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How best to teach fore-aft weight transfer

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
*PetPeeveWarning /ON*

With respect to fore-aft weight transfer, for decades, I have heard instructors tell their students: "flex your ankles", "make your shin really press against the tongue of your boots", etc.

I feel these are woefully inadequate descriptions that will not unambiguously lead the student into weighting the forebody of the ski (if that is what is desired), or allow the student to achieve the very desirable goal of developing sensory feedback to the point where they immediately realize (even in a stressful situation) when he is forward, centered or in the "backseat".

The problem I have with these "classic" descriptions is that even by following them exactly, a student can flex his ankles as much as is humanly possible, and/or press his shin on the tongue of the boot till he abrades off all his leg hair, but still not move his center of mass one millimeter fore or aft, and hence, not change the fore-aft pressure distribution of the ski on the snow.

One student in a class might accidentially change his fore-aft CM position in the desired way by following these directions, but the rest of the class may not, and they simply will become frustrated when they realize they can't do or experience what the teacher is asking them to do/experience.

I feel that these two mantras should pretty much be eliminated from ski teaching, and replaced by:

1) More accurate instructions - e.g., something like "lean forward until you feel your toes pressing down on the front of your ski boot and your heel trying to come up out of it...next, lean backwards until you feel the inside of your boot pressing on the top of your foot and the back of your calf", and;

2) Exercises (which, in all fairness, are sometimes done already) to "try to lift the tail of your ski...next...do whatever you can to lift the tip of your ski off the snow...next...do the same things over and over using less and less force each time so that you feel what this feels like even when you are just a little foreward or a little back on your skis".

*PetPeeveWarning /OFF*

Thanks everyone ... I've needed to vent my spleen on this topic for years.


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[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited July 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 19
The best way I like to teach students how fore/aft balance is by completly unbuckeling their boots for a run on green terrain, this shows the students where they have to be in order to stay up on the skis and still be able to turn them. This excersize I usually use for beginner to intermediate classes but on occasion have a few advanced classes do this for a run or so on more challenging terrain, usually if there are a few students getting in the back seat under steeper terrain. steeper being blacks with a fairly skied out surface.
But I do agree sometimes it is hard to convey a message or an idea to the students, I usually try to give at least 2 different types of senarios and demonstrations for any particular skill.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Pierre eh! - To answer your question, my initial post started out trying to elicit suggestions as to the best way to express/describe the sensations of fore-aft balance to a student. I then started thinking about all the lousy descriptions of this I have heard over the years, got ticked off, and my post degenerated into a minor rant (grin). Thanks for humoring me.

With respect to the vague exhortation, "Bend ze Knees", don't get me started. I keep myself calm only by thinking about the humorous but dated "...ten dollars pleeze" sequel to this statement.

BTW, I've been curious about your name since I joined this group. If it doesn't compromise any state secrets, what's the story behing the "eh!"?


BobB - I consider myself in good company if this subject is one of your pet peeves as well. Not only do I consider shin pressure to be not adequately precise, I consider it to be out&out wrong if someone thinks that shin pressure gives you any feedback on fore-aft CM weight shifts.

I once had an argument with another good skier / instructor about this. I finally converted him over to my point of view by bringing two bathroom scales out to the ski area the next weekend, putting one under the forebody of my skis and the other under the tails, and showing him that I could put huge amounts of pressure on the tongue of my boots without changing the reading on the scales by one iota. Conversely, I also demonstrated to him (again, using the scales) that if I needed to, I could make huge changes in fore-aft balance without changing the flex of ankle at all.

I totally agree with you that the bottoms (and tops) of your feet are much more useful for this sort of balance sensing.

With respect to your statement, "You can't MOVE forward when you're already PRESSING forward," its a minor point, but I have to disagree slightly. I personally like to keep light pressure on the tongue of my boots almost all the time. I maintain it at a light level by using the muscles around my ankles. Should I need to flex my ankles more, I can still do so since there is still plenty of compliance in my boots in the forward direction. Should I need to stand up straighter, there is backwards movement also available from this position. I certainly don't rest all my weight on the tongues of my boots. If I did that, then, as you correctly pointed out, I would never be able to flex my ankles any farther forward.


