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Edging "Feet First"

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
This was passed to me and I thought it was worth sharing.


George Thomas, Head coach Beaver Creek Race Department
The point of transition between one turn and another is marked by the change
of edges. Imagine a skier traversing across the hill perpendicular to the
fall line. The edges on the uphill side of the skis are engaged, with most of
the skiers weight on the downhill ski. At the top of the turn, the skier
rolls the skis over and engages the downhill edges. As the turn progresses
the ski bends into reverse camber and pressure builds on the skis through the
fall line. So far, so good. However, the mechanism by which many skiers
change edges could do with some work. One method of changing edges is by
relaxing the downhill leg, extending the uphill leg and thereby crossing over
the skis with entire body, with the shoulders well inside the arc of the new
turn. Another variation is to focus on crossing over the skis with the hips
switching from side to side. Again, this changes edges, but in both cases, a
gross or large movement of the upper body facilitates the edge change. To
roll the edges in this way, say 60 degrees, the shoulders and or hips must
travel a large distance, and this takes time. To amp up your skiing, think
about changing edges first at the ankles, then knees at the top of the turn.
Again, imagine the skier traversing across the fall line. At the turn
initiation, instead of launching the upper body down the hill, think first
about establishing a rock solid body position by moving the hips and
shoulders onto the top of the skis and squaring the shoulders to the tips.
This preparatory movement releases the edge grip and permits steering.
Without skipping a beat, now roll the skis onto the new edges by pressuring
with the ankles the inside of the boot cuff of the new outside ski, and the
buckle side of the boot cuff of the new inside ski. Once started, you can
then build higher edge angle by rolling the knees to the inside of the turn.
As pressure builds on the skis through the fall line, the hips can at last
begin to move inside creating even more angulation. A key focus point with
this technique is that at turn initiation the center of mass (the hip area)
does not cross over the skis as much as it moves toward the tips or rather in
the direction of travel of the skis. Edge change starts from the bottom up.
To develop this movement pattern, first practice edge roll turns, with no
steering, on smooth flat terrain. You will notice that pure sidecut turns
with parallel matched edges require a solid body position standing directly
on top of the skis, banking or hip switching makes this delicate move
difficult. Secondly, on steeper terrain, break the movement pattern into
discrete steps and progress through the turn cycle slowly; like learning the
tango by looking at the feet with the numbers on the dance floor: 1. Traverse
with slight counter, 2. level up, 3. square up, 4. stand up, 5. use ankles,
then knees, and then hips to progressively build edge angle, and finally, 6.
again counter moderately with the upper body as you come back across the fall
line in the new traverse. With this technique, ultimately you will find
yourself making more powerful turns with an increased sense of balance and
security. -- George Thomas, Head Coach Beaver Creek Race Department, PSIA
Cert Level III,
post #2 of 53
Great Post! Thanks.
post #3 of 53
Yes! This is why I was so enthusiastic about that ski conditioning workshop that had us examine and practice balance drills with the ankle and foot movements used in skiing. Being able to see and feel what's going on, without wearing big clunky ski boots can promote awareness of the actual biomechanics of the turn. Its also a good way to asess imbalances and instability.

Apropos to the concept of instability, what BobB. said about ankle angulation is correct, but since I am not an orthopod, I'm not going to attempt to break down the biomechanics of the feet. But people who tend to be a bit hyperflexible may have too much mobility in their ankles. If you are prone to ankle sprains, you know what I mean.

The first time I tried edging, I just kept going until I was BOOM, down on my side. Wagering a wild guess and not speaking as a ski professional, I would say that I probably used too much force and strength, which overpowered my hyperflexible {and therefore weaker} ankles, causing me to lose alignment and stabilization. Am I close to correct?

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #4 of 53
If you sit in your chair, foot flat on the floor and wrap one ankle inside and out with both hands (right hand on the outside of the right ankle, left on the inside, for example), and then rock your foot from side to side gently as in edging on the big toe side and then edging on the little toe side, you can feel a bunch of "parts" moving around under the skin, especially above the ankle.

