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Is ankle flexibility an issue in learning to carve?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

It seems unlikely as the boot should override any issues here. What about knees?

 

Has this ever come up before?

post #2 of 21

MarcusFire,  first post under 2.0 new format.  Did you ask the question ? Anyway just to get used to newness:  My opinion, ankle flexing is important in carving.  When I turn left my inside ankle's flexing directly affects the initial carving of the initiation phase of the turn.  If when turning I am thinking (doesn't happen too often).  1) simultaneous edge change   2) little toe left foot - flex ankle  3) right foot/leg/ankle with come along fine.  When making med or large radius turns I find the in a L turn that the ankle flex of the inside ankle is very important and will dynamically effect the quality of the turn.

 

Had a good day Wed.  11 inches Fun Day


Edited by Pete No. Idaho - Sat, 31 Jan 09 05:34:07 GMT
post #3 of 21

Ankle flexibility is a huge issue in all aspects of skiing. In my experience the number one reason people are in the back seat is they are not using their ankles effectively.

 

Consider the most common piece of advice heard at ski areas, "bend your knees".  If you are wearing low leather boots, and you bend your knees, your ankle will flex automatically keeping you in balance over the ball of your foot. Now put on a modern plastic alpine ski boot and bend your knees. Most people think they can't flex thier ankles consequently the more they bend thier knees the farther in the back seat they go. I spend a fair amount of time getting people to bend their boot by flexing the ankle.

 

In a flat spot stand and visualize the top of your boots as the face of a clock. The tips of your skis are at 12. Flex your ankle pushing the cuff of the boot towards 12. Now roll your shins to 2 O'clock, the skis will roll to the right edge. Now try rolling your shins to 10 O'clock, the skis will roll to the left edges. Now try rolling your shins 12 to 2 to 12 to 10 to 12 to ........ while sliding on a fairly flat slope. You should be making some semblence of a carved turn. As a bounus, if you are standing tall and using ankle flex to do this you will find that your quads won't be any more sore then the rest of you at the end of the day.

post #4 of 21

Hi Marcus,

 

When you say "Is ankle flexibility an issue", are you speaking about a limited range of motion in the ankle or the restriction created by our stiff ski boots?

 

I ski in a very stiff race boot that limits the overall range my ankles can flex, as a result, this requires me to be even more active with my ankle (and other joint) movements.  

 

DaveW is correct, if you put your shins against your boots and flex your knees you will move into the back seat (assuming that is all you do.)  However, that is only part of the story.  If you also flex at the hip, waist, spine, shoulders, neck, etc. to bring your head, shoulders, arms, etc forward as you flex, you can stay in balance thru a full range of motion.  Even in a very stiff ski boot.  Look at how the stickman's joints flex and note that the ankle joint does not flex!  

 

 

Yes, this has come up before!  Here is one thread I found:  Ankle Motion, is it needed? 


Edited by cgeib - Sat, 31 Jan 09 14:18:46 GMT
post #5 of 21

Yes, this question has come up before! And opinions are polarized. As I've often pointed out, though, skis respond to pressure and force--not to boot flex!

 

What is not debatable is the fact that the best skiers, seeking the ultimate, most precise performance from their equipment (yes, I'm talking about World Cup racers) use stiff boots that minimize their range of ankle flex--while maximizing their ability to modulate fore-aft pressure on their skis.

 

It does take a highly refined technique. The precise, ski-specific movements of knees, hips, spine, and arms (demonstrated by "Stickman" in the animation above) are a learned skill. It is true that stiff, snug-fitting boots, while transmitting every movement and sensation from skier to ski--and back--also forgive few errors.

 

And it's true that boots can be too stiff, and too tight. We must be able to move our feet inside the boots--to work with our ankles and feet--invert and evert ("tip") and flex and extend (slightly) to fine-tune fore-aft balance. Other joints can--and must--manage large pressure changes and fore-aft movements--as Stickman demonstrates. But they cannot react quickly enough to absorb the quick, sudden vibrations of washboards and such, so some limited range of motion and flexibility is needed, even in a race boot (especially for high-speed events like SuperG and Downhill).

