental requirements. First is a straight run down the fall line on a gentle slope with the skier balancing on one ski. Second is a straight traverse with the skier balanced on the downhill ski. Next is a straight traverse with the skier balanced on the uphill ski. Last is a straight run down the fall line on a gentle slope, with inversion of the lifted foot. Each exercise is performed with each foot.

Depending on individual needs, equipment modifications may include the following: footbeds; footbed ramp angle; varus or valgus of the boot board and shims under the binding; boot cuff angles; and new equipment, including boots, skis, and risers."
"http://www.harbskisystems.com/icsshsas.htm"


Ken
post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 
Wow! I had no idea that this thread would give me so much information! I had some major alignment issues myself, and after having them corrected, I've become a much more dynamic skier and am much less fatigued at the end of the day. I seriously think that the women that I was teaching had an alignment issue, but I will definatly use all of the advice and suggestions that this post has given me.

Thank you All!

~Snowmiser~
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 
Just a little added note to my last post! If you have a hot spot that is really bugging you in your boots, don't wait to fit in an adjustment! I just had to have a horrible abcess cut open on my ankle bone because it's been killing me since the end of January and I wouldn't take a day off to get it fixed. Then I got super sick and found out that I now have a staph infection. STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!!!:


Now I'm teaching never/ever snowboarders on the bunny in my Sorrell's, and the season will probably be over before I can jam my foot back into my ski boots!

Lesson Learned!

~Snowmiser~
post #24 of 25
Thread Starter 
I would like to add to my original post, that this woman that I described in my lesson could do garlands on a gentle slope just fine. She could roll from one set of edges to the other very smoothly, however, when we tried to incorporate this into a turn across the fall line, that left foot would hang up each and every time. I also worked on uphill christies in both directions and that is when the problem became very evident!

~Snowmiser~
post #25 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hi Bud!

I like your idea of having alignment analysis part of the certification process. I think that more often than not, people are told that they need to work on something that they are physically not capable of not working on!

Thanks!

~Anne~
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