For/aft movements to acquire balance

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For/aft movements to acquire balance

Postby h.harb » Wed Jan 28, 2004 2:58 pm

Fore Aft Balance in Movement

As I have said before, I?d love to add comments and help with all these questions on the forum, but right now I?m in the middle of organizing presentations for the next ?International Congress of Skiing and Science?, which is in Aspen, CO, in March.

I am also testing a new product for ski boot, boot boards that we have invented and developed at Harb Ski Systems. I will be traveling in the next few days and weeks to test and introduce these boot boards to the new Head boots for next season. The new boots from Head, by the way, are excellent. This is the most comprehensive line for ski boots I saw at the ski show in Vegas, I just returned.

For/Aft balance:

Controlling and staying in perfect natural for/aft balance while skiing fast GS or slalom turns is an athletic skill bestowed on few individuals. It took me many years of serious training in my racing years to find answers to this problem in my own skiing. It is essential for racers to manage for/aft balance, as when you stay forward for the whole turn, they are slow in races. This of course is less of a problem for recreational skiers. Racers must learn not only how to get forward quickly, but also how to get pressure back through the middle and heel of the foot to accelerate the skis. Notice I say pressure to the heel rather than back of the ski. When you feel the pressure or balance on the back of the ski it is already too late to save the turn.

The definition of ?for to aft balancing? relates to constantly moving and changing relationship of the hips to or over the boots or feet. Commanding this relationship is accomplished by monitoring the sensations relayed from the bottom of the feet, front and side of the shins to your brain. To a lesser degree, but important is tip engagement and ski behavior and that can be felt and realized by the relationship of the body in space and time. Once you have trained yourself to know where you are in space (relationship of hips to slope and skis to the falline) you can be active with adjusting the degree and duration of extreme forward pressure, which is based on hip position and/or feet to hip relationship.

How do you develop this ability? The easiest way you can arrive at the beginning of a turn with proper hip over the feet position is to use the energy from the previous turn to launch you into the optimal position. When you achieve energy enough to do this, you must then learn to organize the body into the feet and hip relationship during what I call ?the float? between turns. As with much of skiing the question becomes, what comes first (chicken or the egg) the energy or the proper positioning of the body/feet to begin turns? To get the energy to achieve enough float between turns to organize yourself for the next turn, depends on how you exit the last turn. So how do get it if you don?t have the energy from one turn to the next? You have to first learn how to move the hips so they are ahead of the feet at the ?High C? (description of high C turn is in articles on the Real Skier member web site) part of the turn. This can be also said in this way: move your feet (back) so ?the hips? are in the proper position for the new turn.

I describe this in both my books as, ?bring the feet back or pulling the feet back?, to hold them under the hips as the hips move forward and into a more direct route to the next turn. The hips move forward relative to the feet. This movement sequence is first trained and learned by performing simple exercises on the flats.

Stand in an upright comfortable position; pull your boots or feet back by sliding the skis and leaning forward with the hips. Now push the feet forward so they end up in front of your knees. Now practice this on the flats until you have strong movement of the feet both back and forward under the hips. The skis have to slide back at least six to twelve inches. Now this is a gross exaggeration of the movement you need to make if you have the ?float? energy from the last turn. This exercise is skiing static, and with the body vertical on the flat, which is very different than moving dynamically and inclined on the slope.

The ?pulling of the feet back? between turns is done during the transition. It is part of the flexing movement of the legs. If you are still pushing off and extending upward to release yourself from turns you will not have success using this method of releasing between turns. This move requires that flexing is the way you release. (Flexing, bending or retracting the legs is explained in Expert Skier 2).

About monitoring sensations:
When you have the knees flexed or bent, pulling the feet back is easier as the hamstring muscles have more leverage from this higher degree of bend. Many skiers respond by saying they don?t feel pulling the feet back or they don?t understand how to achieve pulling the feet back, often because of the reasons I stated earlier. When you are in the optimal position for the beginning of the turn you will feel you hips applying pressure to the front of the boots through the shins. If your hips are too far back your knees will not affect pressure to the front of the boots. Being in proper for/aft balance at the beginning of turn is about where you position the hips not about pushing the knees into the boots.

The role of the skis;

The skis travel ahead of the feet while the body is in transition. But the skis should be tilting to their new edge angles as they travel the wider rounder line than the hips. The hips travel the shorter more direct line to be inside the arc the skis describe. All this occurs during the ?high C? part of the turn. When the skis are aimed straight downhill, half the turn is complete. Most skiers begin their edging at this point that?s why they have difficulty staying forward on their skis. Getting forward is done during or at the upper or High C part of the turn.

A few comments about ski to hip relationship through the turn:

There is no need to push the feet ahead during the carving or arcing phase of the turn, they will more with a natural acceleration that the slope provides. If you are on very steep terrain you may need to hold the feet back under the hips through more of the upper radius and let them go near the end, to release the turn. Great skiers know instinctively how long to hold onto the feet while the feet are under the body. For this reason you never see a great skier out of balance or slipping on ice, as the ski is always inline with Cm pressure and the their body mass is lined up with the ski. If your body mass, hips or center are behind the feet you can not engage and pressure the ski (at least not for very long).

