This is just a short and I hope handy summertime (soon, honest) reminder about ski boots and what the unwary do with them.
I can still recall the very first time I ever skied as a beginner with Coach Gerald Harrison.
Actually I wasn't a beginner really, I had been skiing for 8 years, but I had made very little progress indeed, just like so many folk. I “got down” stuff, but it was pretty sketchy and getting no better.
On that first day in Alpes d'Huez Gerald helped me make the single biggest difference to my skiing in just a matter of minutes. I later learned that this aligned with a question any good coach is constantly asking him or her self – what small change in my skier will make the next biggest difference?
Like so much that is important in high quality skiing, what he got me to change was simple. In this instance it was also easy, though once we got going it took just a little time to get used to it.
Here it is – wait for it …...... “Don't have your boots too tight”.
I'll send the bill later for this information and it will be worth every penny.
All ski boots have a built-in forward lean. This is provided by the boot manufacturers and unless you emulate the Tower of Pisa, like this -
it induces a slight bend not only of your ankle, but also of your knee joint and a compensatory though probably un-noticed bend at the hip joint as well. But it will not be enough to help you ski well, on its own.
Doing your ski boots up, too tightly
If you rely on only the built-in forward lean and do up your boots too tightly, it will stop you ever developing into a skilful skier. You need to be able to vary the amount of flex in all three of your “skiing joints” - your pelvis, your knees, and your ankles.
Where just about every skier goes wrong is in putting their feet into their ski boots, and then doing the boots up as tightly as they possibly can. They do this because it gives them a feeling of security and stability.
I watch people in boot changing rooms all the time. What they do is to put their feet into their boots, and then press back with their calf into the back of the boot. Then, crank up the over-centred buckles until they are nice and tight, and finally grab the velcro'd and regrettably entitled “power strap” and haul on it like a tug-of-war veteran until they go blue in the face.
From that moment on, their skiing development for that day is over. They can forget it; they are going to spend the rest of the day standing too upright, too vertical, and unable to respond with any leg flex to any bump or trough in the slope, or change in the snow's quality, or anything else.
The security they hoped to achieve by having their boots stiff will have vanished into thin air. What they will likely get instead is painful feet. You can't learn if your feet hurt.
How to do up ski boots
Your ski boots need to provide you with support; most importantly with lateral support. They are well capable of doing this without your locking them up solid.
Tighten your boots too much and you will not be able to flex your ankles. If you cannot flex your ankles, but you can flex your knees you can end up looking a bit like this -
If this woman were to draw her arms back to where we need them to be when we are skiing she would topple over backwards. And James Thurber said you might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward. If she flexed her shins forward more, she could stay balancing with her arms closer to her.
So here is the best way I know for getting this right before you leave the boot room.
· Put your feet into your boots.
· Flex down by flexing your ankles and allowing your shins to press well forward.
· Only then, do up the buckles, and when you have done so, stay like that and
· Fix the “power strap”.
When you stand up, it will very likely feel less secure than you are used to. Please don't revert to what you did before: if you change nothing, nothing will change.
When I was training to be a coach we wore rear-entry boots (mine were Salomon SX95s). We used to do the first two (admittedly gentle) runs with them completely undone. It was a bit wobbly but it helped develop a good sense of balancing and proved the point.
Give yourself the morning to get used to it. You will like it – a lot. Good things will happen. Firstly, you will be able to walk more normally; secondly your boots won't hurt; thirdly and more importantly, when you are skiing you will be able to both raise and lower yourself simply by straightening and flexing the whole of your legs. This is crucial if you want to ski well.
Until and unless you can flex your ankles easily, while skiing, your skiing will never get any good. You'll ski too upright, to much over your skis, and will not be able to make the movements in motion, and adjustments that good skiing requires.
Summer time skiing
Why do I mention this at this time of year? Because you don't need snow to do it. You can do it indoors if you like; you can do it on the lawn, you can do any time and any place that you would like to enjoy a reminder of good things to come. It's fun.
It gives you new feelings, so that is change. Change is not easy to accommodate, so the off-season gives you the chance in the safest of environments, to accustom your self to the new feelings. When you are comfortable with them, you will be amazed at the difference this makes.
Give it a go, and good luck.