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on-slope alignment evaluation by instructors

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I would be curious to know how many instructors here explicitly do on-slope alignment evaluation as 1) a stand alone service, 2) part of a lesson. I would also be interested to hear how those who provide such services approach (perhaps by referral?) footbed, boot setup, ramp angle, and other issues either before, during, or after on-slope evaluation.

[ December 05, 2002, 11:35 AM: Message edited by: Si ]
post #2 of 12
I do full alignments and can spot problems related to alignments on the slope. To say that I do an evaluation on slope of alignment would be a disservice. Anyone who tells you what is wrong while on the slope is fool.

One thing that I have learned about alignments is that opposites are common. Such as "I think you need a heel lift" when in fact you need a toe lift. "I think you need cants" when in fact, you need a cuff adjustment. The plain and simple truth is that you can spot a problem with the gear through skiing but giving suggestions for correction is just plain crazy. Get an evaluation from a competent alignment specialist rather than chase problems on your own.

After an alignment I will ski with that client to determine whether there are obvious problems after the alignment. Baring that I tell the person to ski on the new change for a while before making their own conclusion. Many people feel that they are skiing worse after the alignment. This is common as muscle memory still tries to compensate for their previous miss-alignment. The result is they now feel the old compensating movements and feel worse about their skiing. I can evaluate this by eye and assure them that what I am seeing is in fact funky compensation or I have missed something in the alignment process. That's not a very difficult assesment.
post #3 of 12
Pierre- I will first say I respect your opinion and add I know next to nothing about the mechanics of boot alignment. I do have a cuestion. Why would one need a cuff alignment as opposed to a cant?

This interests me very much. I'm now skiing on a binding that has the toe raised two mm. It is still lower than my heel but not by much. I was trying to decrease the angle of my tib fib in an effort to increase the amount my upper body is bent over the front of my ski. I used to stand very upright. I'm also inside canted (raised) one degree under foot. Seems to help with a quick "hookup" of my edges while carving.

Hope to ski with you this winter.
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

I am certainly no expert but as a knowledgable "client" I think I view things quite differently. In some ways it's the off-slope "alignment" specialists I wouldn't trust unless they incorporate an on-slope evaluation. In the best case I would like to have footbed and boot setup (cuff angle, ramp angle, forward lean) evaluated before going out on the slope. Once on the slope I would look for an instructor/alignment specialist to fine tune ramp angle, cuff angle, lateral canting, and maybe even binding position (if possible with Tyrolia, Atomic, or demo bindings). Also, I have been present at three different alignment sessions during different Harb instructor camps and never saw anyone feel uncomfortable with an improved alignment setup. In fact before and after videos usually showed obvious improvements with skiers saying they could feel the improvement immediately. However, there is probably a strong interaction between technique, skier level, and alignment that may explain the difference between your experience and the couple of dozen cases I've observed. Because of this I also feel that an on-slope alignment evaluator also needs to be a very competent instructor.
post #5 of 12

I have been a student of many different systems of alignment. I worked in the Witherall world for a while, and when I got to Aspen I worked with the Harb left overs. Both systems are similar. Both worked from Center of Knee mass over center of ski while on 2 feet. In both situations I did on snow evals before and after the changes that were made. Yes there are immediate changes that occur, and they are easy to feel. My question is this, Is this change correct? Meaning yes you feel different but is that difference the best possible place or is it just plain different?

What I witnessed during these many on snow evals was an attempt by me, or who ever was making these changes to convince the person that what they did, worked really well. Stuff like, "Wow look how much better you are skiing now". What I witnessed was lets say someone was bowlegged, after corrections they may be less bow legged but they still can’t get on the edge the way I think people should be able to. So unless the situation is set up in a manner that provides more objective tests and less subjective mind guiding then the drill is a moot point.

In conclusion, Evaluations are great to do if you can, but be weary, listen carefully to what the person is saying to you before and after. Are they leading the witness? or are they looking with an objective eye?