Spyder - IMO, unbuckling is a superb exercise to show students the neutral balance position. However, I think that after they have learned this, it is extremely important for them to learn how to read the sensory signals coming from their legs and bodies which tell them if they are away from this position of neutral balance. Because of the constant changes in fore-aft balance that skiers are subjected to, this kinesthetic perception must become completely automatic and accurate for them to become good skiers. I think that because such "signals" are not intuitively obvious, it is important to sensitize these more advanced students to the feelings from their feet by making them intentionally put weight forward and back.

Gotta go guys. Thanks for the good discussion.


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[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited July 15, 2001).]</FONT>
post #4 of 19
I went to the most "upright" boot on the market last year in an effort to stand tall and stay off the front of my boot. I too can testify there is little reason to "pressure/leverage the front of a ski boot.

I have long had an idea for a "training device". It is along the same idea as unbuckling. Why not take an old pair of boots and cut off the cuff? Turn it into a veritable snow clog. I think one would quickly find the "sweet spot" on a ski.
post #5 of 19
As Mr. Barnes has stated, shaped skis really don't require you to "pressure" forward. (Not to mention, pressure can no longer be classified as something we EXERT, but should be thought of as something that HAPPENS. We then must MONITOR and REGULATE it.) The sweet spot on the ski lies direcly underfoot, not in front of it. The skis do, however, require the skier to maintain a centered, balanced stance.

One way I've thought of generating an understanding of Pressure control is to have students ski a few turns while keeping all ten toes up and off of the footbed... without explaining why. Then we ski a little with all 10 toes pushed down. A little exploration and discussion afterwards allows the student to become aware of what is going on inside his/her boots. By keeping the toes up, most students will be more able to feel an effective "closing" of the ankle and the ability to remain what is commonly called "forward". "Forward" simply means "not back" in my opinion, because we are searching for a natural, centered stance. Stand up and try it right now. Push your toes down into the carpet and try to bend your ankle... Give it everything you've got. (Pretend you're really trying to DIG IN on that icy slope!!!) If you were skiing right now, would you be able to regain balance if your skis were get ahead of you? Now lift your toes and try bend your ankle. Which is easier?(By the way, I don't recommend DIGGING IN on an icy slope.) The looser ankle should allow you flex/extend more accurately and viola! We have pressure control. (Or at least a start in the right direction.)

By freeing up the ankle joint and relaxing the legs, the body can be more supple and pro-active with the flexion and extension movements. (for those of you unfamiliar with the term flex/extend, think of your legs as shock absorbers... When we flex we get shorter, when we extend, we lengthen and get taller. Fairly vague description without a demo, but I'm getting tired.) We can explore in that realm of movement and maybe make things a little easier on ourselves. Instead of trying to tighten up and EXERT pressure, we should instead relax and respond to the pressure that HAPPENS to us. That change alone has revolutionized my skiing. I don't suck nearly as bad now as I did before.

Just my 2 cents.

Spag's quote of the day:
"I don't wanna fall in line... become another casualty of society."
-Sum 41-<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Notorious Spag (edited July 15, 2001).]</FONT>
post #6 of 19
Spyder, encouraging students to skiwith boots "completely unbuckled" is a good way to find out how good your liability insurance is. You disconnect the skier from the most important part of his safety equipment, the binding. You also run the slight risk of having a booted ski go racing down the hill with no brakes.
post #7 of 19
I once had an instructor switch my boot setting from "ski" to "walk," without explaining why he did it. All it did for me was get me very, very angry.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #8 of 19
Spag, I just re-read your post. First of all, you are about to become an SSD. How can you s**k at all?

