Forebody Pressure Revisited
should be on the ball of the foot to properly initiate the turn
from the front of the ski"~~Adapted from the U.S. National Ski Team's Technical
August, 2004- Why do so many tele skiers consistently set up
their turn with a strongly carved lead ski while their trailing
ski invariably skids through the arc? As modern telemark technique
and the gear we use continues to evolve, what can be done to
make carved tele turns easier to learn for beginners? How can
boots, bindings and skis be designed in such a way as to make
powerful carved tele turns the norm rather than the exception?
As we began researching the subject, it
quickly became apparent that there was really very little need
to re-invent the wheel here; alpine skiers have been doing extensive
research into ski turn dynamics for years. There is a plethora
of data available which is easily adapted to the needs of the
tele skier seeking to understand how to pressure both skis evenly
(a key difference between alpine and tele), in the process feeling
the stoke from the unique sensation of rhythmically carved telemark
it is desirable to start the pure carving action early in the
turn. This will be possible only when the skier can establish
"early pressure" with the dominant ski(s)....The skilled
skier will do this while maintaining sufficient ankle bend to
provide enough tip pressure so as to lead the carving ski(s)
into the turn. ~Adapted
from the U.S. National Ski Team's Technical Statement 2
Proficient alpine skiers pressure their
big toe on their outside ski very early in the turn, generating
tip pressure to initiate the carve, adding inside ski pressure
later as snow and terrain conditions dictate. This can be seen
clearly in video obtained using the Novel Pedar-X Mobile System.
The Pedar-X uses dozens of pressure sensors
built into an insole. The sensors send their information to a
data processing unit worn on the test subject's back, or around
their waist. The data is then stored on recordable media like
that used in digital cameras. Special software then takes the
data, processes it and develops a representation of the pressure
points, appearing over an outline of the foot alongside a real-time
video of the skier as he moves through the turns.
At right, that's former USTSA Telemark
Demo Team member Jimmy Ludlow getting rigged up with the Pedar-X
system at Mt. Hood a couple of summer's ago.
While all the data from Jimmy's test has
not yet been made public, we had an important observation ourselves
that day. More on this later, but for now let's take a look at
an alpine skier's pressure distribution, as observed and quantified
using the Pedar-X Mobile System.
We can easily see here in this screen capture
at right (click for larger version), that the alpine skiing subject
is applying significant forebody pressure to his outside ski,
seeking to apply tip pressure in an effort to lead his outside
ski into the turn, in particular using his big toe to get that
pressure out onto the ski's edge. As we would expect he's staying
out of the backseat, while pressuring the ski tip there is very
little heel pressure on the outside foot.
As would also be expected of a parallel
style skier, he's keeping light but even pressure on his inside
ski, which, from the Pedar-X data, would appear to be just enough
to keep it from wandering around in this early stage of the turn.
Screenshots and video
copyright Novel Corp.x
The next screenshot shows even more clearly
how early the skier is applying tip pressure at the top of the
turn, initiating the carve by using forward pressure.
When viewing the video notice how the skier
applies almost as much forward pressure before even beginning
to tip the skis on edge as he does late in the turn when he is
really driving the outside ski.
This video clearly supports the point that
early tip pressure is key to getting the outside ski ( as in
an alpine style turn), or in the case of telemark, the skis
(plural) carving, rather than skidding.
The value of getting forebody pressure
on both the front and back skis at the top of the tele turn should
Less than 1mb AVI Video
center of pressure travelled from under the first metatarsal
down to under the medial part of the heel of the skiers, as they
progressed through the turn....Force-time histories revealed
that forces of up to 3 times body weight were attained during
high performance recreational skiing."~~ from Analysis of the Distribution of Pressure Under
the Feet Of Elite Alpine Ski Instructors3
So the data confirms that tip pressure
at the beginning of turn initiation is an important component
in making carved turns. And yet the concept of tip pressure on
the rear ski has been generally ignored in tele instruction.
For instance in the carving
segment from the Freetime video, the narrator instructs the
budding freeheel carver to weight the skis by "rolling the
ski on edge at the tip of the lead ski, and moving the
pressure to the tail as you sink into the turn." Sounds
good, but how about pressuring the tip of the back ski too? Wouldn't
it follow that if we want to carve both skis in the telemark
turn we need to find a way to get some pressure on the forebody
of the trailing ski as well?
The answer, of course, would seem to be
yes, but there is a problem. Most tele skiers have struggled
for years just to get enough weight on the back ski to keep it
from wandering around while turning and during transitions. As
one well known industry wag recently drawled before his surprising
departure from the scene, "most of the tele skiers I see
are just trying to keep the darn thing (the rear ski) from getting
in the way....well, at least most of the time anyway."
Aggressive and proficient tele skiers have
often developed various approaches to getting more weight and
their forefoot onto the back ski. Many of these approaches have
been labelled as "styles" and have been considered
part of an appealing diversity in tele skiing. Perhaps the dirty
little secret of modern tele technique is that these "styles"
have been developed out of necessity rather than expression.
Tele stances that include the very low "knee to the ski"
approach leave very little room for dynamic absorption in bumps
and in irregular terrain. Another example would be the old "butt
sitting on the back foot" low tele style that brings to
the skier the worst of the "knee to ski" approach,
while adding some serious loading to various essential parts
of the human knee, including the ACL. The "the butt on back
foot" approach also makes it hard to get tip pressure on
the front ski as the tele rider now finds himself way out of
optimal balance due to being so far into the back seat. Typically
these skiers do harness a lot of power out of the their rear
ski, but it comes at a high price: the required thighs of steel
being one, risk of injury being another.
And make no mistake, maintaining a centered,
technically balanced tele stance while getting even close to
the goal of 50/50 front and back ski weighting is a very difficult
thing to accomplish.
