Alignment and how it works (in brief)
(Originally written for and presented to a wily batch of ski instructors. This is reflected in the wording of the text.)
Preface a. You may not be able to address any of the following with your clients, but if you understand what is going on, you may avoid frustration borne of failure to accomplish seemingly simple tasks.
Preface b. If you accept the premise that high performance skiing is dependent on instantaneous one-footed agility, it follows that the ease with which basic one-footed tasks are executed can serve as a predictor for the success of future endeavors.
To wit, the one footed straight run, traverses across a shallow grade on either edge of either ski, one-footed flat spins without windup, and simple turns from one edge to the other without pivot or skid.
One would think that any of these should be fairly simple, and yet quite often they are not, particularly at very low glide rates.
Low velocity is the acid test.
Each of these tasks is dependent on fine motor movements of the foot and ankle, to move pressure fore and aft, to tilt the ski from one side to the other, and to blend these movements as needed for a particular outcome. Additionally, input should not be sent to the ski unless desired, which means the skier should be stacked directly atop the ski, and not biased in any one direction.
I often suggest that my ability to ride my alpine snowboard one-footed has very little to do with skill development, and nearly everything to do with careful mechanical engineering of the boot/binding interface.
To have facility at one-footed tasks requires that the articulations at the lower extremities are not compromised by boot/binding geometry. Ideally, the athlete will default to the functional (not necessarily geometric) midline of their foot on both axes, and their posture should be similarly ‘centered’ and relaxed; which implies a minimum of muscular tension.
Consider this scenario: Your foot, and your ski are engaged in an ‘arm wrestling’ match. If distinct limits are set on the range of movement, the foot may articulate along the four quadrants without impairment. If, however, the ski obtains the mechanical advantage, discretionary articulations at the ankle joint will be compromised, and the skier will be compelled to use the next available joint(s) in the kinetic chain. As discussed previously (“On Balance and Movement…)*, once the ankle joint is out of the picture, there is a cascade effect involving a drastic increase in muscle activity, which then compromises many aspects of athletic performance.
It is imperative that the ski boot and its geometry support the articulations of the foot, rather than predisposing and/or impairing those movements.
Riser plates under the bindings, and/or fixed to the boot sole can both help, and hurt, skiing performance. (As a longer lever arm is effective in both ‘directions’…)
The whole point of ‘alignment’ is to remove any obstacles to fluid and intuitive movement, obstacles created inadvertently by each individual’s unique interaction with their equipment. The ‘simple’ act of weighting either foot should not direct input to the ski.
Anything else is a sales pitch.
*Document detailing how it all works. Still in draft form, not yet published. Contact me if interested.(4/17/14)