Feel the outside of the leg pull the little toe side up when rolling to the big toe side and visa versa. Then try to "feel" the action with the leg parts rather than with your hands (it's tough breathing with your hands on your ankle if you're built like I am).

What I'm saying is, instead of pushing down with the instep to edge, pull up with the "outstep". Release that edge by relaxing the tension on the outside of the leg. Then try it standing up. I sense that I can "feather" the tensioning on the outside of the leg to apply that leg's inside edge better than I can feather the pressing down action. I believe that the effort to push down on an edge results in the action taking place well above the boot instead of at the feet as it should.
post #5 of 53
Kneale, I just tried that, and got up and yelled YES, YES, YES!! Unfortunately, Mark was watching an episode of Sex in the City that he missed while he was away, and did not realize I was talking about skiing!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #6 of 53
On many occasions in the past I have read suggestions similar to those in this thread about involving the use of one's ankles in the process of edging your skis.

I'm sorry, but try as I may, I simply cannot understand any suggestion about edging that involves side-to-side rocking of the foot relative to the lower leg while the foot is locked in any modern ski boot.

The reason modern ski boots came into existance was specifically to minimize any side-to-side motion of the ankle (while allowing it to flex fore and aft in a controlled way). This was done to (a) transmit to the ski the large edging forces that could be generated higher up the body, as well as (b) reduce the incidence of ankle injuries from the soft boots in use before the '60's.

Every one of the boots I have used for the last 30 years has performed these tasks exceedingly well, and once my boots are on and tight, no matter what I do inside the boot with my ankle, or how much force I exert (with my ankle), I cannot rock/edge the boot/ski relative to my lower leg by more than a degree or so by ankle movements within the boot. This seems utterly insignificant compared to the many tens of degrees of edging I can achieve with motion of the joints above the ankle (knee, hip angulation, etc.).

Because of my personal observations and understanding of this phenomena, in the past, I have simply discounted all suggestions about "ankle edging" as either (a) incorrect, (b) a poor description, or (c) a relic of the '40's and '50's.

However, expert skiers frequently mention ankle edging, and since this subject was brought up yet again in this thread, and there are so many knowledgable skiers that participate here, this would be one of the best possible opportunities to discuss this issue.

If I'm not understanding something about biomechanics or nomenclature, I would most certainly appreciate it if someone could please explain the concept of ankle edging in a modern ski boot to me.



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[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited July 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #7 of 53
Thread Starter 
Hey, Bob - I think Physics man has some points there- I find it difficult ( if not impossible ) to pressure the inside edge of my downhill ski without moving my knees inside as well. I agree with what you are saying about where the pressure is on the boot shaft when we do the little toe- big toe exercise, but if the movement starts with the feet, don't the knees follow? Did I miss something here? Since the article I posted was written by a race coach I'm also wondering about forward pressure- how much, if any is needed? Forward pressure tends to screw things up in my skiing, I try to stay in the 'middle' as much as I can. Racers I talk to tell me they must push forward to get early edge engagement. Hope I haven't confused everybody!
post #8 of 53
One further comment on "ankle edging" (which will probably only confuse matters even more):

I know that when I'm making nice linked carved turns on any pair of skis (but especially old design straight skis), it almost always feels like I'm alternately standing with most of my weight on the big toe (and "ball-of-the-foot" area) of each foot as it assumes the roll of outside ski.

Given what I said in my earlier post in this thread, it would seem like it shouldn't make any difference whether I pressed down with the inside or outside of my foot. However, if I consciously try to press the outside ski with the outside of that foot, my (outside) knee seems to want to go out and reduce the edge angle of that ski.

Thus, the missing link in this discussion may be that pressing on the big toe side of your outside ski may simply help make the appropriate knee (angulation) movements easier, but not directly introduce any angulation itself, (ie, like what Snowdancer said in his last post).



PS - BTW, I have another (somewhat related) biomechanics / ski pedagogy gripe that I need to air. This one involves "forward weighting" and bending at the ankle. Since its reasonably different from this thread topic, I'll start another one in a few min.

