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Heel side turn problems - any suggestions?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I know this is hard to help on, not watching but anyways....

6', 200lbs, riding 3 years,

I've been having problems on my heelside turns (freeride) with my board nose smearing out at speed. It catches edge fine initially, then smears/slips then catches again briefly, etc. No problem carving tight and not losing it on the toe side.

I've tried different stance angles (+15/-15, +15/-3 to +15/+3), bending knees more, different boards, etc. Also tried moving my front foot more heel side and toe side centering on the board.

Edge angles are 89 deg. base/1 deg. sidewall, 164 cm board

Anyone seen this before on heelside only and have some suggestions?

Thanks in advance
post #2 of 9
I'll take a stab at it, but this is difficult without seeing the big picture. You could have other movements going on that you are not aware of that are affecting your riding. Movement Analysis (MA) is best done watching someone perform the desired task for three turns or so. It doesn't help that I'm a very visual person too.

Board length seems right for you. Basic stance angles are +15/-5 to +15/-10. The spilt is however a personal preference. Your binding should be centered on the board toe-side to heel-side edge. The bindings should be around shoulders width apart. Where they are mounted on the board depends on the type of riding you want to do. If you are using a freeride board (directional), they are going to have a set-back. I personally have my bindings mounted equi-distance back from the start and end of the effective edge. I can't quite diagnose if you have your bindings setup effectively. It sounds like they may not be centered toe to heel side.

I'll ask all the standard MA questions.

Is this happening on basic skidded turns or are carved turns? Both? I don't know if you are performing true carved turns without watching.

Does this happen on all the terrain you ride or just specific terrain?

Where does is seem like you are washing out in your turn? Sounds like the control phase of the turn (second third of the turn).

How's your front ankle flexion? I can't tell cause I haven't seen you ride. It's probably pretty stiff. If you do not flex it this causes you to get your weight on the back of your board and you can’t hold the edge and washout. This is fairly common and most likely the area to correct. We target for equal weight on both feet. On your heel to toe it’s a natural motion to get your hip forward and then use it and your knee to turn the board and keep the knee aimed towards the snow to keep the front of the board weighted up. You’re just pushing your knee over your front foot.

I’m curious how you are initiating those toe to heel turns. Any upper body rotation used? I see many lower level riders or people who have never taken a lesson doing that. Turn initiation starts from the waist down and stays there except in freestyle.

It would help to know where all your primary alignments are performing this.

An exercise you could try is one the resort trainer had us try out a few weeks ago. On your heel to toe turns, reach for the middle of the nose of your board with your front hand at the beginning of the turn and hold it. On the toe to heel turn reach down like you are going to grab the back binding heel cup with your back hand at the beginning of the turn. Don’t’ grab it, just gradually flex down equally with both knees and equal pressure on both feet. That could smooth things out and get your alignments right.

You could have other edging issues too but I can’t diagnose that without some visual. (Might need to pick your toes up more-equally. There could be some flex/extension issues too).

post #3 of 9
If I'm reading your description of the problem correctly, one common reason for this is not rounding out the top portion of the heel side turn above the fall line. Usually this problem is more noticeable when riding switch. Because of this you tend to keep increasing the edge angle of the board after you pass the fall line in order to control speed. The result is over loading pressure on the nose of the board and then board chatter.

The immediate fix is to simply start your next toe side turn as soon as the chatter starts. Other things to play with include loading more weight onto the back foot on heel side turns (or delaying the move fore ward into the next turn), focusing on finishing toe side turns more uphill, increasing the use of board twist (i.e. increasing the delay time between moving your front foot to heel side and moving your back foot to heel side), skidding more throughout the whole turn versus carving when on terrain steep enough to cause the problem, increasing the high back angle and getting more dynamic (upper body more to the inside of the turn then the board)on heel side turns, especially in the fall line to encourage more leg collapse/absorption of pressure at the end of the heel side turn.
post #4 of 9
I think it likely you're backseat and having a variant of the "open stance and heelside chatter" issue discussed here http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=33964 and also at some length here http://www.bomberonline.com/VBulleti...ad.php?t=19391. "Vlad" on here also had some posts that I think you would find helpful. I don't think it's an equipment issue at all and I don't think ankle flexion is directly related to it. For Bomber I would note that there is some really idiosyncratic [sp?] stuff on there, particularly the angles that some people there try to ride softboots at and the like, but they've had some really good recent threads that apply to riding in general, not just their more-specific alpine focus.
post #5 of 9
with my board nose smearing out at speed. It catches edge fine initially, then smears/slips then catches again briefly, etc.
I'm not quite sure how to interpret this. He's saying the nose of the board. At first thought I this could be classic board chatter but I'm not convinced. He mentions nothing of the board jumping, bucking, or noisey. Might be semantics. I don't think equipment is the issue either but if someone takes the time to put that in a post I'll comment on it. Rusty adds some very astute suggestions/comments. Personally, I need to see the task in action-I'm not getting a good visual from this description.

