FIS Ski Regulations: Euro-Overreaction?
After studying the proposed ski regulations, I have
two reactions and one solution.
Reaction No. 1: You have GOT to be freaking kid-
ding me?! Reverse 20 years of progress — when it
would hurt EVERYONE in the sport and NOBODY
would benefit? Yes, the speeds in the sport have in-
creased, but the long-term trend in the sport is to-
ward decreased injuries. Alpine skiing and ski racing
continues to get SAFER.
Reaction No. 2: The timing of these regulations and
their concentration on men’s GS are highly suspect.
When Bode [Miller] was dominant, new equipment
regulations were implemented. Now that Ted is the
man reinventing GS technique, we get ANOTHER
MORE RADICAL set of regulations. Is this a coin-
cidence? I don’t think so. The old men (primarily) in
charge of the FIS do not appreciate Americans win-
ning in their sport, or on their mountains. They called
Bill Johnson (1984 DH gold medal) a nose-picker.
A.J. Kitt — part of an anti-American attitude by the FIS?
The same FIS took three victories away from A.J. Kitt.
European ski companies chased Phil Mahre around
measuring his skis, reverse engineering whatever
they could. They couldn’t stand the fact that an Amer-
ican was out-skiing their boys.
Worse yet (to the FIS), now we have the most dom-
inant woman racer (Lindsey Vonn) in a generation
on the U.S. team, too. I’m sure the reaction behind
closed doors is something like: “We HAVE to do
something about this.” The last set of regulations set
Julia Mancuso back a few years while she learned
how to make the current skis fast. Perhaps if they
(the FIS) require bad-enough skis, the Americans will
get sick of their games and go back to snowboarding
— or something.
My solution: Invite an American to participate on the
regulation committee, and make it someone who un-
derstands old skis, new skis, and has raced at a high
level on both. I suggest that Phil Mahre is the perfect
candidate. He was a champion on the old stuff and
is still very fast on the new stuff. Who better to help
point the ski regulations in a better direction?
But PLEASE, FIS, while you are figuring out the best
way to undo your latest mistake — please, PLEASE
delay implementation of these regulations. Let us
coaches direct our attention to our racers and help-
ing them ski fast. Let the ski manufacturers continue
to work on improving product. And let the racers en-
joy the thrill of a high-speed arc. That thrill is what
hooks the best athletes and keeps them racing. And
great athletes skiing FAST is what will keep our sport
A Plea to the Powers That Be
The current GS skis permit relatively low impact ski-
ing in a strong skeletal stack, with early and progres-
sive pressuring high in the arc and a light pole plant.
I submit that current skis permit more ergonomic and
gentler on-the-body technique than the skis and ski
shapes of old. The 195 centimeter, 40 meter skis
will demand a return to historical techniques and the
chronic injuries associated with those techniques.
Dramatically increased, earlier and longer lasting
angulation will once again be necessary to balance
over the skis while trying to edge. This [is] versus
balancing inside the skis and edging with skeletal
body alignment and later, softer and shorter duration
angles as the athletes use now. This angulation will
require a return to more twisting and bending of the
spine. Low back problems will return to racers with a
vengeance. The classic, outside “knee crank” will be
useful to increase edge angles, grinding away at the
athlete’s meniscus and placing the ACL and MCL in
a very vulnerable position.
Pressuring will be much later in the turn and much
more forceful increasing loads in a short time frame.
This wears on all of the joints and increases fatigue,
especially in training. Fatigue leads to mistakes. Mis-
takes lead to injuries. The 40 m skis will require much
bigger steering angles at turn initiation. Counter ro-
tation, hard pole plants and up-unweighting will be
the norm to create these steering angles. The twisted
positions will put more strain on the spine, hip and
leg joints and musculature. Firm pole plants and
longer poles will once again pound shoulders and
wrists into submission. The habitual up-unweighting
required will reduce ski to snow contact and increase
“slide-out” type of falls.
Is the FIS planning a return to more natural and soft-
er race surfaces for World Cup GS? The athletes will
ski more awkwardly and less consistently on 195 cm,
40 m skis. The course sets, prepared surfaces and
venues will need to take into account less consistent,
less effective skiing.
I am a full-time, 30-year coach/instructor who raced
in the 70s. I have skied at least 200 days a year since
1975. I have intimately experienced the evolution of
ski equipment and skiing technique since the 60s. I
am writing out of concern for our skiing athletes’ long-
term health and safety. Modern technique is healthier
on the body. Really, it is!
Please reconsider your position and don’t send
our beloved sport backwards and put our ski racing
athletes at greater risk for long-term body damage.
Thank you for your considering this information from
a current ski racing coach, fan, participant and racer
Alf Engen Ski School Training Director, Alta, Utah
NOTE: Ski Racing received Mathers’ letter before the
proposed regulation was switched from 40 m to 35 m.