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[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited July 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #9 of 53
I'm posing everything I'm about to say as a question, because understanding the physics of skiing has always been a challenge for me. The learning curve is similar to dryland fitness instructors like myself learning to each aquatic fitness. We tend to make many mistakes, at first.

So my question is, isn't it an issue of the kinetic chain. Its not that there is no movement of the knees, but the knee does not iniate the movement. I would guess that if the turns were iniated from the knees, that would create a good deal of torque that could lead to injuries.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence

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[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #10 of 53


Tip your right foot to its "little toe"
side, as if releasing its edge in the transition from a right to a left turn (lift up on the arch)



You have confused me. Did you mean tip your right foot to begin the transition from a left turn to a right turn?

If your statement is correct as it stands then you have lost me.
post #11 of 53

In an ancient thread you mentioned something that really hit home with me. It was the idea of tipping/twisting/turning and pulling back the outside ski (soon to be the inside ski) in the new turn. You offered this advice to someone and suggested it be attempted on fairly flat terrain. I'm not sure how you phrased it. It was also said by you or someone else the move is akin to what one would do if standing on flat ground and you wanted to step 90 degrees in one direction or the other while wearing skis. Obviously I'm not suggesting lifting the ski but this strikes me as the kinesthesia involved in the little toe move. I suppose my question is why do you not make mention of the twisting or feeling of closing the ankle accompanying this initial release?
post #12 of 53
BobB & Lisamarie -

I think you hit the nail on the head when you pointed out that the small ankle edging movements precede or trigger or facilitate appropriate movements of the knee and rest of the body.

As you were writing your comments on this subject, I was writing my second post in this thread which essentially said the same thing, but in somewhat different language (ie, "...pressing on the big toe side of your outside ski may simply help make the appropriate knee (angulation) movements easier, but not directly introduce any angulation itself,... "

This is a quite subtle point, and I would be amazed if very many skiers understand this, and that the language that is usually used to describe this may be completely incomprehensible to students.

I would suggest language something like, "...press down on the big toe area of your outside foot to initiate your turn since it will make your knees and hips move in the right ways..." This should be contrasted to a less accurate statement like, "...use your ankles to help edge your skis..." I suspect that many students given the latter instruction probably are like me and think to themselves, "how the &*(@ can I edge with my ankles when they are all locked up in a ski boot".


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[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited July 15, 2001).]</FONT>
post #13 of 53
Although I'm not an orthopedic surgeon, in response to Bob's comments about the ankle joint, this joint basically is a hinge joint. Although its actions are a little more dynamic than what's implied by a hinge, it is stabilized by medial and lateral ligaments. You wonder what we do to the ankle and knee ligaments with all these skiing maneuvers. Knee ligament strains seem to be more prevalent, and they certainly have been with my wife and me. The "kinetic chain" concept reminds me of the teachings of one HH.
post #14 of 53
The kinetic chain can actually start lower than the foot. An edged ski passing over the crest of a bump will be "forced" onto the new edge by the flattening of the terrain. Also, in deep snow, at the bottom of the turn, the snow is being packed harder on the inside edges than the outside edges. This forces the edge change when the pressure becomes great enough. In both cases, the skier merely needs to sense when this is happening and go with it.
post #15 of 53
Harvey, I first heard about the Kinetic Chain in a kinesiology class, and then, as referenced to skiing, in HH's writing. Then I realized that my PSIA trained instructors were saying the same thing. I do have to admit that it was smart of HH to use that term, because it does give you a good visual image of what is supposed to happen.

If any of my students have excessive lateral mobility at the knee joint, which is a hinge joint, they usually end up being prime targets for knee injuries. Thats why strength training for joint stabilization is so important.
post #16 of 53
Pierre, eh, do your experiment in a doorway and you can try both directions without having to turn around.

HarveyD, we used to call this ankle awareness stuff ankleation way back before HH was on the PSIA Demo Team.
post #17 of 53
PrivateDancer, Ray Guy, Porshe Bronson, PhysicsClass, The Chairman, and JuanPierre.

Who are you kidding? You really think student Ezmerelda can feel her ankles? First of all, her feet are cold - she can't even feel her ankles. Or, if she can, all she knows is that her boots are killing them!

