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Fat skis and sore knees.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Interesting article here http://www.wimbledonclinics.co.uk/blog/guest-blog-by-mark-seaton-october/

Summary

Quote:
It seems that once a ski is wider than 10 cm under the binding then this kicks off the potential for sore knees. 10cm is okay , but my new skis were 12cm . This 2cm appears to be the tipping point. Some of the really really outlandish skis are 15 cm underfoot.
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My experience is the same although I no longer work on the snow and now only ski 30 to 50 days a season. A trip to Japan skiing every day on 10.5 cm skis brought on knee pain after just three days and despite the lovely soft snow, ice packs and anti inflammatory meds I suffered for the rest of the trip. Fears of ruined knees were definitely there but having just finished a season in NZ mainly on 8.8 cm skis with nothing more than one or two evenings with mild aches has put my mind (and knees) at rest.
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Very very few skis are above 150mm. Above 120mm in non soft snow I can see a point. Can't see much problem in the 100-110 bracket for a strong male skier unless they are really thrashing them on hardpack. I skied a lot of days last winter the vast majority on skis at least 112mm wide and my knees haven't felt so good for years. Obviously a YMMV point.
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good reason to go back to skinny skis and proper skiing Happy

Not that I can do it, but I know a man who can.
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Agree with this. One day of skiing something fairly wide and my knees ache, but could some of this be down to less sidecut on many wider skis? Not tried many with small radius to compare, but working harder to get an edge in might have an effect too.
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Interesting article, it seems well accepted that skiing (more specifically,carving at speed, with edge angles more than a minimal amount) on hard pistes on fat skis, has potential to cause knee pain. However, the consensus from a group of 4 amazing offpiste guides/instructors from Powder Extreme in Verbier (who I skied with last winter) was that their knees were still going strong thanks to fat rockered modern skis. I remember the oldest of them clearly saying if he was skiing daily their typical variable, freeride terrain on piste type skis he would have been forced to retire by now!
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@gra, but their fat skis could have been 100ish mm underfoot...
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@kitenski, yes that was the case (we didn't have great snow that week, IIRC most were on skis around 100), with the 120-plus skis saved for the powder days. Which seems to support the original case
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@gra, I'm unsure whether it's the "carving" element although that may also contribute. But it's simple geometry that a wider ski introduces a lever into a system that isn't generally used to it.

Given that the vast majority of the population, most of the time, are skiing on groomed pistes, the current predilection for wide skis is a marketing fad full of nonsense. And seems to be resulting in pain and injury.
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It's about (lack of) technique IMHO.

If the skiing technique is to aggressively lead with the uphill ski and tuck the downhill knee in behind the uphill knee then the downhill knee won't track over the ski.

With the increased edge angles afforded by wider waisted skis the pressure on the knee in this mechanically inefficient position will lead to soreness.
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@Mike Pow,
Quote:

If the skiing technique is to aggressively lead with the uphill ski and tuck the downhill knee in behind the uphill knee...

I thought this technique went out a couple of decades ago, or am I wrong?
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@Mike Pow, I'm not sure that's the whole story, because the lever action is unavoidable, and seems like a more obvious culprit.

So while A-framing these days is no longer desirable, it's the addition of the wide skis that brings the problem.
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when you change the force vector from inside the external width of the knee (narrow ski) to outside the external width of the knee (wide skis) then you will cause a loading which the knee is not designed to withstand

everything seems fine in the soft snow but you don't ski soft snow all day every day in most European resorts so there wiull be time on hard pack which will cause the problems
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
So part of it is how wide your knees are?
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
So is there any evidence other than anecdote?
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@Digger the dinosaur, I don't see how radius causes the problem.
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Everyone is focusing on the width here

I personally think their are 2 other marketing trends here that are also having an impact

1) Stiffer heavier ski's with metal laminate. (although since the Rossignol air tip thing we are starting to see a move away from this which is good)
2) Stiffer flex boots (possible as a consequence of the above)

I think that the stiffer skis and stiffer boots are also putting a lot more strain on knees.

I am currently skiing Head Vectors boots with 90mm ski and last year on hard pack my knees were giving me gip (I was also carrying an injury from earlier in the season), so I pulled a couple of bolts out the back of the Vectors and dropped the flex down. Problem went away, I also found it a lot easier to ski.

I think that stiff skis and boots are great with narrow skis when you are trying to go mach speed on piste. If you want all mountain and a ski that can go off piste and ski piste you are better off lowering the flex and taking the hit on piste performance as opposed to knee pain.

This is all anecdotal and has no basis in science so feel free to utterly lambast me Smile

G
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@gordonrussell76, I'm not so convinced that there is a trend towards stiffer flex boots. Other than top end race boots.

And I don't see how heavier skis would have anything to do with it as skis are usually used on snow...not picked up and in mid air Puzzled Are ski/binding combinations significantly heavier than they used to be?
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[quote="under a new name"]@gordonrussell76, I'm not so convinced that there is a trend towards stiffer flex boots. Other than top end race boots.

