Are you struggling to improve your skiing, stuck in a rut and can’t break through to the next level? The answer could be right at your feet.
More specifically, it could be your boots and how they match up with your body from the hips down. I’m referring to your stance alignment, and just like your car’s steering may need adjustment, your boots may need adjustment too. Your car will let you know when the steering is out of alignment by pulling to one side or the other while you struggle to stay in your lane. Your boots leave clues too but you have to know what to look for. Read on for some answers.
All ski boots are built differently. These differences impact how a specific model of boot will match up with your body from the hips down. The explanation can be elaborate, but for now we’ll keep it simple.
Try this: Place your boots on a table, side by side and stand behind them. Do you notice that the cuffs tip outward? This outward tilt of the cuff relative to your leg configuration can determine how well you will balance dynamically on your skis, more precisely, it can determine your ability to increase or decrease edge-angle at will. If your boots have too much or too little inward/outward tilt (built in by design) for your leg configuration, you will not ski to your potential, guaranteed.
So how can you tell if your boots are holding you back? The quickest way is to come in for an alignment assessment. In under 10 minutes I can determine if you’re a candidate for boot modification (most people are). And if so, then we can proceed with a more in-depth measuring protocol.
At this point we are measuring for accurate numbers in degrees to determine what area of your boots need to be modified for the correction. Of course all of these measurements are taken with a properly supportive foot-bed inside the boot. For some, the corrections are so minimal that adjusting the cuff alone will do the trick.
For those that need more, there are a few options including planing the boot sole, using pre-canted soles, or shim-canting the binding. Planing the boot sole and using pre-canted soles are by far the most popular and convenient options. Canting the binding is effective but only on the skis you choose to shim. For example, demoing skis would be a disadvantage, and not all boots can be planed or have pre-canted soles available.
However, there are more options available today than ever before, indicating that the ski industry has recognized the need to improve personal advancement and skier confidence through stance alignment. Whether you need adjustments to your current boots or are interested in purchasing new boots with cant-able soles, chances are good it will be a smooth transition to allow you to ski at your full potential.
Still curious about your alignment? I mentioned that your boots can give you clues and they show up on the hill. Here are some signs that you may be out of alignment:
- You can’t balance on one foot while tracking straight down a gentle slope, and in order to balance, you have to make exaggerated upper-body adjustments. Or the ski you’re standing on wants to turn on its own.
- You always cross your tips.
- You need speed to turn your skis even on the green runs.
- You can’t change the width of your stance.
- You tend to stop with your skis pointing in the same direction every time.
- Your feet always hurt but your boots fit well.
- Your knees hurt and your thighs always burn.
- You feel ski lessons haven’t improved your technique.
This list is non-inclusive, and it’s important to note that there could be other reasons you may experience some of what is mentioned. However, it’s a place to start.
An alignment assessment can be invaluable for all skiers, from the elite to the rank beginner, and it is very common to address alignment on the World Cup racing level, down to junior racers, to ensure that the athlete is getting the most out of their equipment. If I have piqued your interest, stop in for your stance alignment assessment.
Paul Archer, Premier Boot Fitter
Jans at Deer Valley Resort, Snow Park Lodge