I really, really like what you said about foward meaning "not back", and looking for a centered neutral stance. I do find that this concept varies greatly amongst different instructors. In class where the instructor has me be slightly more upright and vertical, I am comfortable, and do not have a problem with going into the "backseat".

But when I am asked to be extremely foward, I somehow have an opposite reaction of "going back".

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #9 of 19
The slope of the hill is very green for the beginners/intermediates, were talking just enough to move. for the more advanced classes they have a pretty good understanding of what balance is but may not be able to truly understand it until they see how they really use it, off the subject here a little... anyways I have never had a runaway ski boot combo or an injury in a class, common sence is taken when giving these excersizes to match what the student can do already and the terrain at hand.

understanding balance is also a tool used for most all intermediate/advanced classes, and touched on for all beginning classes. I saw a demonstration by a clinician a few yrs back where he had us stand on one foot and imagine that we were standing on a brick balancing, then imagine what we would do and react if the brick was 100 feet in the air, and moving. this puts all the weight on one foot so the student can feel where the weight is moving around the boot, I ask questions about what they are feeling and how it will relate to their skiing. As we begin the next run an emphasis is put on what the feet are doing, how are they tipping flexing and how the body is reacting to these movements. There are a few more parts to this but this is a pretty good overview.
post #10 of 19
Lisamarie, I only said what I said because I believe that in order to improve, we musn't think too highly of ourselves. No one is tougher on me than me. (Except maybe Robin) Just a guess here, but when you are asked to be "extremely forward", I'd be willing to bet that your next natural reaction is to try and maintain balance - by pushing your toes down into the bottom of the boot and holding yourself up. If that happens, you may be pushing yourself back. Maybe explosively sometimes, especially when you are in motion and the skis tend to shoot forward unexpectedly. Check out the exercise below.

Spyder, I like the brick analogy: here's another one that applies to Stance, Balance and Pressure control. I learned this one a couple years ago and it seems to make sense. It's easy to visualize, and it makes use of imagination, which is important...

Pretend you're running downhill in your ski boots, and there is a plastic lunch tray placed in the snow exactly where one of your feet is going to land. Your forward momentum carries you onto the lunch tray and it, your foot, and you begin to slide. Any forward lean, lateral push, or aft motion will "squirt" the tray from underneath and you will land on your melon.(ouch!!) We must think about going with the lunchtray and allowing our skeleton to stay in alignment so that we can safely move through the sliding of the lunch tray and successfully step onto our other foot.(Turn initiation?) Once you ID where that Place is that you are standing without getting folded by the tray, you can use it in your skiing. Think of every turn as a step down the hill, and every step gets a lunch tray.

Pretty involved mind game, but it's fun to dork around with so that you can find your own center! Plus if you get enough lunch trays, the lunch Lady will give you an extra chocolate milk! Bonus!

Ski...or be skied. <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Notorious Spag (edited July 15, 2001).]</FONT>
post #11 of 19
Funny, as I have been reading this thread...I have come back to the lunchtray gig too! That was the best description I have heard of the lunch tray idea! Milty would beam!
One of the greatest epiphanys I have had in recent years was discussing the LT analogy at Edwin, while analysing WC slalom repeatedly. You could see the Slovanians stepping subtly from one to another...while the Norte Americanos (particularly Bode Blowup)and the former 1st seed were leveraging and launching! Great post Spaggy! Hi to Michelle!
post #12 of 19
One of the best things I've tried for getting centered - skiboards- try getting forward on those things and you will figure it out real quick ! Great teaching tools, give 'em a try !
post #13 of 19
Spag - Excellent post! I had been told, for soooo many years, that I needed to be more forward, and to "pressure the balls of my feet". All that ever did, was make me open my ankle joint and either push myself back, or make it impossible to catch up when I got back. Just think... you're weight was fine, then it got just a bit back. How, on God's little green Earth, is pressuring the balls of your feet, going to get your weight back where it belongs??!! It wasn't until I figured out, on my own, that I needed to relax my ankle so that the joint would be able to close, that I started to ski in balance more than 50% of the time. Not only that, but by standing this way, you are on a flat foot, not balanced precariously on the front of your foot, giving you a much larger balance platform, making much easier to maintain proper balance. There are other benefits to this also. Like the fact that it allows you to flex the boot cuff more easily, meaning that your ankles have a larger range of motion for balance and pressure applications. If you can't flex the boot, as BobB says, all the front of the boot does is to push you back. And if you need to absorb a great deal, and you can't bend at the ankle, you end up with your hips 2 feet behind your boots.
post #14 of 19
Yes JohnH, that's pretty much it. your description of the larger, more stable platform fits right in with my philosophy. To add to it, I'll also say that when we allow the ankle to relax and stand on our whole foot, we don't squash all the blood from our toes. I've been there before and found that my feet become these unfeeling clubs with no ability to process feedback from the snow. As the day progresses (or even just minutes) that tension in the toes can migrate all the way to your shoulders. Now I have to really work! I thought skiing was supposed to be fun! Tension in the feet from "getting forward" can definitely ruin your day.