If board chatter is the issue, locked up lower body would be an area of interest. This would include ankles, knees, and hips. The article below is the angle I'm approaching this from. I don't think the author will mind the repost. It's good material for thought anyway. He brings it up on the new AASI "Focus on Riding" DVD too. Apologies if you've seen or thought about this before. (to the article author in case he see's this: I was not the one who got spray paint on your garage floor the other week)

Bend Your Knees! Bend your Knees?

by Earl Saline

Bend Your Knees! Bend your knees! Bend your knees! Bend your knees! How many times have you heard this phrase? How many times have you used this phrase? And how many times has it achieved the desired effect? "Bend your knees" is one of the most over used phrases I have ever heard. Except for "Dude!", of course. Every day that I am out on the hill, riding around or teaching, I can count on hearing that magical phrase. It doesn't matter what people are sliding on, "Bend Your Knees" seems to carry a certain mystical potency. At least, the person saying it seems to think so. The words possess an all-encompassing power to set everything right. Regardless of the problem, "Bend Your Knees" will fix it. If your student is having trouble balancing as they slide, tell them to "Bend Your Knees". Maybe the person can't make a toe side turn to save their life. "Bend Your Knees" will make them all better. Or, will it?

I believe that this phrase does have a time and place. However, many times we should look a little deeper. I've noticed that when balance is being challenged the first joint in the body to stiffen is the ankle. This is evident at all stages of a snowboarding. This includes the first-timer to the expert. Even when walking ankle flexibility is crucial. When a body starts to move forward, as if to walk, the first joint to bend is the ankle. Without this flexing action it is nearly impossible to walk comfortably. To try this at home, stand up and try walking with rigid ankles. When your ankles lock up, the knees follow suit. And this makes for very awkward walking. Just imagine trying to ride like this.

One of the first points you discuss with students is stance. This is important regardless of equipment. You, no doubt, mention standing in a relaxed, balanced position with the legs bent. The balanced, athletic stance comes from letting the ankles flex, then the knees, and finally the hips. If just the ankles flexed we would fall forward on our faces. The knees flex to compensate for the forward flexion at the ankle. This is to help keep our equilibrium and prevent the face plant from happening. The hips may not show an obvious flex but looseness needs to be present to allow for additional balancing motions as necessary. With the lower body flexible the rider will enjoy numerous options for turning and have an easier time maintaining and regaining their balance.

A person that needs to use their arms and shoulders to turn the board is probably tensing the muscles in their lower body to the point that the upper body must compensate. By flexing at the ankle from the very beginning and maintaining that flexibility the turning forces can be directed to the feet and legs. Since the feet are what are directly attached to the snowboard, this is the most effective way to get the tool to do what you want. Direct action at the point of contact will cause an immediate reaction. Flexion at the front ankle is what allows the front knee to cross over to make a toe side turn. The knee also carries the hip with it to allow the person's center of mass to move in the direction of the new turn. Ankle flexion and hip flexibility allow the front leg to rotate from the toe side towards the heel side and start the heel side turn. Again, the hip is moved by this action into the new turn. These movements are more subtle and efficient than moving big body parts with big movements to create a turn.

A lack of flexion at the ankle on the toe side is usually evident when the rider bends severely at the waist. Consistently railing the board or falling to the inside are other symptoms of ankle lock up. The upper body will try and compensate for lack of lower body flexibility by swinging arms or other gross upper body movements. On the heel side, the ankles still need to be flexible. This allows the rider to adjust edge angle when side slipping, skidding and carving. Breaking at the waist, arm waving, straight legs, falling to the inside are all signs of ankle lock on the heel side. A rider with good ankle flexion will be able to feather the edge when side slipping or adjust edge angle during a turn to cause a skid or increase the edging for a carved turn.

