Ski Boots - I Can, If I Cant
by Craig McNeil

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Canting is the fourth and final step, and brings the process of alignment full circle.

Canting is what you do to bring about a neutral stance that allows you to stand perfectly flat on both skis. This is the method in which the foot is shimmed under the binding to bring you to the desired neutral position. To be a masterful skier, in command of yourself, your skis, your boots and the mountain, you must be balanced from a neutral skiing stance on each ski. When you make a turn you want to be able to get equal edge from the right ski as well as the left. Most of us are either bow-legged or knock-kneed (or a combination of both). Because of the way our legs and knees line up over our feet, we tend to favor one side more than the other. We use what we consider our "stronger side" to do most, if not all, of the skiing work for us. We use our stronger side to establish our rhythm, control our speed or stop.

Because we have an easier time engaging our strong edge we use this side in our skiing for everything we do. Favoring one side over the other is the root cause of most problems in skiing.

How to do it. The knee is the key to analyzing your stance. Stand with your ski boots, on a perfectly flat surface. Find the center of the mass of the knee (not the center of the kneecap necessarily) and make a mark. You can buy or use calipers that will give you an accurate measurement of the center of mass of the knee, or you can do it by eye. Once you have made a mark at the knee mass center, stand with your feet slightly apart. Using a carpenter's framing square, line up the mark you have made on your knee with the toe of your ski boot. Look at the toe of the boot and you will see a ridge in the center of the toe from when it was molded. With a ruler make a mark one quarter of an inch from the boot center towards the big toe on each boot. Ideally, the straight line of the framing square from your knee should line up with this mark when standing on a perfectly flat surface. (This is the only accurate way I have found to measure cant.) I know it's hard to believe, but one degree or even one-half degree can make a big difference in your skiing. If you are inside that one-quarter inch mark you need canting to build up the inside edge under the binding. Outside of that mark build up the outside edge. Adjustments can be made with cant or alignment strips that look like a wedge and are thicker on one side than the other and are accurate to one-quarter of one degree. The question is whether you have been properly measured and if you know you need the cant strip on the inside or outside edge.

A good boot fitter or specialty ski shop can help you with canting. Call ahead first and ask how they measure and what they charge. Some ski shops use a platform device that rolls you to a neutral position. These don't work. In a lifetime of skiing I have yet to find one that could give me an accurate measurement and I'm as bow-legged as they come. You must stand on a perfectly flat surface in your ski boots when you take the measurement from the knee to the floor with a straight edge. This is the most effective, if not the only, way I have found to accurately take this measurement. Although canting is technical in nature it is one of the best things you can do to improve your skiing. There is no greater feeling in the world than being able to stand in a neutral position and tilt your ski to the edge and have the ski respond with little or no effort. A note on canting the boot cuff. Do not confuse canting the boot cuff (the upper part of your ski boot) with making an adjustment with a shim under the binding. We are talking about two different things here. Many companies make ski boots with an adjustable cuff that you can tilt towards the inside or outside or outside edge of the ski. This adjustment is designed to follow the shape of your leg and not alter it. It is not enough to adjust only the cuff of the boot. Some unknowledgeable boot fitters try to use the boot cuff alone to affect whether the knee tracks to the inside or outside using the boot cuff alone. Adjusting the cuff to affect knee tracking will not bring you to a neutral position in your stance. The cuff adjustment should be made to follow the contour of your leg. If you are bow-legged the cuff should tilt out. If knock-kneed tilt the cuff in. The adjustments you make with the cuff are meant to compliment your stance not alter it and should be made in conjunction with the shim under the binding. A good boot fitter at a custom shop can help you get this adjustment right. This is the only way I recommend using the cuff adjustment.