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Need help with alignment issue

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I'd like to ask my friends here for some help on alignment. I have spend a good amount of time these past few years reading about the topic and playing with my own (and other family member's) alignment. Instead of giving you my complete analysis and results of my own situation I would like to start out with some background and my initial impressions from a recent experience (the last 4 days!), and then go from there. Besides figuring out my own alignment I am also very interested in a better understanding of how and why "misalignemnts" can exhibit themselves in someone's skiing

I spent the last 4 days skiing at Whistler on new 175 Pocket Rockets (90 mm waist). Before this acquisition I was exclusively skiing my Volant Ti Powers (73 mm waist). With the Volants I had gone through a couple of years of alignment assessment and ended up with under binding cants of 2.5 degrees thick side out on the left and 2.0 degrees thick side out on the right. This alignment was done with Harald Harb on slope and fine tuned during the course of some early season instructor camps in previous years. I had a pretty high confidence in this alignment set-up as I tried different canting (using onhill heel wedge addition and subtraction) to zero in on these exact values. This year I did not touch my alignment during the camp. A note (perhaps of importance?)- I had my hip replaced in March of 2000 and it has continued to get much stronger and move much more naturally over the past year (since the time of my last alignment change).

Okay, the first three days with the new Pocket Rockets (with no alignemnt modifications) showed a big difference between my right and left turns. Here are my personal impressions: Turning left was done with great ease and a simple release movement. There was no indication of any need for a change from the left turn execution. On the right turns I had to work very hard to get a weight transfer without a small but noticeable "push off" to transfer weight to the left ski. It intially felt like I couldn't get forward over the center of the left ski without additional work. Along with this feeling I couldn't get on the big toe edge of my left ski effictively as I entered a right turn. For the first three days I tried to work my technique to handle this "problem" and some progress was made. However, today I skied alone and had the opportunity to play around with it a bit.

My first angle of attack was changing my fore/aft alignment on the left so I added an internal heel lift (5mm) before the day began. I know that internal heel lifts may have little effect on fore/aft balance but a previous addition of heel lifts to both boots made a very noticeable change (appearing to myself and others) and helped me to move my balance position forward. This time I received no noticeable effect. I then added a 1 degree canting wedge under the inside of my left boot heel to try and give more inside edging. This also had no noticeable affect althought in retrospect it may have made the problem a little worse. Finally, I added the wedge to the outside and voila, MAGIC. Turn initiation was much easier and more like the right. I would have definitely tried more if I had a thicker wedge to try. When I took the wedge out later in the day things returned back to the way they were.

Finally, at the end of the day I was a bit perplexed as my own tests and impressions with these new skis suggested I needed a thick side out cant on the left and perhaps none on the right. To get more data, I went over to Surefoot in Whistler village and used their in shop alignemnt assessment system. Results showed I was 2 degrees to the outside on the left and 2 degrees to the insider on the right. The left was pretty much in agreement with my previous set-up but the right was in the opposite direction. (Surefoot uses the Witheral (sp?) standard of 1 degree to the inside).

OK, so first, if you were on the slope with someone experiencing the systems I described what would you try and why? Second, how would you suggest I proceed if I want to try and work this out for myself?

BTW, I do have a model of why I eperienced the symptoms I did and how I should proceed. However, so as not to bias the discussion I would like to save these for later.

Thanks for any help or comments you have to offer.
post #2 of 13
Hi Si,
as you already know, this issue is a huge can of worms. there are so many different levels of understanding and these levels of understanding come in different schools of thought as well. With that said, it's obvious why people have so many questions and confusions about alignment. With that as a disclaimer, I'll take a shot. First, you didn't say which hip you had replaced? (the right?)
Second, I don't think you mentioned if you were using your old alignment setup with the rockets or nothing at all to begin with?

As far as my assessments. With a skier of your ability (from what I've heard from you), I like to use one footed carving as a great test. If you can get to both edges and balance without gross movements (upper body or large hip movements) then the side to side aligment is looking good. If one side is exceedingly hard, you're probably too far to the opposite side.

Anyway, sounds like you have a good understanding of what your working with, and the likelihood of finding anymore clarity without a sustained visual is poor. good luck, and congrats on the loosening and strengthening of the new hip. Amazing stuff in meds these days.

post #3 of 13
What a great topic.