While in the turn use the flexing and pulling back of the free foot and ankle to add forward positioning to your body. Extending the inside leg has no benefits, as this will move the boot forward and reduce body angles to the slope.

When you begin training these movements and monitoring your experience, work with larger turns on moderate slopes at the beginning. The movements will feel contrived and mechanical at first, but you will find you will be able to work through that phase and produce a huge change in your skiing if you stick with it. I have done this process with many developing racers that went on to great achievements.

I know there will be many questions about this advice and I may not be able to respond for some time, so respond to each other?s questions and work through this while I am gone. Thank you for your interest and participation and I hope this helps to clear up some confusion about proper for/aft balancing.

HH boot boards and new Head skis

Postby Guest » Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:41 pm


When you have some time I'd be interested in hearing about your new boot boards! Also, are there any links on-line to the new Head boots you are referring to?


boot boards

Postby hh » Mon Feb 02, 2004 11:03 am

We are building and testing our boot board modifications for selected racers and skiers.
This product can either be used as a retrofitted modification to existing ski boots, boot-boards or as a complete, stand-alone revolutionary approach to building ski boot boot-boards. The boot board allows skiers to produce stronger edging and achieve better grip on snow or ice. The BB allows the foot/ankle to articulate and become more effective inside a ski boot to edge and hold the ski edge. No training, lessons or changes in one?s skiing are necessary to benefit from this product.

We are finding that for the rigid, supinated foot our boot board modifications are very effective. Erik Schlopy has a rigid foot, and used our boot board modification last season and found it to his liking. He requested I double the material for his second pair of boots. The modification offers stronger engaging and ski hold without chatter. (Phil Mahre calls Erik the best technical skier on the US Ski team. Erik won the second run of the World Championships last year by 2 seconds. He ended up with the Bronze medal. He is presently recovering from knee surgery.)

Pronators using our BB are also finding better edge engagement, but only after they have a footbed designed to control excessive movement. We believe that our modifications will help thousands of skiers who have inappropriate rigid footbeds. Our boot board allows even the rigid footbeds to gain some foot use. Of course our message for years has been to discard the rigid footbed and free the foot so it can help engage the ski. Many skiers are not finding the feeling of edge power, carving, or holding because they can?t engage the foot (therefore the ski) with a rigid footbed. The rigid footbed locks the foot. Our boot board modification finally gives the rigid foot some alternative it didn?t have.

Postby gravity » Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:36 pm


H starts an in depth discussion of balance and no one bites. C'mon, you guys. You're all about super duper technical discussions when a peer has a skill related problem but you don't bite when H comes on with... only the most important kinetic aspect of skiing that there is. :roll:
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Postby gravity » Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:45 pm

Here... I'll throw out a question for you guys to bite.

Within the context of what H has said above, do you think that a drill for students learning this aspect might incorporate shedding the skis and running the line you would ski with only your boots on?

There's something very naturally ingrained in most athletic people when it comes to using just the feet. You can start there and then add the skis and see if they can mimic the balance and control they had sans skis.

What says you?
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Re: HH boot boards and new Head skis

Postby gravity » Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:46 pm

Anonymous wrote:Harald,

When you have some time I'd be interested in hearing about your new boot boards! Also, are there any links on-line to the new Head boots you are referring to?


Yo Mike,

Your question would be a great opportunity for you to start a new topic. :)
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Postby Bluey » Wed Feb 11, 2004 4:17 am


I don't feel I can authoritatively comment on your suggestion...... to leave the skis behind and run the line with only your ski boots on...other than to say on the face of it, I don't think it would help me, but as I've never tried it I can't say.......
Have you done it?
Have you seen it done within / by ski lesson groups?
What were the outcomes?

In respect to your other point about no one responding to HH's post in this thread....... I think you have to be aware that there was, at the time of HH's post, already a similar thread going simultaneously in respect to the topic of balance which was intiated by dawgcatching viz. "Trouble getting back to the front of the boot....". It's still going.

I think you have to read both threads together to see the full picture.
I don't think anyone was ignoring/shying away from HH's comments above, rather, IMHO, we were trying to put them into use in our other discussion threads.

Anyway, that's my viewpoint.........BTW, great to have you on board keeping us bastards honest......

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Postby jclayton » Wed Feb 11, 2004 6:45 am

Its a bit difficult to add to Haralds post , its pretty conclusive . I think I will spend some time trying his ideas before commenting on them . Kneejerk reactions are not going to help me at least . I will need time to assimilate and then comment on how they affected me .
skinut ,among other things
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Postby hh » Wed Feb 11, 2004 11:42 am

Great discussions here, jclayton you have unique insight and look at skiing issues in depth. I agree you must take your time, try and then analyze. I am on my way to test boots with Head at Mt Tremblant, the coldest place on the planet. I have clipped some of the posts and intend to answer some of the questions while I'm on the plane. Hold on, I'll be posting responses when I return on Sunday.

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