How Should I Get Forward?

Push the boot cuff, lift the toes, Push against the heel?



Here's a question for you regarding fore/aft balance.  You consistently equate f/a balance with bearing weight on the front of your foot or on your heel.  Last year I sought out some coaching and one of the main things I took away from it was the technique of moving balance fore by flexing the ankle, (is flex the right word? what I mean is moving the top of the foot toward the knee) thus putting light shin pressure against the tongue of the boot and bearing weight on the heel.

At first I was totally unable to do this as it's a completely unnatural movement pattern but with much practice I'm quite comfortable with it now.  My questions are:

Is this technique contrary to what you teach?

Is it just a more advanced technique that you don't cover in the 'basic' DVDs?

Do you think this is a valuable movement pattern?



Hi Grant,

First, don't feel funny about sending me questions.  When I sell DVD's to someone I consider them my student, and I WANT them to ask questions, because I want them to be successful.  if you look in my "ask the coach" section of my website you will see that I'm actually compiling and posting the questions I receive, so that everyone can benefit from my answers in their own learning journey.   OK,,, on with my response.

Yes, I do focus very closely on base of the foot pressure and awareness. Here's why.  Most recreational skiers don't have a sense this pressure state as they ski,  or a clear understanding of how important it is in managing balance.  So I keep hammering it home through the duration of the Fore/aft balance segments of the Building Blocks DVD's.  Managing fore/aft balance via this focus is very effective and movement efficient.  It takes very little movement to shift weight fore/aft along along the base of the foot.  Stand up and give it a try.  Stand with pressure balanced 50-50 on the balls and heels of your feet.  With very little flexing at the ankle alone, you can teeter your body forward and back, and move your weight fore and aft along the base of your feet.  Notice how little the body has to move to change your fore/aft state of balance.

The same general thing can be done while standing in ski boots. With just a little flexion in the knee to compensate for the forward lean of a ski boot, a skier can stand very relaxed in a centered state of balance, with little leg pressure on the either the front  or back of the boot cuff.  It's a very relaxing, strong, energy efficient way to stand on your skis.  From that position it only takes a very slight forward flex of the ankle to pitch the body forward such that pressure moves to the ball of the foot, and the shin pushes with only gentle pressure against the front of the boot   Again, you're in a very efficient state of balance, with the majority of your weight being supported through a strong structurally aligned body and legs.  The burden of supporting your weight is going down through a strong body structure, through your foot, and into the ground.

Now what happens if you load your heel as you flex the front of the boot cuff with your shin?  First, it can be difficult to do, because, as you say, it's not a natural position.  Second, to pressure both the heels and the front of the boot cuffs at the same time, you need to to flex your knees enough to move your hips back, so that your heels get weighted as you flex your ankles and drive your shins into the front of your boots.

The result of doing that is multifold.  The legs gets more flexed, shorter, and thus becomes a weaker mechanism for supporting your weight and the forces of the turn.  The weight you're carrying on your heels negates the extra forward force your using to bend the front of the boot, so while you're working hard to bend your boots, the net effect is not directing much load to the front of the ski.  You think you're loading the front of your skis, because you feel the front of the boots getting flexed, but you're really not,,, it's fools gold.

You can prove that fact to yourself in a safe environment at home.  Put on your ski boots and step into a pair of skis.  Now, standing tall and relaxed, in a centered balance state, simple flex your ankles forward.  Feel your weight move to the balls of your feet, yet your body remains strong and relaxed.  It's a simple and natural movement to make.  If you keep ankle flexing forward, you can put so much forward pressure on the front of your skis that, you can lift the tails right up off the carpet.

Now try the same thing while keeping all your weight on your heels.  Sure, you can flex the heck out of the front of your boots this way, but how much load are you really directing to the front of the ski?  The more you try to power into the front of the boot cuff, the harder you end up pushing  down on the heel of your foot to do it.   Go ahead, see if you can push so hard on the front of your boots while keeping pressure on your heels that the tails of the skis lifts off the carpet like they did before.  Ain't gunna happen, because your heel pressure won't allow it.  See, you're working like a trooper, but the amount of net pressure you're actually directing to the front of your ski is less than you can achieve with a relaxed ankle flexion into ball of the foot balance.

Bottom line is;  stay long and strong, ski relaxed, feel the pressure location on the base of your feet, move it about by simple and natural movements, and benefit from the positive effects such fore/aft balance management skills have on the performance capabilities of your skis.