Symptoms and signs of a stiff ankle and lower body can be evident at all levels of riding. In the bumps, a rider that braces on the heel side will most likely get tossed around as their board comes in contact with the down hill mogul. This may show up as a jerky turn from the heel to toe. On the toe side you might notice the rider reaching for the snow a lot. Or, the rider might accelerate through a turn and traverse to slow down and regain their balance. To help this rider take them back a step. If they can already make the short radius turn necessary for bumps try using traverses to reinforce the necessary flexibility. As you ride across the bumps allow your legs to absorb the oncoming mogul and extend the legs as you pass over the top. Foot to foot stability will be key also to allow first the front leg to come up under the body, then the rear leg. As you crest the bump extend the front leg then the back leg. The sensation would be one of pressing the board into the snow. This should be done with a disciplined upper body. The upper body may move but it shouldn't be doing the balancing for you. Once the rider can ride back and forth across the bump field, in balance, have them make medium radius turns in the bumps and gradually funnel the turns down to the desired size. With good ankle and, consequently, lower body flexibility the rider can absorb the terrain and use the feet and legs to turn the board. Riding "Kiddy" trails can be an excellent training ground for bumps also. Allowing your ankles to flex and matching your board to the snow through the trail will not only keep you from being bounced around it will also build that lower body flexibility necessary for good bump and all terrain riding.

An aggressive, all mountain rider will show a lack of ankle flexion by using the upper body to try and force the board to turn. In deep snow sharp, sudden turns and tipping over are good indicators. Soft snow requires a conscious effort to not edge the board too much. The rider may also lose control on steeper slopes because of stiff legs. Reinforce adequate lower body flexibility and turning from the lower extremities. High and Low drills, retraction/ extension exercises, and hop turn drills can help these riders. In the Hop turn focus on landing in a flexed position to enable the rider to absorb the forces and maintain control and their balance. For soft snow play with keeping the upper body on top of the board in longer turns and feeling pressure on the whole foot rather than concentrated pressure on toes or heels. Short turns in soft snow require extension/retraction movements and let the snow and amount of extension dictate how much the board tips. Don't roll into a turn expecting to rail the board as if you were on hardpack. A flatter board floats much better than an edged board.

If the person is a freestyle or pipe rider the most obvious signs are a loss of balance in the air and poor landing success. In either case, reinforcement of board control coming from the feet and adequate flexion at the landing can help these riders. Of course, this is just one element of the total freestyle/pipe riding realm. What I've found is that good fundamental riding skills directly transfer from general free riding to the freestyle realm. Good riding is good riding. The ability to hold an edge (Carving) from one side of the pipe to the other is crucial to get as many hits out of the pipe as possible. Proper body position (Stance) will allow the rider to direct the spin in any direction instead of always spinning front side because they end up facing the nose of the board with the shoulders. Upper body discipline helps a rider maintain balance while flying through the air. A rider "rolling down the windows" is not in balance. They are struggling to get their balance back before they trash themselves. Ankle flexion is key when riding the pipe and jumping so that the rider can leave the ground from a flat board, toe side or heel side depending on the situation. And land appropriately and successfully also.

So, what it all boils down to is this: Keep your (and your students) ankles flexed, let the balancing movements come from the lower body as much as possible, and keep the turning forces in the lower extremities as well. Sound simple? It may, but to bring these elements into your every day riding will take concentration and effort, The reward will be much more efficient and effective riding. Your students will appreciate the effectiveness and you will enjoy the efficiency of smooth, balanced riding. Smile and have fun!
post #6 of 9
I think what the article is getting at is that bending the knees without some combination of angulation, inclination and/or ankle flex just leads to toilet-sitting, and this I wholeheartedly agree with; you occasionally can witness humorous examples in learning areas where people "sumo squat" lower each time they get told to bend ze knees. The last three paragraphs of that article I basically agree with as well as the bump stuff in the preceding paragraph too. That said, even in softboots two of the things you do to produce more-powerful carves are use stiffer boots and/or increase forward lean, both of which take away available ankle flex; and biomechanically the bit about ankle flexion being necessary to initiate toesides and heelsides I just don't get. Carving in hardboots with their even more-restricted forward flex is more powerful yet and not more-prone to chatter than softboots, though making subtle balance adjustments is much harder. But, there's a lot of stuff I don't get, so it could very easily be me too.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Sorry it took so long to get back to you all, just got back online.

