PSIA Master’s Academy: Ankles Flexed

This past week, I attended the Master’s Academy at Killington skiing with PSIA Demo Team Member Robin Barnes. Robin skis 300 days a year working at Heavenly during our winter and is the ski school director at Portillo during our summer.

The key concept for our group was a simple stance adjustment to make sure we had contact with both ankles on the boot cuff all through the turn. A more traditional PSIA turn concept is to start the long-leg / short-leg extension in your ankle, so this was surprisingly tricky to master for our group of experienced level 3 instructors.

We spent the first two days focusing exclusively on this adjustment so we could make it second nature. It takes lots of repetition to break a long-term movement pattern. The key thought for me is to feel the ankle / lower-leg biting and holding onto the lower part of the boot tongue. Robin suggested that we imagine we had teeth tattooed on our lower legs and ankles. The extension / flexion for pressure control comes from the knees and not the ankles.

The key contact point for the ankle is between the 2nd and 3rd buckles, not all the way at the top of the boot. The amount of flex in the ankles will vary based on conditions. On hard snow and when you are carving you need more, while bumps and powder requires less flex but still must maintain contact. Play with differing amounts to find what works for you.

We made sure we had proper athletic spine angle. The drill for this is to stick your hands where your front pockets would be, and if you don’t feel your torso holding onto your hands, you don’t have enough spine angle.

After that, we also made sure we had strong counter in our stances with our hips facing down the hill all the time so that our legs turned more than our hips. The lead change in the tips of our skis needed to match the counter in our Hips. This allowed our femurs to turn in our hip sockets creating a strong turn, with our legs driving the skis through the turn. It’s was a very powerful-feeling turn that Robin developed in our group and everyone was skiing better at the end of the week.

I was able to create much higher edge angles with this approach. Robin stressed that I needed to work on this on all terrain not just on steep black runs. I have a habit of focusing more on steeper runs where it is “game on” but to lock these new patterns into my muscle memory. She also stressed doing it all the time.

We had a great week, skiing the best December snow Killington has had in a long time.

2 comments on “PSIA Master’s Academy: Ankles Flexed

  1. Robin is the skier in the peach colored jacket in the embedded video.

    I:)skiing was in my group as well so I’d ask him to add his thoughts here as well.

  2. I did my best to think about this while skiing some of the firmer surfaces last weekend. It really worked for me… when I remembered to focus on it. I felt it helped keep me off my heels.

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