Ankle Flexion--Active or "Passive"?

JESinstr

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Your advice is basically "First go out and link some awesome turns and then figure out how you did it so you can tell others what to focus on." That's great if A) Your audience consists of instructors and B) they all already know how to achieve the result. In the case of this forum neither A nor B is true. So we're back to "how do I get there in the first place?"
Don't assume just because you are dealing with Instructors, they know what they are doing LOL!
Just the other day, I was working with a couple on carved turns who were decent skiers in terms of consistent centered balance and shape of turns. All I did was to encourage them to get to higher edges sooner rather than later. Big change in performance without a lot of tech talk.
What in the world does that have to do with boot setup and stance alignment? I wasn't referring to the act of skiing and how to make turns. You're trying to pull in some controversy here that didn't exist.
Wasn't criticizing your post. Just picked up on your lamenting that you were failing to communicate with amypj. Sorry if I misinterpreted.

BTW whatever happened to cuff neutral? Remember the ski has a center of shape AND a center of ski which are two different places. Stance alignment should be with center of shape not center of ski IMO.
 

LiquidFeet

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What I have personally found over the course of several seasons now is that I cannot push on the big toe and maintain ankle flexion, and in fact am now finding that actively dorsiflexing especially at initiation helps clean up turn entry and keeps that ankle closed without leaning on the tongue of the boot. It also shortens that leg slightly. But it takes a very concentrated effort as it's not an engrained habit yet.
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I think what you are concerned about is why some instructors tell skiers to put their weight on the ball-of-foot in order to keep the front end of the ski weighted, or to press down with the big toe. And now you are being told to lift the toes/front of the foot. You are worried that the shovel won't get enough weight on it. There is a clear contradiction here. Battles have been fought over this issue.

Worry not about that shovel. Contracting your tibialis anterior to tilt your lower leg forward, so that the shin rests on the tongue of the boot (tongue-shin contact), is step one in putting enough weight on the front of the ski to get it engaged. The big toe and the ball-of-foot don't need to press down. What replaces that is the shin pressing down, and when it presses into the tongue, the shovel is pressed down against the snow.

So there's more to getting shovel pressure. Step two is getting your body weight forward enough so that it hovers over the shin and boot tongue. This hovering presses down on the shin/tongue, and that provides leverage against the front of the ski. The boot works as a lever, pushing the front of the ski downward onto the snow.

To get your weight forward enough for this to happen, you need to position your hips and torso up and forward properly and be sure not to sit back.

Once you have shin-tongue contact and the hips/torso in the right place to lever the tongue, your shovel will engage just fine without any active ball-of-foot or big toe pressure.

The advantage of doing your stance this way is that you can now weight the back of the ski. Keep your heel fully down in contact with the boot sole. Target your body weight onto the back of the arch-front of the heel area of your foot. That spot is right beneath the tibia, where all your body weight comes down onto the foot. targeting your body weight here weights the tail of the ski, so it doesn't wash out. Not letting that tail wash out is a big deal.

So with tongue-shin contact, you can weight both the front and the back of the ski, and get the whole board to grip the snow, bend because of turn forces, and take you in a circular path around the corner. It feels great!

When skiers move their body weight onto the ball-of-foot, this lightens the tail of the ski and encourages the tail to pivot around the front of the ski. Getting the whole ski to engage, bend, and cause your circular travel is difficult if the tail is washing out because it doesn't have any weight on it.

Does this help?
 
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oldschoolskier

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Are you saying that for some, a more passive approach combined with "squashing the bug" with the big toe works better, and for others, more active dorsiflexion especially at transition, works better?

What I have personally found over the course of several seasons now is that I cannot push on the big toe and maintain ankle flexion, and in fact am now finding that actively dorsiflexing especially at initiation helps clean up turn entry and keeps that ankle closed without leaning on the tongue of the boot. It also shortens that leg slightly. But it takes a very concentrated effort as it's not an engrained habit yet.

Does body physiology/anatomy play a big role in how to approach this? If so, then why don't more instructors know this--that what works for them might not be effective for their student? That there are more ways than one to achieve ankle flexion. (If this is, in fact, true.)

On the one hand, ankle flexion is maintained from the knee down. On the other hand (or foot) it's maintained from the foot up.
Exactly......sometimes it a physical thing, sometimes its a mental thing and sometimes its both.
 
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AmyPJ

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@AmyPJ - continuing with the core issue you've brought up...

I believe that active dorsiflexion is just part of making good ski turns. It is used in combination with hamstring contraction (leg curl) to actively retract the legs when transitioning between turns. Sure, you can certainly be more passive with these movements (allow the knee/ankle joints to "collapse" under our weight) and it really depends on the level of performance and quickness of the desired turns as to which approach fits best. These days I'm finding that even in my slower skiing, I prefer to be more active with the retraction to initiate the balance transfer across my skis.