Thanks, binding centering is good, tried toe forward, center and heel forward orientation and happens on all.

happens on the traversing 2/3rds of the turn, not initiation or transition to the toe side turn. At high speed, usually steep headwalls. Typically when nose still slightly downhill.

Ankle flex may be it and more hip forward so I'll work on that.

BTW, what do you suggest for ankle flex action on heel side - pull toes up and dig heels/heel side edge in or bend knees towards the nose & toes and weight away from the heel side edge?

The Rusty, good points which I'll try. I don't think it's chatter, more the front end smearing out down the fall line rather than holding edge, then the edge catches again.

So, I'm off to ride this weekend and let you guys know.
I'll work various combo's and see what works better on the heel side.
-Bent knees and ankles more
-hip forward vs. back
-shoulders parallel with the board vs. turned more perpendicular uphill
- reaching for the back heel cup with back hand vs. reaching for the front toe with back hand (from one of the carving threads)
post #8 of 9
At high speed, usually steep headwalls. Typically when nose still slightly downhill.
Look across the hill not down the hill at the finish of turns. Always keep looking where you are going. Look in the direction that the nose of your board is headed towards throughout the turn. It helps to even look some uphill at the finish of the turn and almost stall the board by aiming it a little uphill to finish the turn.

Ankle flex may be it and more hip forward so I'll work on that.
The front ankle flex will help get the hip and weight forward.

BTW, what do you suggest for ankle flex action on heel side - pull toes up and dig heels/heel side edge in or bend knees towards the nose & toes and weight away from the heel side edge?
The primary alignments are:
1-Shoulders, hips, knees aligned perpendicular to front foot
2-Shoulders and hips aligned to terrain or landing zone.
3-Center of Mass aligned between the feet and over the board or turning edge

#3 is what I'm trying to have occur here. Specifically, more tilt/edging onto the turning edge (heel). Getting the front ankle flexed will get the CM between the feet more. Lowell Hart has some great diagrams that explain this bit (Vail Snbrd Teaching Manual pg 26). Pick your toes up towards your shins (dorsiflexion) this will get the board on edge and mass over the turning edge(your heel edge here). If you get the weight away from heel side edge or let the toes drop, you will flatten the board to the terrain, the edge won't engage, and the board will wash out. Your body should be aligned like you are going down a fireman's pole or doing the classic dirty toilet seat hover.

I'd be curious to know the outcome. What worked for you. Have fun!

I'll be up at the ol' WP tomorrow working on MA and riding.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Ok, go it figured out today. This is what I observed but as usual, YMMV.

Realize that I have a powder specific board with a big setback (Arbor Abacus 164 with a 5cm setback) so it may overplay some of the actions. Also, this was groomer specific where I had my problems of the nose sliding/chopping/washing out on me for heelside turns.

Bending ankles and knees wasn't the issue, bending more didin't help, although as always it never hurts to bend more, does it.

The key things that fixed my nose washing out on heelside turns were getting my shoulders around more, so all of these worked with different effects fyi:

- Just turning my head slightly up hill brought my shoulders and hips around enough to get my nose edge to dig enough and go more across the fall line. This gave the best carving turn too for groomers. Look more uphill, edge more in and across the fall line, simple.

- Reaching down to my rear foot heel cup with my rear hand worked too to dig my nose edge in. Just the action of reaching back half way down worked, you don't really need to grab your heel. Interesting result was a pronto, hard carve into the hill, and I mean quick with no tail skid out either. So if you need to do a 90degree turn NOW, this is the trick if you don't want to slide your tail out. However you have no idea what's uphill of you or ahead of you for that matter because it forces your head to look down the fall line.

- Reaching down with my rear hand to the front toe, worked as well. Again, you don't really need to grab your toe, but even reaching half way worked. This is was best on steep traverses or other situations where you need freedom of movement for you head to look around. Basically it forces your shoulder perpendicular to the board, forces your knees and ankles to bend hard, and probably most importantly forces your shoulder and hips more uphill. It was easier to turn my head either way and still get the nose edge committed across the fall line with no wash out, however it was not as stable at speed as the simple turning my head slightly uphill. It was clearly easier to look downhill to see the steeps/bumps or uphill to see who was going to stick their ski tips up my ass or whatever, again at the expense of some stability at speed (at least for me).

Anyways, thanks for all of your suggestions. Goods to you all because they all worked. Hopefully my observations will help you all out back for your teaching, if you find the same things I did, or to anyone else running into the same issue.

Case closed.
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