By Dan Balkin / HoliMont Snowsports School
Well, if I had my choice, it would be in the kitchen. Who doesn’t like to peer into the fridge and start salivating? But we are using the term “room” metaphorically. I picked up this metaphor while doing a ski instructor update clinic at HoliMont a few years ago. Every two years all certified instructors must take a two day update clinic run by a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) educational staff.
Our clinician was a young PSIA examiner from Pennsylvania. At the top of one run he posed a simple question: where do you stand on your feet when you ski? This harmless question was designed to provoke the wrong answer and shatter a ski instructor cliché. Asked this question, many instructors will say “centered over your arches – in the middle of your feet.” We did not disappoint him. The “middle of your feet” was the consensus answer in our group.
Our clinic leader Eric now dropped his metaphorical bomb on us. He said to imagine each of our feet to be comprised of “three rooms.” The front room is the first third of our foot (supported by the ball of the foot and the pad of skin behind the little toe); the middle room is the center of our foot (supported by the arch); the back room is the last third of our foot (supported by the heel). Eric explained to us why our conventional wisdom (only stand in the middle of the foot) was wrong. He had our attention because he was a fantastic skier – especially in icy moguls. His grace and finesse gave him complete credibility in our eyes.
Eric said that if you initiate a turn on a steeper slope on the middle of your foot, the forces generated by the turn are often going to push you onto your heels (the proverbial “back seat”). He encouraged us to feel as if we were pressing down on the “front room” of our feet to start our turns. The cues that we feel (while initiating a turn to the right) would be the ball of the left foot and the pad of skin behind the little toe on the right foot. Another cue would be feeling pressure on the tips of our skis when initiating a ski turn.
As the turn progresses, pressure and edge angles also increase. We can absorb the pressures by flexing our legs (just like a shock absorber). In short, Eric said to start each turn with forward pressure on both feet and then settle into the middle of the foot for the remainder of the turn. The alternative is to start the turn on the arch (middle) and most likely get tossed onto the heels – a position from which most skiers can’t properly balance. If you feel you can’t pressure the front of your skis when you start a turn, you most likely need to make one of the following adjustments: #1-bring your hips up over your feet at the initiation of the turn / #2 – if that does not help, talk to one of our expert boot fitters in town about adjusting the “ramp angle” of your ski boots (proper ramp angle allows you to pressure the front of your ski, not just the middle of you ski; in other words, ramp angles influence your fore and aft balance).
All ski setups are not created equal. Different boot and binding combinations can strongly influence your fore/aft balance. With my new boots this season, I had to make some adjustments to the ramp angle in order to feel that I could pressure the front of my skis properly and not get pitched onto my heels on steeper runs. Fortunately, most après ski activities are conducted on surfaces that are quite level. If I had to think about hip position, the front room of my feet or ramp angles while sipping a refreshment – life would be complicated indeed.