It should be noted that active dorsiflexion does not mean that your BoF raises off the bottom of your boot. In a well-fit boot, you should be in contact the floor and the roof pretty much all the time. These are critical control surfaces to help us manage our fore/aft balance.

If you try to use plantar flexing to pressure the tips, I think you'll find what you typically get is falling into the back seat. It is possible to plantar flex while you're forward and not have this happen, but why even expose the risk? I find that it's easier to focus on the dorsiflexion and hamstring contraction of the retraction to accomplish a foot pull back which keeps you forward and with sufficient tip pressure at turn initiation.
So this is exactly what I've been doing--active dorsiflexion with contracted hamstrings, which I've always focused on. Now I'm finding that I can actively dorsiflex both ankles at transition and it allows for the tipping movement I've had rammed into my head over and over and over and over that I just couldn't do without the stupid push movement, AND it allows my old outside ski to "get out of the way" so to speak, and voila, stem movement is disappearing. More flow, more control, better stance, less fatigue. Oh, and higher edge angles earlier.
Once someone has been taught to pressure the boot, it might be fun for some to argue against it but it’s not usually where the op is leading ( maybe it is here). So just because at my last 1/2 day lesson with a l3 examiner he instructed the shin pressure, doesn’t mean it’s the only way, just accept it is a way.
What I'm gathering from the comments here is that shin pressure is a natural "side effect" from closing the ankle. For some, it seems that closing the ankle from the hips is sufficient, and for others, they have to actively dorsiflex the foot using the shin muscles (tibialis anterior.) I could be totally wrong, but that's what I'm gathering. I do wonder if the differences in approach have to do with differences in anatomy and flexibility. There is a level 3 demo team member on our mountain who I've skied with who is big on "shin tongue" so much so that he calls it "shintongue shintongue shintongue" and I want to pick his brain about it and what he's really doing with his shin and foot inside the boot. He also is hypermobile and long and lanky and loves to talk technical. I'll pick his brain tomorrow if I see him, or just call him.

@LiquidFeet your post answered some questions for sure, so thank you.
 

Tony S

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Worry not about that shovel. Contracting your tibialis anterior to tilt your lower leg forward, so that the shin rests on the tongue of the boot (tongue-shin contact), is step one in putting enough weight on the front of the ski to get it engaged. The big toe and the ball-of-foot don't need to press down. What replaces that is the shin pressing down, and when it presses into the tongue, the shovel is pressed down against the snow.

So there's more to getting shovel pressure. Step two is getting your body weight forward enough so that it hovers over the shin and boot tongue. This hovering presses down on the shin/tongue, and that provides leverage against the front of the ski. The boot works as a lever, pushing the front of the ski downward onto the snow.

To get your weight forward enough for this to happen, you need to position your hips and torso up and forward properly and be sure not to sit back.

Once you have shin-tongue contact and the hips/torso in the right place to lever the tongue, your shovel will engage just fine without any active ball-of-foot or big toe pressure.
This all makes sense. One sub point I was trying to make is that for me, at least, there is a big difference in effect from just a minor change to cues. I'm talking about the difference between what happens when I think simply "dorsiflex" or "lift the forefoot" on the one hand, and "lift the toes" on the other. Both enable the tongue leverage you describe. However the lifted toes cue helps my BALANCE and enables fine control over the ski because it keeps the two forward points of the "triangle" of my foot firmly planted on the footbed. If I think "lift forefoot" I'm essentially balancing more on just my heel and the tongue, which feels yucky.
 

razie

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@AmyPJ It is important to have the skis under the hips and "be forward" at the beginning of the turn, to engage the tips early. There is no conceivable way to do that by having the hips close the ankles and have no or little weight on the skis at the same time. The thought of "let the hips close the ankles" also simply implies that the hips are already on top of the boots, to be able to close the ankles. So how were they there if you didn't already close the ankles and put the skis there?

At the end of the turn is where the skis come back under the body and the hips would "close the ankle". But at the top of the turn that's not the case...

That's a typical "hop and over" thought. If you hop off the skis at the end of the turn, the general advice would be to hop up and "forward" and then "land" with the hips "forward" and close the ankles. Obviously even that doesn't work if you didn't keep the skis back while in the air ;)
 
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AmyPJ

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@AmyPJ It is important to have the skis under the hips and "be forward" at the beginning of the turn, to engage the tips early. There is no conceivable way to do that by having the hips close the ankles and have no or little weight on the skis at the same time. The thought of "let the hips close the ankles" also simply implies that the hips are already on top of the boots, to be abl. to close the ankles. So how were they there if you didn't already close the ankles and put the skis there?

At the end of the turn is where the skis come back under the body and the hips would "close the ankle". But at the top of the turn that's not the case...