As far as the inside first or second thing, which came first the egg, or the parrot. I guess you would probably not go talk with an alignment guy unless someone suggested it to you after seeing something suspicious in the moves while skiing. Yes?
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Those are great points that I really agree with. The point about convincing the student of improvements is true for alignment as well as general instructional situations. It is in fact one of the main reasons I don't participate in much formal instruction even though I have great interest and desire to learn and understand skiing. I believe (at least for myself) that the goal of alignment or technique instruction/evaluation should be to guide someone to becoming their own best instructor (or alignment specialist, or whatever). The difference between working with someone (whether it be skiing, tennis, etc.) as a peer as compared to being a "student" has been in my experience like night and day. It is why I have been much more willing to participate in an instructor's camp as opposed to a high end clinic or lesson. Another place where this seems to happen more often is in skiing in steep or free skiing camps with experts who are not necessarily "formal" instructors.

Given that, I think that I am at a point where I really can feel the difference in my alignment side to side and know where I'd like to be. But it is also why I am not willing to completely trust the opinion of another without understanding and feeling whatever the goal is, for myself, especially in accepting a permanent solution (in alignment or technique). That is not to say I am not willing to extensively experiment based on the advice of others, however.

If you asked me who, of the instructors here on Epic I would most want to ski with it would not necessarily be the most experienced or knowledgable. It would be those who demonstrate the ability to work with other skiers as peers and have the ability to create opportunity to let them learn to teach themselves. In my experience, this is truly a rare breed of person who can do that.

As an obvious compliment I would say that you seem to demonstrate that ability in your posts and communications with me.
post #7 of 12
I get a fair amount of referals by word of mouth do do specific alignment assesment and/or to performance fine tune someones alignment after footbeds, boot adj, cants, etc.

The alignmet cycle (for both ballpark and refinment) goes:
assesment, footbeds, boot fore/aft, boot cuff, canting.
(ref. Witherell/Evrard - "Then Athletic Skier")

If first assesment is on snow, I look for symptoms of alignment issues. Skiers develop some generalized compensating movemet patterns as their bodies responce to being over or under edged. (i.e. over edged: unweight bank/rotate etc., underedged: a-frame abstem knee tuck etc.)
When I see these patterns exhibited, I try to get some history and more information to determine just what is the root cause before jumping to alignment conclusions.

IF skier has had any footbed, boot, cant adjustments made, What?
If changes are receint, we need to determine if the old movement habits still dominate or if can they change (old alignment) movements with fresh understanding of what more efficient movements are now avaliable? Or are further adjustments need?

If I have suspisions, I'll first do simple balancing assesment using straight run on each foot and big/little toe one ski traverses. If alignment issues are apparent, I make sure there is and understanding of the need to go thru the complete alignment cycle and the we don't try to wag the dog by the tail.

I carry pocket wedges to test "what if" cause/effect scenarios and create better understanding of scope of need. If there is no footbeed, a wedge test may only confirm that there is an issue, but not specifically what it is (footbed? boot cuff? cant?). However, if the cycle has been completed, I can affect changes in movements and performance with 1/4 to 1/2 degree adjustments for fine tuning their alignment package.

I have a great high tech local shop that I've worked with for years in development of their alignment services. I send people to them for alignment, and they send people me for lessons and fine tuning. I worked with them over this past off-season to get set up to do boot sole planing as an alternative to cants for their substancial high-end Jr. racer clients and area Pros.

Unfortunatly, for as much science is involved in the process, due to the vast physiological (and sometimes psychological)variables involved from individual to individual there are only general, not specific, formulas. Bringing all the factors into synergy to really optimize performance potential is both a craft and an art form. But is is worth the effort to get it right.

My favorite chapter in the Athletic Skier is one page long.
The 80/20 rule of alignment.
The first 80% of changes gain 20% in preformance.
The last 20% of adjustments gain 80% in performance.

Finding the last 1/4 degree in my alignment was like losing 20 pounds and recovering 20 years of youthful agility.

We all take for granted getting an alignment to optimize the relationship of our car's suspension components when it shudders, pulls or mis-handles, why accept flying down mountains on high tech equipment without it working in a highly tuned relationship with our bodies?


[ December 06, 2002, 09:30 AM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Sounds like my ideal! Just curious, what's the range of cost for a full alignemnt between both you and the shop you collaborate with on this. Seems to me that cost is still a great barrier for many skiers in this regard.

BTW, having skied with you I put you in the rare breed of instructors who works well with skiers as peers.
post #9 of 12
Thank you Si,

But, color me gone till the 15th, I'm about to catch a flight to Denver to go coach a camp at Copper Mt. next week for a gang of mid-west instructors. Looking forward to skiing "in" the snow instead of just "on" it.

