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Bode's Big Secret

By the time of the salt Lake Olympics, U.S. coaches were saying that any slalom race Bode Miller finished without a major mistake, he would win. Bode has developed a technique that's extremely fast, but risky. It's a style that is supremely suited to today's ultra-short (155 to 160 cm), deep-sidecut slalom skis. His skis hold better and turn more sharply because he knows how to get extreme edge angle.

Edge angle is determined by two things: inclination and angulation. Inclination is the act of leaning into the turn while balancing against the effects of centrifugal force (see photo, page 127). Angulation is the sideways bending of the knees, hips and spine, which creates an angle between the upper and lower body.

The montages above show Bode Miller and Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt in the 2002 Olympic slalom. Aamodt has won more Olympic and World Championship medals than any other ski racer in history-including gold and silver in last year's Olympics. While Aamodt represents the epitome of today's conventional style, Bode represents the leading edge.

Notice how Bode thrusts his feet ahead as he makes the transition between turns (photos 3-5). By doing this, Bode establishes more inclination and greater edge angle than Aamodt. This enables him to get his skis up on edge earlier-and farther-than Aamodt, resulting in a tighter turn.

Look closely at each athlete's skis. Bode's skis are turned more sharply and edged more. But if he's thrusting his feet forward in the transition (photo 4), how does Bode keep from getting even deeper in the back seat? While Aamodt looks solid and well-balanced, Bode looks out of balance and in danger of falling over backward.

Bode's secret lies in what his body does during the transition. Although hard to see in the montage, Bode's center of gravity takes a more direct line down the hill through the transition than his feet do. Even though his center of gravity is behind his feet in the transition, Bode uses his remarkable agility and balance to catch up with his feet by the time he starts to carve, thereby putting him in balance over the forebody of his ski (6 and 7). Aamodt makes a similar, but less dramatic, move across his feet. He travels a longer line around the gate and has less inclination and edge angle than Bode does.

Although few skiers can emulate Bode Miller's radical style, he is now the benchmark of world-class skiing. What of Bode's technique can you take with you to the hill? If you put a modern ski on edge and pressure it, the ski will hold and turn. If you treat it timidly, you will not tap into the skis' carving capabilities. Keep your skis shoulder-width apart for stability and strive to incline and angulate to achieve more edge angle. Skiers of all abilities should take a tip from Bode and ski on shorter lengths. But most importantly, as Bode says, trust your skis.

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