Wide vs Narrow Stance (copy of post by Skiersynergy)

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Wide vs Narrow Stance (copy of post by Skiersynergy)

Postby John Mason » Wed Nov 23, 2005 10:43 pm

If you do a search of the forum on Wide Stance or Narrow Stance or any similar combination you will get lots of very good explanations and rebuttals about this issue going back to 2003. About every 5 months or so the topic comes back up again in one way or another -- kill this Hydra. Let's not rehash this again unless there really is something new to the question. When it does come back up, please just redirect the thread to the answers that are already there. Here are a few examples out of lots of writing that is already there on the subject.

Posted: Sat Nov 29, 2003 8:20 pm Post subject: stance width too wide too narrow
h.harb wrote:?What is too Wide and What is Narrow?

In an effort to define ?What is too Wide and What is Narrow?, and to determine your own most efficient stance width, you must define the extremes. Let?s have a look at Stance width, what is functional and what is philosophy?

My clients and customers come to me with much philosophy about skiing. They picked up these philosophies over a period of time from ski lessons, articles and books. I can only say based on this information, that there is much confusion in the ski teaching world and there are many skiers confused as a result. I?ll list below some of the topics that attract interpretation that might not be accurate. Much of the misinformation about these topics developed and evolved through philosophies, rather than facts. People?s personal opinions have frequently turned into skiing techniques and dogma, rather than developing from the actual facts that govern skiing. Philosophies that create confusion seem to dominate the sport, for ski instructors and skiers alike, some areas of confusion revolve around these skiing topics:

? Stance width (topic of this article)
? Weighting the inside ski
? Edging
? Countering, square or rotating the body

I will present practical information based in fact for all of these topics over the winter and I hope skiers will become involved in expressing their ideas. Stance width is so controversial it is a great place to start. There is a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion amongst skiers, instructors and coaches about the right stance width.

Let?s first look at some facts regarding stance width:

? A skier with a stance wider than their hips has to move the center of the body or center of gravity, also know as the center of mass, farther to move it from one side of the skis to the other, to achieve effective body angles.
? It is more difficult to focus balance on the downhill ski with a wide stance.
? It is easier to lose your balance to the inside ski with a wide stance.
? Unless you are a high speed skier (over thirty miles and hour) it is difficult to use the turn forces to move the body from one turn to the next in a wide stance.
? A wider stance makes the skier more knock kneed "A" framed.

None of these situations improves your skiing ability. Most of my clients are so comforted when they hear from my instructors and coaches that they don?t have to worry about widening their stance at our clinics. They tell us that all they hear when they take ski lessons is ?widen your stance?. I think coaches and instructors have gone overboard with widening skiers? stances and the results are terrible. I think partly instructors are lost and have nothing worthwhile to say or use to improve a skier?s skiing, so they harp on the stance width issue.

I recommend that skiers who have little or no balance, narrow their stance to shift balance more easily. I consider narrow about four to eight inches apart depending on the size or width of the skier?s hips. Many instructors focus incorrectly on a skier?s shoulders to determine stance width. Skiers at different stages in their skiing development may want to narrow their stance and learn movements with their ski boots together or touching. Once they have the ability to move from one ski to the other and balance on the new stance ski to begin turns they can relax the stance width. I rarely see recreational skiers balancing properly and that is mostly due to the width of the stance (too wide), the result is too much weight carried on the inside ski.

Opinions are welcome

Posted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 10:05 am Post subject: Narrow better than wide stance
Harald wrote:Stance Width

We teach skiers in the PMTS Direct Parallel method to ski with their feet relatively close together. We often teach intermediate skiers to narrow their stance. The reasons are clear and logical. A narrower stance allows for many different movements unavailable in a wide stance. Movements of expert skiers are closely related to standing with balance over and on the skis. The expert skier freely allows the hips and mass around the middle of the body (center of mass or center of gravity) to travel from one side of the skis to the other as the edges are changing. Intermediate skiers and skiers who have reached a plateau in their progress do not have that ability and don?t know how to break through to the next level. A wide stance that lowers the body into an inflexible, locked hip position does not allow for movement of the center of gravity from one side to the other. I often hear the argument that the racers ski with a wide stance. So why shouldn?t the intermediate and beginner skier? Because you can?t compare the way beginners and intermediate skiers ski to racers. First, a racer skis at speeds and develops forces that are not available to the recreational skier. Second, the racer actually skis with the feet vertically separated, but laterally close: in the turn the inside boot almost touches the outside leg.

The typical PMTS skier skis differently than the skier learning the traditional wedge progression. This is most evident when you compare their ability to balance and move the body toward the new turn at the release. PMTS skiers are advanced much earlier than traditional method skiers. We know this from the comparisons that have been studied in different ski schools. In addition we teach many skiers who abandon the traditional systems because they become frustrated with the tedious repetition of dead end movements such as stemming. This is mostly taught in conjunction with a wide stance which locks up the skier?s access to changing balance from stance foot to stance foot.