That's a typical "hop and over" thought. If you hop off the skis at the end of the turn, the general advice would be to hop up and "forward" and then "land" with the hips "forward" and close the ankles. Obviously even that doesn't work if you didn't keep the skis back while in the air ;)
This is exactly what I've been feeling--sweet! Close the ankles with the tib anterior at the start, finish with the hamstrings/hips. The transition has a crossover of the two is what I've been feeling. It's really fun being able to feel these small nuances now that I'm not fighting with sloppy boots. I have the mental capacity to pick up on a lot of the nuances I think because performance show horses require the same type of feeling and analysis. The tiniest shift in the rider's body weight, leg position on one or both sides, tension in the reins, etc. all affect the horse an incredible amount and are all happening in a very dynamic environment.

I started this experiment with the tib anterior tense the entire time, but found that to be a bit tiring but it still gave me an "AHA!" moment. Now I use it to kind of exaggerate the movement to engrain it as a pattern. Still playing with it...but I do seem to be onto something which I'm pretty excited about.
 

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For some, it seems that closing the ankle from the hips is sufficient, and for others, they have to actively dorsiflex the foot using the shin muscles (tibialis anterior.) I could be totally wrong, but that's what I'm gathering. I do wonder if the differences in approach have to do with differences in anatomy and flexibility.
This makes me think…how many skiers are actually doing the same thing, but describing it differently?
 

LiquidFeet

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This all makes sense. One sub point I was trying to make is that for me, at least, there is a big difference in effect from just a minor change to cues. I'm talking about the difference between what happens when I think simply "dorsiflex" or "lift the forefoot" on the one hand, and "lift the toes" on the other. Both enable the tongue leverage you describe. However the lifted toes cue helps my BALANCE and enables fine control over the ski because it keeps the two forward points of the "triangle" of my foot firmly planted on the footbed. If I think "lift forefoot" I'm essentially balancing more on just my heel and the tongue, which feels yucky.
It feels yummy to me.

**Note: the ball-of-foot stays in contact with the bottom of the boot's interior if there's nowhere for it to go due to the ceiling being low, as it should be. Of course some weight is there; this is a discussion about cues as you point out. People respond differently to the same cue; the cues frequently are only a trigger, and often do not describe the movement itself with any accuracy.

The payload is being able to get both the tip and tail to grip enough through the entire turn so the ski takes you where you want to go. Whatever works ..... so many variations.
 
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AmyPJ

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This makes me think…how many skiers are actually doing the same thing, but describing it differently?
Which is kind of the crux of my whole initial post, summarized neatly. There is a reason I sought out lots of riding instructors when I was doing that, and now have my daughter taking tennis lessons from two or more instructors. There can be many different paths to the same outcome and sometimes it takes the right way of explaining things.

I've been told to lift my toes inside the boot in the past, but that didn't resonate with me. It actually makes my arch hurt. But tensioning the anterior tibialis, which allows the toes and arch to remain a bit more relaxed, seems to be having the desired effect. The truth will come out in crud and powder, which we've had none of (at least not the type of crud I'll venture into yet) for the past 10+ days.
 

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I guess you haven’t seen Hirscher free ski.

Hirscher uses a very strong pull back to engage the ski tips at the top of the turn. He does allow the skis to "jet" at the tail end of the turn, but this is quite an advanced approach to skiing and you must have great strength and skills to pull it off correctly. The timing is critical or you'll get nothing out of the skis at the top of the new turn.

Trust that @razie has probably watched all the video clips of Hirscher more than most on the planet...
 

Noodler

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I like the turn this thread has taken with a theme of "nuance" when describing and understanding the movements. This is so spot on and goes to what some of us continually try to impress on skiers is that not only must you understand the "inputs", but you must understand precisely how to accomplish those inputs. There are simply right ways and wrong ways of making these movements. If you aren't being precise in the description for the coaching then you're left with the student making assumptions that they will know how to accomplish the task. They might eventually get to where they need to be, but without specific instruction, they're going to make a bunch of stumbles along the way.
 

Rod9301

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Hirscher uses a very strong pull back to engage the ski tips at the top of the turn. He does allow the skis to "jet" at the tail end of the turn, but this is quite an advanced approach to skiing and you must have great strength and skills to pull it off correctly. The timing is critical or you'll get nothing out of the skis at the top of the new turn.

Trust that @razie has probably watched all the video clips of Hirscher more than most on the planet...
There's a lot of misinformation in this thread.
Listen to noodler, this is all you have to do.
 

Noodler

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There's a lot of misinformation in this thread.
Listen to noodler, this is all you have to do.

I appreciate that thought, but I'd like to add that @razie is a "real" skiing coach and has significantly more experience and skill when it comes to all things skiing. So I would redirect to him for his guidance.
 
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