Here are some ways to test your alignment.

One, Try a one footed straight run. Can you go straight on shaped skis on one foot? Or do you hook up the inside edge and begin turning to the inside?

If you can do this, can you do a one footed railroad track? Meaning arcing both sides of your ski while on one foot?

IF you can't control the turn in the first test you are probably pronating inside your boot If you pronate inside the boot it does not matter in the least what has been done to the sole of the boot or to the binding. It will not change pronation. Foot beds that are made in any type of conventional manner will be useless to control pronation. Canting inside the boot is the only way to control pronation. and place the foot in a dynamic neutral position. From here you can engage edges symmetrically. Things that Harold and almost everyone are NOT doing currently.

Most people that are involved in foot beds now have studied Podorthics. The study of walking. Walking is not skiing nor is it even close. The needs of skiing require specific peramiters to dertermine where the foot needs to be positioned inside the boot. I have lots of data to back this up. There are new answers to your questions.

I have spent years trying to use these processes of the past, and almost always havce gotten marginal results. Only when I began using internal canting have I begun finding consistant results.

Sorry about the attitude just a little wound up about this whole thing
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks Holiday and Mosh,

I was using no alignment at all on the Rockets (until I added temporary canting strips between my boot heel and binding). I did say that in my original post but given the length (sorry about that) I'm not surprised it got lost! I played around with one footed turns and had the same observation as reported for two footed turns - I could do it to both sides but it was noticably harder riding my left ski and turning to the right. The left is my non-operated hip and is still stronger than my right one with the prosthesis (although the right is still improving). Thus it should not really feel harder in any way.

I tried one footed straight runs quite a bit (there are some long run-outs at Whistler after climbing Spanky's ladder and hitting Ruby and Garnet bowls!). The "problem" that I found was that with the wide Rockets I could balance pretty readily on both skis (the advantages of fat skis!). However, straight running with the left required me to balance farther off center and this definitely improved with canting added on the outside. Holiday, your comment about not requiring gross hip movement is well taken. That is exactly how I tried to compensate for this problem the first 3 days. I was actually thinking that maybe the whole thing was a remnant of my inhibition to internal rotation of the hip stemming from years of difficulty with such movement (somehow exacerbated by switching to fat skis). However, the drastic improvement I received with the added canting told me that such was not the case (at least to a great extent - I still think I've got to conciously work on this).

I also did one footed turns but here it is difficult to compare side to side results. I'm just begining to have enough strength in the right ski to try and make a turn to the right while riding only my right ski (it really brings out the remaining weakness).

One last note, I would like to add a disclaimer in regards to my skiing ability as I worry that my current and/or past postings may paint a better picture of my skiing that is the case.
post #5 of 13
so my guess was correct, new right hip. That makes since because you said it felt so good on the rockets with no change. sounds like your right side alignment has changed since HH did your assesment, and having nothing was closer than your volant setup was. but your left was way off.

Mosh may have some good stuff for you, sounds like his expertise, but it also sounds like surefoots assesment may be darn close with the new loosness in the hip.

good luck and enjoy your tinkering.

cheers, Holiday
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
To bring this brief but helpful (at least to me) thread to some conclusion I thought I would summarize what I'm going to do in case there are other do-it-yourselfers out there who are interested.

I pretty much agree with Holiday's advice. First I'm going to add 2.5 or so degrees of internal canting inside my left boot. (I will probably contact Mosh to see if I can get some of the canting material he makes). I think I have enough cuff alignment adjustment to allow me to center my legs in the cuff with this change. Then I will ski on the Rocktets and do some alignment tests: straight run on shallow slope, one footed traverse across a slope, ...., and just ski! (I'm think I'm starting to be able to get a feel for alignment just from regular turns now that I know what good alignemnt feels like). At this point I will make any needed further adjustments.

Then I will ski on my Ti Powers (leaving the internal boot cants in on the left) and play around with external canting wedges under the heels of both sides to see where I end up. My hope is that I will probably be able to eliminate the under-binding canting strips on both skis: the left through internal canting and the right through hip replacement!

While I am hopeful (it would be wonderful to be able to demo skis and be well aligned) I have some doubts that my alignemnt will be the same on these two somewhat different skis or that I will be able to totally eliminate any canting (internal or external) on the right. If I find I need a small amount of canting on the right I will try and accomplish this internally as well. If I find a difference in alignment for the two skis I will probably try to just find a compromise that I can set up internal to my boots and leave it at that.

