Most skiers get told one time or another by a coach that there is too much upper body or hip rotation in their skiing. This usually gives the skier a weaker edge support in the turn and poor body positioning over the skis. The Result – A vulnerable and weaker set up for overall dynamic balance. Upper body or hip rotation is usually more apparent in one direction. Steering needs to come mainly from the legs with the ball of the thigh bone rotating inside the socket joint of the hips. This allows the hips to remain generally facing in the direction of the fall line.
In most cases skiers can step their feet around approximately 50 or 60 degrees across either side from the fall line. This means that when they steer from turn to turn and the steering of the skis is greater than say 50 or 60 degrees, the upper body will start to rotate as the skis try to achieve 75 degrees and 80 degrees of angle across the fall line (this is typically what’s needed of steeper slopes). The reasons for a poor leg steering range are:
a. General tightness in the hips
b. Lack of range in exterior and interior leg rotation
c. Many years skiing without finishing off of the turn shape
a. Therapist and targeted flexibility and mobility work such as Yoga or Pilates.
Check in with a sports therapist or myofascial release practitioner to work to achieve balance and help you gain a better range of flexibility in the hips. Attend a yoga class or alternative targeted flexibility and mobility work in this area.
b. Leg Steering Range Test
The ability to steer the legs independently from the hips is one of the most fundamental movements in skiing. This is the ball rotating inside the socket joint of the hip. We measured the range the outside leg is able to rotate inwardly (i.e. left leg steering inwardly towards the right) without the hips following.
The average inward rotation range on our last tour was 45 degrees. 90% of people showed over 20 degrees difference between left and right and only 5% of people tested showed a clear range of 70 degrees in each direction.
In the Static Leg Rotation exercise test the range at which you can steer your legs without rotating your hips. To do this simply stand with your hands on your hips bones. Use your hands to stabilise your hips and start to step your feet around. Keep stepping until the point where you feel you can’t step anymore without your hips moving around. This is your limit. When you get to your limit try to measure the degrees of steering range across the fall line from zero to 90 degrees. In an ideal world for skiing you would want to be able to step around 90 degrees in each direction. This would mean that you can steer in each turning direction without any tension in the hips stopping the upper body from rotating. The average in most skiers is to step around to approximately 50 or 60 degrees. It’s common that most people have one side they can step around more than the other and this is usually a starting point at identifying the weaker turning direction even before a skier puts their skis on and is usually an indication of either past injury or misalignment in the pelvis. Make a note of your stepping around range and try to better it over several weeks of monitoring.
c. Try to finish your turns off and make the turn shape like semi circles meeting semi circles, S-Shape turns The result is an increase in the range of leg steering allowing the skier to steer to greater angles without the upper body rotating, leaving the skier with a stronger edge hold and greater leg steering strength at the extremities of each turning direction.
Click here to watch the video explanation of leg steering range.