 

The ideal boot is stiff, but with a progressive flex, allowing a small range of motion relatively easily, but stiffening up quickly as the range increases. No one wants a boot that slams your shin like a concrete block. But overall, "ankle flex" is like the suspension in a car. High-performance cars have stiff suspension--but you need to know how to drive it to take advantage of it. Cars meant for comfort, and to forgive sloppy driving skills, have softer suspension.

 

None of this is to suggest that ankle motion is not important in skiing! The Stickman animation shows absolutely no ankle motion, but not because ankle motion isn't critical. It's because it IS critical! Only by learning to work the knees, hips, spine, and arms as Stickman does can we keep the precious, little, ankle motion we have available to us at all times. It is because he shows no ankle motion here that Stickman keeps his ankles free to move--always--to make the subtle balancing and pressure adjustments and to absorb the momentary, unpredictable variations in the snow that great skiing demands.

 

To summarize--ankle motion is, indeed, critical in skiing--but not the way many people think. Feet and ankles are the fine-tuning, subtle adjustors of balance and pressure (and edging). We must learn to ski well in stiff boots. We must learn to coordinate the movements of knees, hips, spine, and arms, specifically so that we can take advantage of stiff boots, and so that we can keep our ankles free to make the fine adjustments that only they can make.

 

Best regards,

Bob


Edited by Bob Barnes - Sat, 31 Jan 09 16:26:07 GMT
post #6 of 21

Bob,

 

I've heard it a million times, and used this notion myself: To "get forwards" we have to lever at the ankle.  This is usually in conjunction with stuff like "The worse the conditions get, the more you want to feel the front cuff of the boot".

 

If the ankle has near zero motion, then the idea of levering forward frome the ankle is rubbish.

 

can you comment?

 

Thanks.

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

Chris - Thanks for asking. I was talking about my ankles being less flexible than most. It's something I was told by my swim coach in college, and have observed as the years go by. I have started doing flexibility exercises.

 

Much of the discussion in this thread has concerned fore/aft flexibility, but I asked the question because of how hard I am struggling to get my skis on edge to carve a clean turn. I've spent the last month reading every thread on Epic I could find regarding carving, thinking about what Weems told me at Stowe, and trying like h#!! to make it work on the hill. I was wondering if my lack of lateral flexibility could be a contributing factor?

 

But it seems that the boots would create far more lateral issues than inflexible ankles ever could and the question was probably moot. However, it seemed better to ask than to get hung up on this issue whether it was relevant or not.

 

Thanks everyone for jumping in. 

post #8 of 21

Marcus--if your ankles have limited range of motion (especially limited "dorsiflexion"--bringing the knees and toes closer together), it can certainly become an issue. It would be a good idea for you to visit a good (very good) bootfitter!

 

If the range is extremely limited (not that uncommon), you may not even be able to get your foot all the way into your boot, with your heel all the way down. That's when bootfitters may consider an internal heel lift, and/or straightening the cuff to reduce the dorsiflexion required to be in the boots. If that results in too upright a stance, they may consider adjusting "delta angle"--tipping the entire boot forward, including the sole.

 

As we reach the end of, and then exceed, the ankle's range of dorsiflexion, the foot typically starts to collapse ("pronate")--leading to all sorts of problems, from edging to rotary movements and knee issues. EpicSki boot guru Jim Lindsay ("Bootech, Inc." here on the site) does a great presentation illustrating this concept.

 

In any case, soft boots, which allow a lot of forward ankle flexion, can make the problem worse.

 

Again, I encourage you to find the best bootfitter you can find to help you resolve the problem. It does not need to be a handicap, once you get the right boots properly setup for you!