It is no wonder so many skiers rave about the Phantom Move. It immediately causes skiers to bring their feet together and change balance from one foot to the other. Ski performance becomes valid for the first time and the skis react to tipping rather than having to horse them around.

With skiers who have a working parallel turn and have used the Phantom Move and tipping, we teach them to ?two track?, as they are ready for ?two track? understanding balance and balance shift. When you teach ?two tracking? to a beginner who has no balance shift and has never tipped to engage a turn (TTS teach steering to an edge) they stagnate or plateau. Two tracking requires at no more then four to six inches of ski width.

I have come across very strong skiers who ski with their feet glued together. We do not advocate that in PMTS. We have never recommended that the skis be glued together. We use pulling the skis together in some drills to accentuate balance, but not as a stance. We do maintain that a narrower stance is beneficial to more skiers than a wide stance.

I use a wider stance width exercise to demonstrate to skiers that they can flex their legs further at the release. I have them stand with an exaggerated wide stance to feel a lower flexed leg position. I also have them tilt the old stance ski into the new turn (onto the little toe edge) from that position to have them feel resistance to tipping, they have to over come. Skiersynergy, you had some good results from that exercise.

Stance width is an individual preference and depending on alignment, body proportions and edging ability, it can vary. We do not approve of the present day instruction and coaching trend, a ?cart blanc? approach that everyone should stand really wide.

Posted: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:44 am Post subject:
tommy wrote:Ed,

I'm in no way an authority on PMTS, so others feel free correcting me. But, whatever it's worth, here's my (current) understanding of PMTS' approach to balance:

PMTS differentiates between balance and stability. Other names for the same concepts I've seen is "dynamic balance" vs "static balance".

PMTS focuses on dynamic balance, i.e. the ability to stay in balance in a non-static environment.

A wide stance will result in better stability ("static balance") like when kids learning to ride a bike using extra wheels. But on the other hand, stability is not what you primarily strive for in skiing, what you want instead is dynamic balance, which allows you to counter the forces during a run with small movements.

Like in your example with a motorcycle: A car is a stable system because its CM rests low, and between the wheels. It posesses stability, whereas a motorbike is by construction an unstable system, but can easily be kept in balance by countering the forces with relatively small movements.

I'm not good enough a skier to make a statement based on my own experience on the pros and cons with a wider stance, but I'm daring to say that when riding inlines, making very tight & quick turns, a wide stance will make it almost impossible, while a narrow stance allows you to "carve" very short turns in balance.

To connect the above back to cars vs. motorbikes, my take on skiing (and inlining) is to ride them more as a motorbike to achive dynamic balance, not as a car, striving for stability.


PS: wrt. the example with kids on bikes with training wheels: having raised 2 kids, and taught them to bike using training wheels, I noticed in both cases that they learn an "erroneous" way to turn the bike with the xtra wheels: in order to turn, they lean to the outside of the turn. And when the training wheels are removed, they have to relearn their turns to lean inside...

Posted: Fri Mar 12, 2004 8:13 pm Post subject:
hh wrote:Great discussion, I wish I had been here at the beginning. Today I was up at Loveland for race training , coaching Diana. Those who know her will be glad to hear she is skiing well enough to win the National Masters Championship in two weeks.

About narrow vs. wide stance "again'?, this stance issue is completely dependant on your balancing ability, edging and ability to stay balanced at the early part of the turn (High C) and through the turn. If your feet are wide and you have not yet learned to transfer or shift weight, a wide stance retards your progress. This is the case with most intermediate to advanced skiers and many ski instructors. To learn dynamic and energy driven shifting of balance and body position, from one side to the other, you have learn the release with what we call the phantom move or release leading with the little toe edge tipping, which is easier with a narrower stance. After you can build energy ?bend the ski? due to balance on the outside ski and a proper release, you can learn to two track with the inside ski in contact with the snow.

When I say narrow, I'll not talking about feet locked together, as Tommy already pointed out, but for learning skiers the fastest way to carving and developing more angles is through a narrower stance. Narrower offers a quicker edge shift and movement of CM into the turn at lower speeds and energy. It also gives the learner more ability to lead with the little toe edge tipping movement.

The high "C' part of the turn can not be accomplished with a wide stance (especially for those learning it to ski all mountain conditions, anything but groomed). After you have learned transfer of balance and can do it well while skiing at twenty to thirty miles per hour you can begin tilting farther with the inside ski and increasing weight on the inside ski as with the Weighted Release and double tracking.

