By Cam Robertson, 2006.
I am writing this article in hope of raising awareness of a ‘good park stance’ through comparing the fundamental functional similarities between alpine and park stances. After many years (man I must be getting old to say that) in the ski industry I have two loves park riding and making a high performance turn with slalom skis on hard pack-arrrr love it!
Park riders have a unique, distinct style. This is a style that has fundamental functionality of a well-balanced skier: low center of mass, wide feet, hands to the side. This ‘steeze’ (style) is necessary in order to maintain a good park stance. When compared to the alpine stance it may look wrong in the eyes of many (especially an instructor trained in the art of alpine skiing) but in fact serve a very functional purpose: a well-balanced centered skiing stance.
Many instructors don’t understand what a good park stance is…
… but we all understand this: bend your ankles, knees hips a little and stand in the middle of the ski – It works better that way. The ski is designed so if you stand in the middle it works how the manufacturer planned it to. Stacking your skeleton in this position has got be a good thing too, right? A stronger stance is a better stance!
These are fundamentals of a good stance in alpine skiing but what about these park riders? They are low and sometimes look a little ‘backseat’. Their feet are apart and their poles are so short. Their arms are out to the side.
Park riders seem to have very different views of a good stance. Or do they?
If you are going to hit a 40foot tabletop jump, spin 540 degrees and land switch, you better be standing in the middle of the ski and you had better be in a strong stance; wide and low is good. You aren’t dealing with a big build up of pressure (apart from on the landing) so we can be more flexed giving us a lower center of mass and a wider base of support. Also this will allow a good pop on take off, essential to a balanced air.
If you’re going to spin you better put your arms to the outside so that you can balance while spinning around your center of mass. Your arms will help control the speed of the spin, e.g. on completion of the spin, open your arms and the rotation will slow. Shorter poles are a good idea – the last thing you want is a pole getting in you way on landing.
Park riders look up to riders like Tanner Hall, Josse Wells and other alike – the super heroes of the freestyle skiing world. Trying to mimic their moves and style. Low stance turns into backseat riding quite often.
Baggy pants? Well, ya gotta say they look better than a one piece riding up ya butt.
Alpine riders look up to riders like Bodie Miller and the like – the superstars of the racing world. They all want the top of the line skis, quite often a race ski well ahead of their skill level. They like to ski fast and as soon as they tip that slalom ski over with a 10m turn radius the edge grips and the skis turn shooting away from them. This usually results in backseat positioning. Sound familiar?
Alpine: what makes a strong Alpine stance and a why?
Stand tall allowing the angle in of your boot dictate the angle of your lower-leg. Match the angle of your back to this. If you can feel even pressure under the length of your foot then you are probably standing centered. Arms up and forward, somewhere just above your bellybutton height.
Okay, so this is basic stuff, but why do people struggle to say in this position while skiing? Well it takes some real effort. Creating a strong stance and not just a strong position requires some application of energy.
Having some muscular tension in your core muscles – lower-back, butt, upper-legs, and stomach (don’t lock the muscles) – will give you a strong stance. Dynamic skiing will take a lot of energy. Forget about relaxing and floating like a fairy down the slope. Be strong and ski strong, put some energy into it. If you let yourself get out of balance then it’s going to take a lot of strength to get back into position to allow the ski to perform at its best.
Most people wait until the transition into the next turn to make a gross movement that will realign themselves. Instead, use your strength to stay in the correct position in the first place so that you can control the ski how you want to, e.g. tighten the radius halfway through the turn.
Park Stance: what makes a strong park stance and why?
The basic park stance is lower than the alpine stance. The lower-leg angle is still very similar but there is more flex in the knees and hips, using equal amounts to keep you centered. You shouldn’t be resting on your boot tongues so that when you do flex further to pop for a jump you can do so evenly through your ankles, knees and hips, allowing you to stay in balance. Keeping your feet wider than hip width and balancing slightly on the inside edges is good for takeoff. This gives grip when setting a spin. Your hands should be low and to your sides, and out of your way.
A lower center of mass and a wider stance is more stable!
While cruising between jumps and rails not a lot of muscular tension is required to help us maintain our basic stance. However when you are setting a spin or sliding a rail, a lot of tension is required. An example of this is when you’re sliding a rail: tension in your core muscles and legs will help you stay in balance and stop your legs splitting apart or getting away from you.
What I am getting at is whatever your preference, park or alpine, you need to have a strong centered stance. Both alpine and park stances require a lot of skill and are very functional.
For park a lower center of mass and wider stance is more stable for taking off and landing.
For alpine a taller position with a stacked skeleton is stronger when dealing with those high-pressure buildups.
Hopefully this has opened a few peoples eyes to the ‘park way’, and if so… my work here is done.