Incidentally, we will be exploring the on snow alignment assesment process as part of our program with this group.

So, I'll get that info and send you a PM when I get back and see if we can hook up somewhere, sometime and get you dialed in.
post #10 of 12
You can respectfully disagree with what I said but everyone else has pretty much said the same things. "You can spot the need for alignments on the slope but in the absence of an off snow alignment you cannot suggest any specific corrections". I stand by that statement but I missunderstood the tone of your original post. I guess I read it as "should instructors be doing this out on the hill?" The answer to that is no, a good instructor will send his student for a thorough off snow alignment evaluation. In re-reading the original post that clearly was not your intention. You question was "who does this?" not "should this be done by instuctors?" That said let's go to something that you said.

Once on the slope I would look for an instructor/alignment specialist to fine tune ramp angle, cuff angle, lateral canting, and maybe even binding position (if possible with Tyrolia, Atomic, or demo bindings).
Now that the tone is understood I am assuming that our customer has had a competent off slope evaluation with all corrections made. Our customer is no doubt very technical and wants absolute perfection. There are really only two questions on snow to answer.

Question one, was the off snow alignment done properly? and the only way to really determine this is to check everything off snow again. If its the evaluator's alignment, he should know if its correct. If the customer says yes, he is comfortable with the off snow alignment process, then proceed to question number two.

The second question is fine tuning the under binding cant situation.

It is very difficult in an off snow evaluation to get the true under binding cant determined to better than about 1 degree, that is, measuring accurately the flatness of the ski. The problem with measuring flatness accurately is that people wiggle and upset high resolution protractors making them near impossible to read or the resolution of a readable protractor is no better than about +/- 1/2 degree. The second problem is that the off snow evaluation is static and in the real world skiers have some degree of slop in the hips, knees and boot liners. On snow cant evaluations try to get a good compromise considering all the dynamic factors at work that are not present in the off snow alignment process.

I guess I should also say that in most situations, the off snow alignment specialist should be able to build the footbeds good enough to get the customer within 1 degree of cant in 9 out of 10 situations.

Now back to the on snow evaluation. In order to correct for very fine adjustments in cant, you need a customer would is at a fairly advanced level in skiing and can perform some things like, one footed skiing. Lower level skiers are not capable of Skiing maneuvers that readily show the need for fine tuned cants. This same customer must be very good at the touchy feely stuff in their own skiing. Most skiers couldn't tell you if something felt worse or better in the less than a 1 degree cant situation. A racer or someone with very good technique can tell you this difference but no Joe Blow. The evaluator, as Roger says, must be knowledgeable enough to ask the right questions, evaluate the customer's skiing and carry some partial cant pieces to put between the boot sole and the binding. The customer must understand that while the cant pieces are under their boots, in their bindings, the saftey of the binding may be compromised. I let the customer put the cant pieces under the boot themselves. With a few hours of fiddling on some good corduroy, a good evaluator can fine tune things pretty well.

[ December 06, 2002, 04:56 PM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

All disagreement retracted. We are right in line (sorry about the pun!). Sometimes it's easy to misconstrue in these forums.
post #12 of 12
Pierre - Had canting done by Surefoot - who assured me that I had no canting problems. They also put me on a footbed that was about 3/4cm longer than my foot (bootfitter pointed this out when I got my last set of boots & said - why is this like this?)

Now I KNOW that with 2 degrees of shim out under my right heel I INSTANTLY ski better - MUCH BETTER. Stuff I have struggled with becomes easy with that change.
Pretty strange seeing as that foot is my PROBLEM foot & that knee wanders in A LOT everytime I lunge without an ORTHOTIC(corrective) under it(Not a footbed - a REAL TRUELY ORTHOTIC made unweighted)

WHY should I trust another shop like Surefoot to perform an 'alignment'? Or make me a footbed with their 'smoke & mirrors' systems?
So far EVERY bootfitter I have spoken to still wants to have my foot aligned straight by jamming it into a ski boot that has foot & ankle in line - while mine are not.

WHY should any of them believe I will trust them - I am bordering on chasing an Oziceskater who makes skates to see if he can help.
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