Thanks Mosh and Holiday

P.S. For those of you who think I'm crazy to spend time on this issue all I can say is that once you've tasted the fun and ease of skiing in good alignment you don't want to go back. Skiing in alignment cuts down both the physical and mental effort I need to use and lets me enjoy the flow, the snow, and the mountains to a much greater extent than ever before.
post #7 of 13
Very informative thread (as are most of Si's). I'm sure I would benefit more still if I understood more than just 30% of it.

Anyway, could the three of you give the rest of us a step-by-step guide how to:
1) determine if our alignment is off and 2) what we should do to correct it.

I have had my alignment checked by Snow Covers in Whistler and they put some temporary shims between my boot and binding. I can't remember how much angle they put in but I didn't notice a difference in my turning. However, I didn't experiment on groomers with each foot, on one foot, etc, etc as suggested here.

Another topic that I would love some feedback on relates to a severe right ankle sprain that happenned 16 months ago. I don't notice it while skiing but when I work out on my Skier's Edge, my right ankle seems weaker and tires more easily. More concerning still, is that it seems to roll to the inside when I am doing leg presses and hack squats. Any ideas on how or if this is affecting my skiing?

I can see from this thread that I need to spend time trying to notice differences in my turns while on relatively flat groomers.

I'm a chronic tinkerer AND I'm taking my CSIA level one course on Friday.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the nice words Worldfishnski. There are some very good references for indoor and on-hill alignment analysis. One place to go is Harb's first book. There are also some resources on the web. I have a busy day today but will try and give some details tonight or tomorrow some time if others don't provide the info first.
post #9 of 13
mosh: by internal canting do you mean shimming the heel on the inside? I have used heel shims to control pronation and my current footbeds are built up on the inside to do this.
post #10 of 13
My shim is effectively a whole foot veris wedge which means it will wedge the entire length of the foot what ever degree you place inside the boot. The fore foot is the part of the foot that controls lateral balance. So placing a wedge under just the heel can be helpful but will not really do all that much to stabilize your balance. I would recommend working under your foot bed with some duct tape to start with. Build up in equal increments under both the ball of the foot and the heel. See what happens that is how I started this whole thing. If you want I can get you some shims to play around with.
post #11 of 13
Si you already did your on-hill homework with temporary shims. Why get confused with the static clinical evaluation if you know what feels better . You have discovered the importance of the on hill stance evaluation performance center concept. Keep doing the good work.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

A valid question. Unfortunately I only had a 1 degree wedge to play with (between boot and binding) on the hill. Thus, while I learned that a thick side out cant on the left helped (and thick side in didn't) I didn't know the magnitude of the cant that would give optimal performance. I did the Surefoot thing out of curiosity, to get an approximation of the degree of canting needed on the left, and for conformation that my right foot had changed in its alignment. I don't trust the static measurement, though, (especially with an angulating platform under each foot) - the margin of error was higher than a degree upon repeated measure. Given the conformation of the static measurement I will now proceed to fine tune on hill. Thanks.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

Here are some of the assessment maneuvers I was talking about (pretty much out of Harb's book). The book has a nice table with a description of the observed behaviors for knock-kneed, corretly aligned, and bowlegged skiers. Unfortunately I don't think it's just that easy to recognize all the described symptoms from their descriptions. It is much easier once you have experience good alignment at least on one side:

Straight run on gentle slope while balancing on one foot.

Straight traverse on downhill ski while edging to hold course. (Can also be done on uphill ski).

Inside foot lifting and tipping during straight down run on gentle slope.


Responses and measures observed during release, transfer, and engagement while skiing normally also hold a lot of information on alignment and balance. Again, Harb's book gives a nice table of descriptions for the three classes of alignment.

The Athletic Skier (Warren Witherell) is probably the most referenced text in terms of assesing and correcting alignment, although I peronally think that advances have and are continuing to be made beyond this description.

A couple of websites:

Green Mountanin Orthotic Lab

Snowind Boot Balancing

Harb Ski Systems - Alignment

Ski Center (Washington DC)

Hope this helps.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 12, 2001 08:10 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Si ]</font>
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