By Matt Rini
The tide is turning to favor open shoulder position in slalom skiing, but some, including a few of the best skiers in the world, would still beg to differ. This discussion will probably be going on in our sport forever, so rather than taking a side and viewing this as a right-versus-wrong issue, interpret the rotational position of the shoulders in relation to the other two planes of balance: your feet and core.
Understanding Why Your Ski Turns:
A skier’s stance will determine how and where the water will break on the ski underneath him. Understanding the way a ski is designed is important in understanding the consequences of body position. All skis have a wide point, usually somewhere between 40 and 43 inches from the tail of the ski. From the wide point forward, the ski gradually narrows to make the tip pull back in under the rope to help the ski turn. Once the water break gets ahead of the wide spot, the ski wants to change direction (turn), no matter where that may be in the course. For a lot of skiers, this happens right when the edge change occurs; and no matter how early the approach, this creates a straight and narrow line into the buoy. Posture and balance become crucial at this point, as the skier transfers to the inside edge of his ski after the wakes.
Find Your Ideal Body Position:
Having an understanding of how the water breaks on the ski before and after the edge change allows for better interpreta- tion of how balance afects this transition. Imagine squatting on an upside-down Bosu ball. As you lower, the hips begin to move behind the feet, and the upper body naturally leans forward to counterbalance. The same thing happens on a ski; the body will always find balance, even at the cost of everything else. For every move, there is compensation made somewhere else to maintain balance. The more a skier crouches or compresses, the more he must lean the upper body forward to compensate. This forward lean pushes the wide spot of the ski in the water and initiates the turn, eliminating the desired cross-course line. The response, as a way to relieve some of this forward pressure, is to open the shoulders.
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A skier whose posture is very compressed will naturally have open shoulders. If this skier were to close his shoulders, he would likely get pulled forward of the second wake. On the other hand, a skier who stands very tall will have more of a closed shoulder position. If this skier were to open his shoulders, the ski would quickly advance too far in front of him, and he would end up on the tail of the ski of the second wake.
Maximize Your Turning Potential:
Every posture in between has a matching variation of shoulder rotation to achieve balance throughout the course. The key is to find your ideal shoulder position to maximize your turning potential. Slalom skiers adjust fins by a few thousandths of an inch to change where the water breaks on the ski, in order to render a better line or more width at the buoy. Clearly, in the slalom world, working from the ski up trumps everything. So, I recommend finding the posture necessary to get the desired water break on the ski, and then open or close the shoulders to create balance for that posture.
Ski With Coach Matt: Ready to ski with champion maker Matt Rini at his private lake in south Orlando and get your body position dialed in, so you can finish the summer at the top of your game? Of course you are! Learn more at mattrini.com.