Your ankles can move in your boots. Really. (Part 2)

Ok bear with me on this one, It’s a bit of a toughie. If I had to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of technical difficulty, it’s a 10. But if I also had to rate it on the “Will make the most difference to your skiing” scale, it’s about a 12. It is such a subtle movement and its not easily spotted in good skiers unless you know what you’re looking for. It’s also so easy to confuse yourself into thinking you’re doing the correct movements. It took me awhile to figure it all out in my head and even longer to try to simplify it for teaching. So here we go.

After you’ve established a firm understanding and muscle memory of needing to have the sole of your feet constantly in contact with your entire boot (Part 1), the next step is to create an awareness of your ankles in your boots.

The movement required of our ankles is quite natural to most of us and is used in many other sports. Picture a soccer goalkeeper or a tennis player who’s receiving. They are in an athletic position, ready to move in any direction. Their ankles are bent to allow them to do so. They are somewhat ‘loaded’ so to speak, liked coiled springs.
They then straighten their ankles to perform a soccer save or tennis swing. Skiers need to be in a similiar athletic position as well to perform the movements required in skiing. (Some instructors might say that the athletic position is a combination of ankle, knee and hip flex. I don’t disagree. However I’ve found that when most people bend their ankles, the other two joints usually bend as well whereas it doesn’t seem as common the other way round. Hence I tend to focus on the ankles first).
BTW I know some of you might be thinking, “Sure, those ski racers make it look easy but there’s no way I can perform those movements”. I’m not saying you need to do it to that extent. I’m merely using the images as exaggerated illustrations of the ankle movement for clarity’s sake. This is a basic fundamental movement that should be used even from the snowplough stages.

Lets first make sure that we fully understand the correct movement required. The reason I harp on this is because of the high occurrence I have noticed amongst skiers who when asked to move their ankles, move their knees instead. Simply put, the movement required here is a straight ankle and a bent ankle. Not a bent knee and a more bent knee.

  Straight ankle and a bent ankle. (Minor movement) 
 Bent knee and a more bent knee. (Major movement)
A good way to know if you are making the right movement is to go back to closing your eyes and realise what you need to feel when you are moving your ankles. When bending your ankles, you should feel the whole sole of your feet and your shins against the front of your boots.

Sole and shin: bent ankle

The straight ankle is the more difficult of the two movements. Most advanced skiers know to bend their ankles within their boots when skiing. Very few that I’ve taught so far knew how to straighten their ankles initially. With straight ankles, you should feel the whole sole of your feet and your calves touching the back of your boot.

Sole and calf: straight ankle
A common error many skiers make to feel the front and back of their boots is to move their entire body instead of the ankles. Yes, they would feel their shins and calves but they wouldn’t be feeling their entire sole. This is too major a movement and upsets our balance far too much.
 Moving ankles (minor movement)
 Moving body (major movement)
By ensuring that we keep our soles in full contact with the boot, we’ve established a baseline of balance. From there we can then use our ankles to make the adjustments in balance required when performing all other ski movements.
Go out and have a play with moving your ankles when you’re skiing. Ski at a slower pace to start of. In a traverse if you have to. Begin to create an awareness of when you have straight ankles and when you have bent ankles without looking at your boots. Remember, you should always be looking ahead. Especially when learning new movements.
Don’t worry about the actual timing yet. Awareness comes first. Then what typically follows is denial, anger, bargaining….

One thought on “Your ankles can move in your boots. Really. (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Tips for the Uninitiated to Powder Skiing | turnshape

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