TO SKI FAST, WE NEED A TALL, FUNCTIONAL
ATHLETIC STANCE IN BOOTS BY DAVE PESZEK
Perhaps no ski racing skill is as important to master as a great
stance. And when it comes to your stance in a race boot, there
are more differences across the range of boots offered today than
there are differences in fit. For this reason, choosing a boot that
most closely matches your stance needs is of critical importance.
“Racers might want to consider evaluating their future race boot
purchase with the idea of stance as a feature that is just as important as fit,” says Brent Amsbury, a pedorthist and owner of Park City
“Boots have never kept up with skis” in their development, says Thor
Verdonk, the technical product manager for Rossignol/Lange —
largely responsible for one of the most modern race boots available.
Too much knee
and ankle flexion.
The author shows a tall,
athletic, powerful stance.
angle for boots.
Let’s take a look at how a plastic ski boot can affect our stance.
To do so, we’ll need to understand the concept of the kinetic
chain — in this case, we’re normally in contact with the snow; it’s
a closed kinetic chain. Basically speaking, your athletic stance
includes your current musculoskeletal alignment (this can and
will change over time with strength and flexibility adaptations).
An easy way to experience what your current natural stance is to
jump forward (in sneakers) and land. Once you come to a rest,
you’ll notice a certain amount of flex in the ankle, knee, hip and
— to a lesser extent — the joints of the upper torso.
When a rigid ski boot is added to this equation, it has the poten-
tial to negatively affect the natural stance that our body wants to
achieve, through its combination of cuff height (which interacts
with lower leg morphology); boot board (zeppa) ramp; forward
cuff lean; offset (does the boot point straight forward or does it
angle outwards?); hinge location; and toe and heel lug height.
Other factors that will affect our stance are the cant of the boot,
a footbed (and any foot or ankle re-alignment that it creates), and
specialized body position (i.e.,if we’re trying to ski in a tuck).
Your kinetic chain is strongest when you are about halfway be-
tween your functional range of motion in that joint — largely be-
cause you could support a static load through a combination
of skeletal support and muscular tension. For alpine skiing, we
must stand in a way that shifts the skiing forces toward the skel-
etal system: the overall load in a turn can be five to six times our
body mass. The only way to handle these loads is with less flex
throughout the joints. This also allows us to ski with less fatigue,
and to access our musculature.
The following points offer some guidelines for you, your coach
and your bootfitter to follow for an athletic, powerful stance.
The ideal amount of flex in your knee is approximately 20 to 30
degrees. This ideal number can vary slightly with the ratio of fe-
mur length to tibial length — people with a femur length equal to
or longer than their tibia can generally tolerate a greater bend at
the knee (yet still be in an athletic stance), and vica-versa. This
would directly affect your choice of a boot based on the cuff’s
forward lean. A good stance bootfitter will consider and most
likely measure your femur length and compare it to your lower
leg length. Your race bootfitter might also have a Tekscan de-
vice, which allows for the visualisation of pressure while you’re
standing in your boots.
You’ve probably heard your coach talk about the most impor-
tant muscle in skiing — the tibialis anterior muscle and its value
in dorsiflexion, or pulling your toes and foot upwards towards
your knee. Your range of motion in the ankle combines with the
zeppa angle and forward lean angle (cuff)and directly affects the
amount of flex in the joints up the kinetic chain.
All of your major joints involved in skiing — hip, knees, ankles
— may be oriented to move inward or outward through the ski-
ing range of motion. This facet of your biomechanics plays an
important role in boot hinge point; cuff lateral angle and ad-
justability; boot offset; and pre-existing factory-sole canting. A
skilled stance bootfitter will steer you toward a race boot that
best matches your natural range of motion characteristics.
Every degree of binding ramp will increase your knee and hip
flexion by roughly double. Many binding brands offer shim kits
that allow you to dial in the ramp, if any, that works best for
you. A serious evaluation of your boot stance must include the
binding, too. I always recommend an identical binding and plate
setup for athletes by discipline.
Be aware of your lower leg morphology and how it works (or
doesn’t) with your boots. Large calf volume will create a steeper
lower leg ankle, putting more flex in the ankle, knees and hips.
The rear of the cuff might be reshaped using heat to allow the
skier to stand correctly; some of the thick padding in the rear of
the liner might also be thinned or removed to aid in stance, or the
rear cuff limit might be modified. Add limited dorsiflexion, and it
might require raising the heel in the boot in order to balance the
load front to back on the foot.
On the other end of the spectrum, many juniors don’t fill out the
cuff of a boot, and the boot “flex” they experience is actually just
the tibia/fibula moving back and forth, striking and compressing
the liner. Your bootfiter might add high-density, closed-cell foam
around the outer portion of the liner, use a Booster strap, swap