 

You might want to pose your question again in the Bootfitters forum.

 

Best regards,

Bob


Edited by Bob Barnes - Sun, 01 Feb 09 18:04:53 GMT
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 

Bob - Great explanation . . . thanks again!

 

I talked with a bootfitter today after trying some things on the hill (which may be working!) and it does not appear that inflexibility is the issue. I'm not overly flexible (by any means) but am sufficiently so.

 

So the quest for a clean carve continues. It's back to re-reading all the posts you good people have written and hitting the slopes again with new ideas.

 

Gratefully,

Marcus

post #10 of 21

I carve nicely with very limited range of ankle flex.  I think I have between 8 and 9 degrees of dorsiflexion.  I have had a lot of work in my boots to compensate for this.

post #11 of 21

I always liked the stickman animation but ....

 

that's going over bumps with both feet in the same plane.

 

What changes when you're turning and one leg is getting longer and the other shorter?

 

You can bend one knee more than the other to get one leg shorter but you can't do something near as asymmetrical with the upper half of your body.  So, if your ankle flex changes only very slightly, something else has got to change to compensate for the additional knee bend.  The only thing I can think of is that the inside ski has to move forward.

 

Anyone care to elaborate?

 

I'm just playing devil's advocate to try to understand it better.  I'm not saying Bob's wrong; if he's a 9 out of 10 on the ski instructor scale, I'm probably a 4.

 

-L2T

 

post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by learn2turn View Post

What changes when you're turning and one leg is getting longer and the other shorter?

 

You can bend one knee more than the other to get one leg shorter but you can't do something near as asymmetrical with the upper half of your body.  So, if your ankle flex changes only very slightly, something else has got to change to compensate for the additional knee bend.  The only thing I can think of is that the inside ski has to move forward.

 

Anyone care to elaborate?

 

Inside ankle flexes.

post #13 of 21

Bob Barnes mentioned dorsiflection and this is an important point.  The question is HOW you get ankle flex... if you merely bend your knees and force your shins into the front of the boot while moving your body forward (to prevent being pushed directly into the backseat) then I find that the front of my foot actually comes off the floor of the boot because of the leverage against the front of the foot.  Clearly I can't balance and maneuver on the front of my boot, I've got to find a way to keep my feet on the floor of the boot.

 

I've played around a lot with dorsiflection (pulling your toes up toward your shin) with the inside foot and find that it does a couple of things.  If you are continually moving your body forward then it has the effect of pulling the foot and ski back under you.  For skiers who tend to lean up hill and are a bit back and you see the uphill ski way ahead of the downhill ski having them pull the toes up actually does keep the pressure on the front of the foot and increases ankle flexion.

 

So far this discussion has only considered ankle flexion along the length of the ankle, but the other part of ankle flexion is the latitudinal flex.  There is not a lot of movement that can happen that way but it is really important if you want to develop carving skills.  It is the movement that gets us to tip the ski on edge.  Drills like the "crab walk" are good at developing this skill and movement.

 

Bob

post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarcusFire View Post

So the quest for a clean carve continues. It's back to re-reading all the posts you good people have written and hitting the slopes again with new ideas.

 

Gratefully,

Marcus

Learn angulation and counter.  Learn to angulate about three times as much as you ever think you'll need.  (Many of us overestimate our movements by 2,3,4 times how much we actually move.)

 

Balance on just the inside edge of your outside ski while stationary.  Do this by lifting the big toe edge of the inside ski off the snow, not by pressing the big toe edge of the outside ski down into the snow.  Increase the angle of that ski on the snow by flexing your body to bring your parka zipper tab out over your outside toe.  Increase the angles more.  This balancing action on that one ski edge is exactly what you do to carve with the movements modified to handle centifugal force and gravity.  Set aside every other skiing movement you know.  Do not do anything else.