For those of you who are reading this post and actually trying to learn something, skiing is all about balance (mostly), then, an exact series of movements. Learn balance first, then work on the movements. And, you need to be fit.

I'll know when the gang is catching up when I see a class working on balance training. But, it'll never happen. You know why? Because most skiers don't understand the concept of training. How could they? I bet 8 out of 10 people that you get in your class don't exercise - their idea about being "active" is that they drive around in an SUV with their windows down.

So they ski like 2 weeks a year, they don't exercise, and they don't train. Which means they have no shot at becoming anything more than an average skier, who can ski groomers okay.

And, since they're out here on vacation, paying like $8000 a night for a condo, they're certainly not going to pay some bloke $800 bucks an hour to teach them balance drills. "I wanna ski, damn it!"

The other 2, that do train, they're leaving for the cult.

Now I know why the gang does what they do. It's not about teaching skiers - it never has been. How can you teach someone that only skis two weeks a year and gets out of breath cussing at the snowboarder ripping by. You can't.

It's not about teaching, it's about Guest Relations. Tell a few jokes, maybe a few standard tips like, "Keep your hands in front!". So, all you're really doing, and all area management expects out of you, is to make them feel a little bit better about the credit card bill for their "ski vacation".

The cult isn't for most, you're right. It's for the very few who take skiing seriously. Who ski a minimum of 20 days a year, and maintain a certain level of fitness the rest of the year.
post #18 of 53
Yes! I do agree with you about the idea that most of the population has no idea what is happening with their feet and ankles. Just to prove a point, and not trying to be "too" facetious, as foxy as they look, would women walk around in those 12 inch high heels if they understood what they were doing to their ankles and postural alignment?

This was the point I was making in my ski fitness post in general fitness. There is no way most new ski students are going to understand what is supposed to happen with their feet while they are wearing those big clunky boots. Heck, they can't even use their feet properly in aerobic shoes, or in bare feet, for that matter.

I am thrilled that someone else is bringing up the balance issue. Paul Chek once explained it very nicely in a lecture. He commented that it is odd that we take people who have no sense of balance and put them on the equivalent of two popsicle sticks, then we expect them to go down a slippery slope without damaging themselves and others.

And the fitness thing, yeah, of course I agree. But the people who do go to the gym and tell the trainer that they are skiers, or learning to ski, will most likely be put on a program where they are overtaining their quads, underworking their hamstrings, and the trainer will probably be some dinosaur who thinks crunches are a good way to develop core stability! Will they be given any exercises for the abductors and adductors to prevent the hypermobility that could lead to, at best, bad form, or at worst, medial or lateral knee injuries? I think, not.

Now here's the sad part. I don't see a solution. Because you are correct. When someone comes to a resort, they want to get on the skis and "rip". The same as the people who come to Pilates class to get "ripped abs", but don't want to do whatever alignment work involved in getting that way.

Off my soap box now. Sorry for the rant.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #19 of 53
Yes it is definitely what you are talking about, and I absolutely agree with most of what has been said.

My point is that I'm not sure new skiers have enough of a kinesthetic awareness of their feet ankles and general alignment to first start learning these things on the snow. Just to be humble, I will admit that due to hyperflexibility in those joints, that was an issue for me right from the start. What I notice in other skiers, myself sometimes included, is the use of other movements, counter rotation, excessive leg movement, etc. to iniate the turn.

I have no doubt that you guys are teaching balance and the actions of the kinesthetic chain. How many of your kinesthetically unaware level 1 students do you think really get it?

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #20 of 53

I just spent an hour in shorts and boots. I actually messed around in two different pairs of boots.

In essence I am convinced one can roll or tip the foot in a modern ski boot. I also am convinced it is just such movement that creates the greatest angle as opposed to any angle created via knee movement.

Try it in barefeet and shorts. I can move my knee two to three inches laterally and there will be no movement tranferred to my foot. The sole of my foot never moves. The same thing transpires in boots. Conversely a tiny roll of my foot creates a substantial change in angle both barefoot and in boots.