Enter Jimmy Ludlow as the first and only
witness we need to make this latter point. As former member of
the US National Telemark Racing Team, a tele racing coach and
clinician, as well as a former PSIA Tele Demo Team member, few
would argue that Jimmy lacks any of the tools necessary to make
a technically solid telemark turn.
As previously mentioned, Ludlow had the
opportunity to ski a few runs with the Pedar-X Mobile System
at Mt. Hood while being video taped during the data acquisition
process. The results we saw were surprising.
Above are two laptop computers, the one
on the left is a real time display of the various foot pressure
readings obtained from the special Pedar Mobile sensor-equipped
insoles in Ludlow's boots.
The other portable computer runs the video
of Jimmy aggressively skiing the groomed runs of Mt. Hood in
summer. The video is synchronized to the foot pressure data display.
In this shot Jimmy is in the bottom of
his turn, extremely well balanced fore and aft, with the kind
of perfect form that can be duplicated by few.
Almost startlingly, the enlarged view at
left of the actual foot pressure readings, recorded at the exact
moment in the video, reveal that Ludlow has barely 37% of his
weight on his rear ski! And that rear ski pressure even
along the ski's edge from tip to tail, with no indication that
significant tip pressure is
being applied to the rear ski at the top of the turn.
The implications of this are many.
Perhaps the most important question to
arise out of the Ludlow data is this: if a tele skier with hips
perfectly balanced over his skis, riding on perfectly groomed
snow and with a skill set that few can match, still has just
37% of his weight on his rear ski, what chance do the rest of
us have to nail the elusive 50/50 tele weighting in variable
off piste snow? In the backcountry?
And while we might resort to some for of
the modified tele stances mentioned earlier such as "knee
to ski" or "butt on boot" to even things up a
bit, these stance modifications do little to address just where
that rear ski weighing is applied along the ski edge during
So where does all of this leave us? Well,
if you are a tele outsider like Glen Plake, positioned as a moderator
between Craig Dostie and Mike Hattrup in that incredibly goofy
debate at SIA last year, the one with the title "Is it the
boots or the bindings holding tele back?," you might come
up with the same conclusion the great mohawked-one arrived at
when he cackled that famous laugh and said, "man you guys
have got problems."
And so it would seem. Yet tele skiers with
active bindings such as, BD's new O2, the Cobra (when the springs
care cranked down), the rather uniquely designed Bishop Bomber,
and especially owners of the Hammerhead with its aggressively
place pivot positions, these users consistently report being
able to carve their back ski solidly like never before while
achieving unprecedented power and control. And our own forebody
pressure test from the fall of 2002 confirms that the more
active bindings allow the tele skier to apply a measured amount
of forebody pressure to the rear ski during turn initiation.
But now we have another problem. Really
active bindings don't tour well without making time consuming,
sometimes even tedious adjustments. And at the time of this writing,
the only tele binding to offer a quick off/on, touring and down
hill skiing mode switch is the 7tm, and somewhat ironically,
the 7tm is one of the most neutral bindings available, among
those that need this feature the least.
Here's what we would like to see from
a binding using the Pedar-X Mobile System in the future. An active
tele binding that allows the telemark skier to pour on the forebody
pressure when needed, setting up a strong carve for both skis,
right out of the box! And we'd like the active binding that gives
us the following pressure signature at the top of the tele turn
to have an on/off touring switch as well. Can it be done? Why
Left foot trailing but able
to hammer on forebody pressure
Lastly, for many of you who worry about
that old bugaboo, tip dive, which sometimes rears it's ugly head
when active tele bindings are used in soft, deep snow...... Again,
we turn to our Alpine buddies for guidance. but before we do
that we should add a few tips we have gathered ourselves. First,
close up your stance. Doggy legging that rear ski is an
invitation to tip dive suffering. Two, make quick lead changes,
as the skis start to slow they tend to stall and dive. Keep your
speed up with fast, aggressive lead changes. Finally, let's again
turn to our alpine bretheran for guidance. Here's what coach
Harold Harb has this to say on tip dive:
Harb on Tip dive:
"So, how do you keep your tips from diving, sending you
castor over tea-kettle into
a foot of
fresh? MacArthur suggests practicing flexing and extending while
in a neutral position (i.e., neither forward nor back). Start
out on a relatively flat, groomed slope, without making any turns,
then graduate to a low-angle run and incorporate some nice, easy
turns while staying centered over your skis. Then when you hit
the deep stuff, establish a rhythm in which your skis are moving
down the slope as well as across, which will help you control
your speed and manage your skis to avoid the dreaded tip dive.
And if you really do need to raise your ski tips, do so by lifting
your toes and the ball of your foot. That way you can pressure
the back of your skis without moving your whole center of gravity
Conclusion: For telemark skiers who wish to explore the most
progressive aspects of tele turn technique and the power potential
many participants are just beginning to understand and utilize,
active bindings would seem to offer a brave new world of control
on the steeps as well as tremendous potential for laying out
phat carves on more moderate slopes. The data and observations
above on rear ski forebody pressure is an attempt to explain
why this is so.
It would also seem that active bindings
shorten the learning curve (and we've seen this happen many times),
making it possible for more folks to have more fun, more quickly.
After making the transition to active bindings even some of the
strongest tele skiers we've met will comment along the lines
of, "I can make any binding do the job, but I just don't
want to work so hard anymore to get hooked up, and to find the
Of course others will disagree, finding
that a more neutral binding works best for their stance and style.
And while this is part of what makes the sport so unique and
interesting, exploring the mechanics of the tele turn and the
unique requirements of its ever-evolving gear is also a big part
of the fun as well.
Cover | Site