 

With the legs moderately close together and the weight centered on your feet, in contact with the boot tongue, roll your inside ski up on its little toe edge and [u]allow[/u] the outside ski to match it.  Slide, and you're now carving a simple arc.  Continue the ankle pressure to roll the inside ski up on its little toe edge more (lift the inside big toe edge way up off the snow), allow the inside knee to drop toward the snow (do not pressure to the side), allow the hips to drop toward the inside, and angulate & counter (push the inside hip forward/pull the outside hip back).  Keep the inside ski very light on the snow by retracting the inside leg while keeping the outside leg near-straight.  Tip the inside ski up on its little toe edge more and more, retract that leg more and more, and angulate & counter more and more.  You're carving.  To change direction, relax the outside leg, allow momentum to move the body across the skis, and tip and angulate/counter to the other side.  Allow the new outside leg to straighten--don't push it out.  Tip and angulate more and more and more as the turn continues.  To maintain forward balance, strongly pull the inside foot back continually as you tip and retract it.

 

Try it.  Feet & ankles first, and work your way up the body with the movements.  It works very well.  Others will say, without trying it, that it doesn't work, 'cuz it ain't dogma.  Try it.

 

Edited by SoftSnowGuy - 2/8/2009 at 06:43 am


Edited by T-Square - 2/10/2009 at 01:46 am
post #15 of 21

Ankle flexing is so important and should come natuaraly when pushing your knees forward to ensure your weight is transfering to the direction you are travelling. If your weight is on the back then you will get a delayed reaction to your turn.

post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes View Post


The ideal boot is stiff, but with a progressive flex, allowing a small range of motion relatively easily, but stiffening up quickly as the range increases. No one wants a boot that slams your shin like a concrete block. But overall, "ankle flex" is like the suspension in a car. High-performance cars have stiff suspension--but you need to know how to drive it to take advantage of it. Cars meant for comfort, and to forgive sloppy driving skills, have softer suspension.

 


 

so taking you car analogy lets think about this.

 

sure a car with stiffer suspension will have less body roll, it wont nesessarly handle better, though and it will for sure have rougher ride.

 

a rougher ride can cause loss of contact with the road and loss of confindence in the driver. If a driver or a skier losses confindence good luck being aggresive  or fast while doubting your self.

 

Let take the car analogy to the next step, whats faster down a gravel road? a Le mans car, or a WRC rally car. Yep easy right, the WRC rally car. guess what car rewards sloppier driving, is more comfortable, and has a 'softer' suspension. Yep the WRC rally car. Isnt it interesting that for one application a softer suspesnion that rewards sloppier driving skills is actually better.

 

 

So wouldnt you guys agree that while ankle flex really doesnt matter for carving that maybe, just maybe. recommend super stiff plug boots that dont bend isnt the best course of action. skiing groomers is really freaking easy.  A hack like me can get decent angles on soft rotary boots that supposely cant carve and soft fat twin tips on east coast ice.

 

but most people could care less about skiing groomers great, they are out to have fun. some are out to have fun by rallying though weird and funky terrain and snow. to keep recommending to those people that a plug boot is the 'only' way to go seems kinda of dumb doesnt it?  Its like tellling everyone they should be daily driving a lotus elise.

post #17 of 21

Well, sort of, Bushwhacker!

 

Even rally cars tend have stiffer suspension than the "street legal" commercial versions of same.

 

But more importantly, the demands of skiing moguls and deep, inconsistent snow don't compare well with driving fast down a gravel road. It isn't going to be soft, loose, passive suspension that swallows those moguls--it's going to be vigorous, precise, skillful, active (muscularly driven), intentional movements. And where those fail, a stiff(er) boot gives us the ability to recover quickly, too.  

 

The need I've described for "some" softness, especially in the beginning of the flex range ("progressive flex") addresses the gravel road requirement--the absorption of the quick, little, jolts from washboards, snow chunks, and such. And speed event race boots tend to be softer, too, due to a reduced need for technical precision and an enhanced need to absorb "gravel road" vibrations with suppleness. It's a compromise, no doubt.