I would agree with UANN, I see no trend toward stiffer flex and certainly not stiffer heavier skis, quite the opposite. Its all light swing weights, carbon this and honeycomb that if anything the lack of damping and mass underfoot is going to contribute to sore knees.
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In my case it is also a matter of age and the accumulated wear and tear from over 40 years of skiing and longer charging up and down all sorts of hills. But also without these modern ski designs I wouldn't be having near as much fun as I am.
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If you are carving on hard pistes then I'm sure wider skis do put more strain on your knees. They are simply not optimal for the job. Rockers make things easier but they also detract from the pure carving ability of the ski. I wouldn't recommend skis >100mm for anyone who doesn't intend to be 70%+ in soft snow (or at least intends to use them on days when they expect to be 70%+ in soft snow). In soft snow (including on soft pistes as well as off piste) I don't feel any additional strain from wider skis.
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Isn't the moral of the tale to be on skis which are suitable for the conditions you are skiing, for as much of your skiing time as possible? All ski selection is a compromise, so I think it's best to be honest with yourself about the skiing you do (and will do in the foreseeable future), decide what category ski best suits that skiing, then go and test as many as you can until you find a ski you're really happy on. Being on the 'wrong' ski is less fun than it should be, is usually harder work, and often makes it more difficult to improve your skiing skills.
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No, @rob@rar, any fule knos that the only ski you need in your quiver are FIS full spec slalom skis.
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@under a new name, Laughing
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OKay maybe my observation is off that there is a trend to higher flex boots.

I shall re-phrase my hypothesis. The impact of fat ski's on knees could be mitigated by lower flex boots. Stiff boots were originally designed to drive race skis and improve thin ski performance. Fat skis put more pressure on the knees, could some of that be mitigated by softer flex boots.

Discuss Smile
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@gordonrussell76, I don't think so. The problem as I see it with wider skis on piste is a lateral pressure that would not be mitigated with softer flex boots, unless they were softer laterally.

And then only mitigated if so soft laterally that putting the skis on edge would have a reduced effect. Increasing the compromises of wide skis on piste and maybe introducing compromise off piste.
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I agree, I think what i was getting at is that too stiff a boot might compromise your technique. I don't think I was getting forward enough as my boots were too stiff, and therefore I was figting my skis more and therefore my knees hurt. I got away with it on thinner ski's but with a fatter ski it became a problem.

Granted this is a technique issue not a boot issue, or even necessarily a fat ski issue directly but sometimes an equipment issue can cause or encourage a technique issue. I am only sharing this information as something for people to try to see if it helps them. If they have boots with adjustable flex and or can hire lower flex boots to see if it helps before carving their own up.

I grant you for an experienced skier who is flexing there boots properly this probably has no interest, but I am guessing that not everyone here is Graham Bell Smile I know I am not.
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Think as others have mentioned there is more going on than just the underfoot size of a ski, when carving skis first started to make an appearance, the tip and tail were much wider, and also the skis were a lot shorter, over time skis have got a bit longer again, but still maintained bigger tips and tails, maybe increasing the weight and twisting forces involved even on piste skis??

On very fat skis and I mean over 115 under foot then yep probably best for softer snow and powder days, but you can still have great fun on a 125 under foot on piste as long as the skis are up to it and you adjust your skiing to suit the ski and conditions?
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gordonrussell76 wrote:
I agree, I think what i was getting at is that too stiff a boot might compromise your technique.
I think that's right. If a boot is very stiff it's going to be more difficult to use your ankle joint effectively if you are not generating the forces in a turn to help you bend the boot (forwards). If you can't use your ankle joint effectively you are going to have more difficulty with your fore/aft balance and perhaps become quite static or have restricted range of movement. This will compromise your ability to ski well. As with skis, try to be in the right boots for your ability level and the skiing your prefer. Little point in being in a 150+ flex race boot when you want to spend all day in the park. If you're spending all week GS training then there are better options than that latest feather-weight touring boots, etc, etc.
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Ah, @gordonrussell76,
Quote:

too stiff a boot might compromise your technique


Yes, indeed, that's certainly the case, and I could imagine that being a bit in the backseat could give you knee (or thigh!) pain.