Try it and I think you will be amazed by the results.
post #21 of 53
Lisamarie, SCSA,
Nice rants! and I agree. The thing to remember is that the "perfect turn" is a moving target. It is affected by physical fitness, snow conditions, weather, comfort, mood...etc. I think that most people who ski only a few days a year are the people who need to understand the most what the principles of turning left and right are all about. unfortunately, as one of you has implied, "instructor language" can tend to alienate some students. Instructors everywhere are striving (well most of them) to create a language that Joe Public can understand and digest. Sometimes in that struggle, we can over simplify and become a little vague. (Putting pressure on the tongue of the boot to stay forward is an example. It gets you forward, but now the instructor has created a new problem and has to address why the skier is leveraging the tip of the ski.) I'd like to say that some day there will be a universal skiing trade language that will bring harmony to the universe and make accessable to everyone the ability to ski like Xiao Lin Masters from the Far East, but I don't think I can guaruntee that.

As far as edging (I've taken to calling it TIPPING THE SKI) goes, try this out. Stand up - right now - and relax your legs from the feet up. PhysicsMan, you're not standing! Now gently push down the pad behind your right big toe while at the same time lifting the pad behind your left big toe. Now slowly switch and do it the other way... left down, right up, and keep switching. Slowly. Now while you're doing this, make yourself aware of what's going on down there. You should be using quit a few different muscles and your feet ought to be... (drum roll) tipping from one side to the other. You are now creating a tipping and a pressure control situation without sacrificing balance. Nothing explosive to knock you around.

If you were to do this maneuver while sliding forward on skis - wide stance parallel or wedge - this simple, little, tiny, easy-to-do piece of nothing would result in a direction change. Don't try to turn your body or legs, just play with the toes inside those boots. The skis will respond. Slowly, but they will respond. This move is subtle, and the results are titanic. If you play with this awhile, you can begin to understand that small, deliberate actions are more user-friendly than big, reactive ones. Using the Feet and ankles to initiate and monitor turns is paramount.

Spag's quote of the evening:
"Man, you shou-...you should see this song I'm listenin' to. It's called 'hey man. stop bogarting the log, my friend'."
- "Drugs" Delaney in "Outside Providence"-<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Notorious Spag (edited July 15, 2001).]</FONT>
post #22 of 53
Actually, Bob, you are right about the fact that some kinesthetic awareness can be developed in a ski lesson. And just to keep life interesting, I am about to completely contradict myself, because nothing in life is ever truly black or white.

A year ago, I took a workshop with Canada's gift to the fitness industry, Moira Stott. The workshop involved a less popular piece of equipment called th Stability Chair. Without using up too much bandwith describing the machine, I will sum it up by saying that its primary prurpose is the development of both ankle and scapular stability.

And I was a disaster!!! Every time I tried to press down on the foot pedals, my ankles went in every direction possible. On the upper body work, I could not press the pedals without counter rotating my torso. I vowed never to go near that damn piece of equipment again!

Until I decided to be a "glutton for punishment" , and take a half day workshop on it last week.

And, WOW, my ankles were more stable, and I did not counter rotate. Because apparently, I was so notoriously awful, last year, that one of the trainers came over to me and told me how amazed she was at my improvment.
As I've said, I had not gone near that machine since last year.

But I did practice this winter sport that taught me a few things about stability. I guess there probably needs to be some give and take. Some things you learn on dryland, some things on snow.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #23 of 53
Spag, that is very interesting. Because I have been taught similar stuff, with one difference; the iniation come from tipping the pinky toe. Essentially, it accomplishes the same thng, but there is a minor, subtle difference. Thinking of the movement as coming from the big toe feels more stable. Thanks

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #24 of 53
I like this. good stuff everyone.
I have been doing this lately.
when ever I am just standing around, I pick up on foot just slightly and try to stay steady just by slight adjustments with my feet/ankles. Also on the subject of subway surfing, Also great for this. Stand somewhere that you can see out the front so you can anticipate what is coming as well as make sure there is something to grab hold of if you can't keep your balance. Then try to make all your adjustments without moving your knees or body. just the ankles. I was amazed at how tired my feet/ankles got. Even the bottoms of my feet were killing me after only about 10 minutes of this. Thanks for all the great ideas..
post #25 of 53
I guess we're talking about training now.