 

Either way, whether discussing passive absorption of small, jarring bumps (the old French word is "reploiment") or the active swallowing of huge moguls ("avalement"--literally, "to swallow"), it does not help to lock the ankles by flexing them to the limit of their range. "Neutral" in the cuffs, as a basic "default" stance, is the only place that retains the ankles' flexibility at all times.

 

And either way, stiffer boots demand higher skill levels and heightened attentiveness. They will reward precise movements. But they'll punish mistakes!

 

Best regards,

Bob

 

Stowe * Aspen * Big Sky
post #18 of 21

I think good skiers who believe that ankle flex is highly important tend to have a large range of ankle flex and must take up that flex in order to feel like they are working the skis. 

 

Skiers with a very limited amount of ankle flex do not move much and do not see the big need for ankle flex in their skiing. These same skiers will exibit a much larger tip lead in their skiing as there little ankle flex to be able to pull back the inside ski.

 

I am always cognizant of those differences when working with students.

post #19 of 21

This is really interesting discussion. Because I ski a mono-sitski and am just beginning to develop the ability to carve it. AND as an old ex-skiier (and  mono and snowboarder) I'm wanting to know how I'm doing it!!!

There is no ankle, or knee etc body bits involved and yet.. the ski can be put on edge and carved. And as far as I can see the 'control' is monitored by the seat of the pants.  Hip angulation, rotation and weight shift by upper body movement (fore/aft and 'banking') and arm-rigger position is all there is. Of course the effect of these are to move my COM around the coupling with the ski to provide the turning and edging 'torques' .. the skill I guess is the timing of the shifts of balance forward and back and from left buttock to right buttock!!

 

So I just wonder how much of the leg movement finesse is actually relevant for the 'recreational' skier. 

 

   

 

post #20 of 21

Great insights, wehyam--thanks for posting!

 

I've had the privilege of working with a few top-level disabled skiers and instructors, and helped produce the PSIA-Rocky Mountain Adaptive Skiing Standards DVD (defining the skiing tasks for Adaptative Instructor Certification). It has been an eye-opening experience for me. I'm fascinated by how athletes can compensate for various disabilities, making their skis perform as designed. As you suggest, much of what you do adds clarity and perspective to what is, and is not necessary.

 

A few things you cannot do, which many instructors consider sacred fundamentals of skiing, include ankle flexion, weight transfer, "long-leg--short-leg," inside ski activity, and independent leg rotation. And yet, your performance shows that none of these things is necessary to make a ski carve and turn. You find substitutions for many of these movements, as you point out, using other joints and body parts. Outriggers serve the "fulcrum" purpose of the other leg, allowing you to steer your ski precisely, and they also add the equivalent of "foot-to-foot" movements for lateral balance and lateral re-direction.

 

Welcome to EpicSki, wehyam! I look forward to more of your thoughts.

 

Best regards,

Bob

post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post

With the legs moderately close together and the weight centered on your feet, in contact with the boot tongue, roll your inside ski up on its little toe edge and [u]allow[/u] the outside ski to match it.  Slide, and you're now carving a simple arc.  Continue the ankle pressure to roll the inside ski up on its little toe edge more (lift the inside big toe edge way up off the snow), allow the inside knee to drop toward the snow (do not pressure to the side), allow the hips to drop toward the inside, and angulate & counter (push the inside hip forward/pull the outside hip back).  Keep the inside ski very light on the snow by retracting the inside leg while keeping the outside leg near-straight.  Tip the inside ski up on its little toe edge more and more, retract that leg more and more, and angulate & counter more and more.  You're carving. 
Edited by T-Square - 2/10/2009 at 01:46 am


 

So you MATCH the outside ski to the inside inside ski?  I've been doing this wrong then. I aways had more pressure on the outside ski. This could be a revelation!

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