I don't think that @livetoski wide tips and tails are an issue. Even little me (60kgs) on my FIS SLs (which I think are probably my most torsionally rigid skis and certainly the biggest difference between end and waist) have the underfoot length on the ground through the turn, indicating that the tips and tails are flexing enough torsionally that they're not lifting my body weight off the ground.
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livetoski wrote:
... but you can still have great fun on a 125 under foot on piste as long as the skis are up to it and you adjust your skiing to suit the ski and conditions?
Agreed. If you're not having at least some fun when you're skiing, regardless of kit, then something has gone badly wrong. But I'd argue that if you spend 90% of your week on piste then a pair of 125mm waist skis are the wrong choice. There'd be more fun to be had on a piste-oriented ski, and you'd probably find it easier to develop good skiing habits on a more suitable ski. The same applies to skiing off-piste, of course, especially if the snow is challenging because it's heavy or crusty. A wider pair is going to mean you ski in better balance and more easily link decent turns of whatever radius you want.
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When I was coming back to skiing after a knee injury I rented a pair of narrow, piste skis to finish that season and eventually started skiing on piste again fast and without reservations though more like 3-4 hours rather than full days. Then almost at the very end of the season it dumped, so I thought even on piste my usual fat ski would be fun. I was wrong. I struggled for an hour or so and quit. It was just too much for my knee, I was very unbalanced and it was very difficult to turn the ski on my injured leg. I can't tell if there is any difference for healthy knees, but after an injury there was a big difference.
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I'd like to see some decent research on whether it is a permanent damage sort of thing or a case of someone tries something a bit wider, knees are hurty therefore rejects wider skis. I'd suspect habituation and flexing style a bit helps considerably.
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@Dave of the Marmottes, and technique...
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1. If you want to ski fat skis onpiste, be (a combination of) young, strong, uninjured and ski with good technique; then all will be fine with your knees.
2. If you're not young, strong, uninjured, and ski with poor technique but still want to use fat skis, for god's sake get off the piste and ski the funky snow off the sides; then all will be fine with your knees.
3. If you're not young, strong, uninjured, ski with any sort of technique but don't want to ski the funky snow unless it's blower pow, buy some piste skis.
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Or rule 5 and stop moaning Very Happy
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All, the original link was to an article written by a guide with 20+ years of experience whose "right tool" was wide off piste skis, in his words "I ski a lot, over a hundred days a season. Most of it is off-piste some times in marvellous conditions sometimes not."

So *he* found 100cm ok for him and 120cm caused him knee pain
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Yes but he doesn't present himself as being much of a kit geek and we end up with some secondhand anecdotal confirmation from a French physio. There is no disclosure of what his history is in skiing "fat" skis nor the exact dimensions of those that caused him problems. Equally the condition only manifested after skiing hard for a week so all sorts of fatigue could be a factor. While I'm not disputing his creds or conditioning I did think it was a rather week scaremongering op-ed type of piece for a professional sports clinic to be putting out.
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Yes but he doesn't present himself as being much of a kit geek and we end up with some secondhand anecdotal confirmation from a French physio. There is no disclosure of what his history is in skiing "fat" skis nor the exact dimensions of those that caused him problems. Equally the condition only manifested after skiing hard for a week so all sorts of fatigue could be a factor. While I'm not disputing his creds or conditioning I did think it was a rather week scaremongering op-ed type of piece for a professional sports clinic to be putting out.

I'm interested because I speculate that ski shape also plays a role, a trad "charger" I could see being much harder on knee joints than a modern 5 point rocker with short effective edge even in the same notional width. As an example I skied the Movement Flycatcher at Hemel and I can't imagine any competent adult male finding them too much. On a similar note I am sure that so many people of all shapes and sizes love the new Director when they try it because it is simply a brilliant shape that skis much narrower than it is.
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andy1234 wrote:
@Mike Pow,
Quote:

If the skiing technique is to aggressively lead with the uphill ski and tuck the downhill knee in behind the uphill knee...

I thought this technique went out a couple of decades ago, or am I wrong?


under a new name wrote:
@Mike Pow, I'm not sure that's the whole story, because the lever action is unavoidable, and seems like a more obvious culprit.

So while A-framing these days is no longer desirable, it's the addition of the wide skis that brings the problem.



I see - and have taught - plenty of people who ski like this on piste and get away with it.

They then try to transition to off-piste soft snow conditions with this technique and a narrower platform and end up falling more than skiing.

They then switch to wider waisted skis without addressing their technique.

With the wider waisted ski comes more flotation in soft snow and more acceleration at the start of the turn.

To manage this acceleration you see plenty of people stemming the downhill ski to scrub off speed.

Biomechanically the downhill knee is not tracking over the centre of the downhill ski.

This takes place at speed on an unstable platform (the snow not the skis).

Repeat enough times per day and the knees will be stressed and become sore.

Do it on piste and it's multiplied - less give with the snow surface on-piste.

Look at most POV and aerial footage of top skiers skiing powder at mach speeds and you'll see stemming at the start of the turn. They do it to scrub speed and kick up as much powder as possible for the pics and video.

Good examples in this vid

The Shadow Campaign - The Warmth of Winter
Shot in and around the Niseko Resort Area, Hokkaido

https://vimeo.com/141357347


Recreational skiers mimic this move.

The biggest difference is that top skiers are young, flexible, agile with young knees and more often than not ski on far better quality soft snow.
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