Skiing is a game of constantly pushing your balance to a new level. Inside ski pressure can be increased once you know how to balance on the outside ski perfectly. If you can balance perfectly on the outside ski though turns you will appreciate whether or not you are losing your balance by widening your stance or increasing pressure to the inside ski. I don?t advocate feet or skis locked, unless it is for a specific need, exercise or learning purpose. But there are many of these situations on the path to expert skiing. Narrow functional stance means four to six inches apart. For those who have experienced how a narrow stance can immediately increase skiing performance, you know how much it contributed to your development of other movements and skiing on all conditions. Most skiers on the slopes ski very poorly due to their wide stance. It inhibits their progress because they are not balancing and therefore substitute foot steering, twisting and upper body rotation to compensate.

Posted: Wed Mar 17, 2004 3:14 pm Post subject: Stand corrected! or correctly
Harald wrote:I am glad to see that my efforts to educate skiers are having influence on instructors and that my demonstrations of how skiing really works are taking hold even by PSIA and PSIA followers.

In the most recent Ski Racing Magazine, Ron LeMaster does a section on balance, with photos. He talks about vertical separation of the feet rather than horizontal separation. This supports the PMTS understanding and theory of narrow stance skiing that we have been promoting for ever. In fact it does more than support what I have written and presented it is what I wrote in my Book 2.

He demonstrated Hermann and others skiing with a narrow stance with vertical separation in the turn for better balance. . He does not advocate, as he did previously a wide stance. Now according to Ron at least, the top skiers on the world cup are holding their boots close. I did not get a chance to read the article in depth but I will and will report back as to the accuracy of the article.

I first introduced this very concept of how world cup skiers ski in a presentation at the International Congress of Skiing and Science in 2000, in St Christoph, Tirol. Then I followed up on this idea in my ?Anyone can be an Expert Skier 2? book. In the book and Congress presentation we wanted to educate what a functional stance width means, because so many ski instructors and coaches were promoting the wide stance incorrectly at that time and still are.

I hope Ron?s article has additional influence and starts to bring the issue of wide stance under control.
I knew it would take some time for most PSIA instructors and many coaches to realize that the wide stance approach wasn't functional and that it would disappear after they had enough time to figure out it didn?t get results. Now Ron presents my concepts and ideas in ski racing, hopefully skiers can get back to a functional stance.

Fortunately for PMTS skiers they never had to go through these awful aberrations in skiing understanding. Don't relax too much, there are still plenty of bad skiing concepts being taught. We will eventually turn them around as well and when that happens ski teaching will be PMTS.

Posted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 5:42 pm Post subject: Studies on stance width and knee issues.
SkierSynergy wrote:One good researcher on issues of stance width is Tom Andriacchi from Stanford University. He is one of the top researchers on knee injuries and does a lot of work with these issues in bike racing. It turns out that the relationship between flexion, stance width, and lower leg totation are really important for injury issues in bikers.

More recently he gave a presentation in the Biomechanics section of the International Congress of the International Society of Ski Safety 2003. His analysis of knee mechanics in deep flexion during skiing has some interesting conclusions. The following are my interpretations of his stuff.

1. Andriacchi's data on deep flexion concludes that lower leg rotation is to some extent inherent in the action of flexing the knees. When the knees are flexed the tibia naturally rotates a bit. the extent increases with the deepness of the flex (just how much also varies among individuals). In a stance no wider than the hips, the affects are minimal. However, the effects increase dramatically as the stance widens or moves into a wedge. Flexion with either a wide stance or wedge greatly increases the rotational force while also putting most of the force on the tail of the ski.

I read this as an inevitable recipe for skidding at some point in the turn - probably the end. In order to reduce these effects, Andriacchi suggests a narrower stance with emphasis on little toe edge tipping. As far as I know he is not familiar with PMTS.

2. More importantly, his work also concludes that either a wide stance or a wedge with flexion dramatically increases stress on the ACL. Again, a narrower stance with emphasis on little toe edge tipping generally reduces stress on the knee. In addition, contracting the leg muscles to pull the leg back also reduces the stress on the ACL by reducing anterior translation of the tibia (stabalizing the head of the tibia in its more natural position).

Considering that knee injuries of various types account for approximately 30-40% of all alpine ski injuries ? and that there are probably even more complaints about sore or tired knees (especially from older skiers) one should take this advice seriously.

On this research, the traditional advice of a horizontally wide stance with flexing and inward driving of the knee is the worst thing you could do for either edge hold or knee stress; and an move toward a horizontally narrower stance with emphasis on little toe edge tipping enhances both carving hold and reduction of knee stress.

You can also see Dr Mike Langran's summary of the Congress at:


I don't think Andriacchi has published the ski paper in any journal, though he is at Stanford. I have several of his other papers dealing with these issues in bike racers. I will look for them. Originally I think I got them while doing searches under his name on the Stanford website and the sites of the international Society for Biomechanics in Sports.

Hope this is interesting.

John Mason
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