I think balance is first, movements are second. Then, to bring it all together, you need to be fit.

Someone who comes out to Colorado, probably only exercises twice a month - if that, and they count raking the leaves as exercise. Then, they wonder why skiing is getting the best of them.

So if you're not fit, there's no shot.

Being fit, I think, is defined by aerobic capacity. Bicycling is great training for skiing. Bicycling increases your aerobic capacity and uses the same muscles skiing does. So you ride your bike 4 days a week, along with some weights and cross training, and you'll see payback on the slopes.

Lungs and legs will save you when your technique fails.

Check your resting pulse. The lower the better. The lower it is, the more fit you are.
post #26 of 53
This is kind of interesting now.

So, what percentage of skier is actually what we would all call fit? BTW, by answering this question, wouldn't we also be defining the market for; "serious skier products"? Like the cult, foot beds, alignment sessions, those likely to purchase a new pair of skis every year, etc.

Can bench press their weight once (male).

Has a resting pulse of 60 or lower - male. LisaM, what about female?

5 days a week of aerobic exercise. Hear rate at 65% of maximum for at least 20 minutes straight.
post #27 of 53
SCSA, in your formulaic approach to skier performance, you state "Balance first, Movements second". I would hope that you would consider the integration of those two steps, as you appear to advocate static rather than dynamic balance (and my favorite, anticipatory balance).
As an ole CSIA guy, I suggest you look up the concept of "movement in motion" first publicized around the Banff Interski ('87). Try Skipro.com, they probably have it in archive.
Geez....I hope I didn't come off too condescending...I know how sensitive he is!
post #28 of 53
Actually, Robin, you just read my mind, becuse I was going to bring up the whole dynamic balance issue. I know many people for whom Yoga is the ONLY fitness method they practice. They can balance in the absolute strangest positions, but find activities, where they have to put that balance into motion, close to impossible. { BTW, I am NOT talking about people such as skiminker who practices Yoga in addition to other disciplines}.

But sadly, SCSA's misconception about that concept is COMPLETELY the fault of my industry, not yours. For years, fitness activities have been taught as isolated components, some for strength, some for balance, etc. But in real life, we are never using an isolated component of fitness, nor are we isolating muscle groups.

The buzz phrase for fitness in the millenium, is, "Don't isolate unless you intend to integrate". Unfortunately, its probably going to take awhile before enough instructors buy into it. And those of us who are interested in any sort of sports conditioning better be asking many, many, questions, lest we develop programs that are not functional.

There has been so much controvery about heart rate, recently , that sometimes I hesitate to dicscuss it. As a general rule, resting heart rate for a moderately athletic female would be about 50. When I used to run marathons, mine would go down to about 47.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #29 of 53
Too many posts too little time. But here's what was going through my feeble brain as I red the first half of this topic.

You certainly can affect your edge angle with your ankles. And only 1 or 2 degrees makes a huge difference. Afterall, how much edge bevel do you use? Then, go and increase the width of the tip and tail of the ski to 105mm (typical these days), and you have a lot of platform trying to push your skis flat. If you can create a 2 degree edge with just your ankle, you are having a 4 degree effect if you let your ankles stay loose and let the snow surface flatten the ski. Four degees of edge angle is HUGE. On top of that, if you hold the edge angle stable with your ankles, it will not fluctuate as the snow surface tries to mess with the skis, making your turns much more controlled and consistant.

The hard part is maintaining that lateral stiffness of the ankle, while allowing the ankle to be supple fore and aft.
post #30 of 53

Great post. I would like to add one more ingredient to the formula. As pressure is applied to the pad under the toe, EXTEND! It is easy to do and lengthening the leg while tipping is like pouring gasoline on a fire. The tiny foot movement is the seedling and extension ignites a turn. I was lucky enough to be coached/clinic with an examiner all winter who was obsessed with getting the outside leg long. He referred to the process as skiing on one's skeletal structure. Learning decent extension really helped my skiing.
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