Spag's quote of the day:
"Hiya Shaldeen. My name's Todd. It's Italian for 'Extra Special'."
- Steve Martin in "My Blue Heaven"-
post #15 of 19
My morning warm-up for years has included skiing with my boots unbuckeled, often just slowly buckling them as the morning wears on - sometimes just leaving them loose if I'm really feeling centered that day. The top of a boot has always felt to me like a powerful tool when used right, but more often used as a crutch.

Unfortunately - lawyers and insurance companies have frightened owners so that you can't do this with students at many ski areas. And not even with instructors in a clinic at many places, which is a shame because its such a direct and to-the-point exercise.
post #16 of 19
An Aussie trainer worked with me on this. Once unbuckled, and used to it, our clinic group proceeded to leave one ski off, and skied unbuckled on one foot.

On greens, thank goodness. With his help, I discovered that my alignment for my right leg was incorrect. And got it fixed.

We dissavowed all knowledge of our actions, as our pre-conceived notions about our balance "self-destructed" in two runs, and we were all the wiser for it.

This is a great balance refinement tool for balanced, advanced skiers. Don't do this with poorly balanced (low level) skiers, and be careful about not having a footbed and/or too large of a boot. If the foot is able to move around too much inside the boot, you can break things in a fall... Be careful!

Of course, I'd rather work with phantom moves now anyway...

Hey what's down this run? SnoKarver

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[This message has been edited by SnoKarver (edited July 16, 2001).]</FONT>
post #17 of 19
A race coach friend of mine was failed at a PSIA Level III (Part II - Teaching & Prof Knowledge)) Exam back in March 96 specifically because he offered the boots-unbuckled drill as a group exercise. He knew something had gone wrong when, after he did the demo, all the fellow examinees skied down with their books *buckled* at the examiner's order. Then, at the award (or rather in my friend's case, non-award) ceremony, the examiner came up to my friend and specifically told him that he had definitely been on track to receiving a passing grade for that day, but then he had to do the strictly verboten boots unbuckled drill ....

As you might guess, my friend and I no longer have any involvement in PSIA examinations.
post #18 of 19
Lawyers and insurance companies - not the PSIA at fault there. It does invalidate the safety features of the boot/binding interface when they are loose. Of course ironically I've heard it may increase the chance of ankle injury but decrease the chance of knee injury . . . which would you prefer?! Anyways its a great exercise, and I've looked down before after skiing hard in steeps/moguls and realized my boots were still unbuckled! Those are good days!
post #19 of 19
That's unfortunate Jonathan. By '96 It was pretty taboo to unbuckle the boots. Whoever was responsible for training your friend for his exam should've caught it... or the "quality control" guy/gal at your ski area should have erased it from his lesson plan.(we tend to bring our lessons with us to exams) I'm bummed that we lose professionals that way.

"Sick with the Beijing Flu"
-Bif Naked "I Bificus"-
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