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The Articulating Bucket - Erik Kondo

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Skis are designed to carve a turn by being put on their edge. The skier uses angulation to balance the ski on its edge by controlling his or her Center of Mass in conjunction with the force of gravity and centrifugal force generated by the turn. The degree to which a monoski can be edged in a balanced configuration is directly proportional to the amount of angulation the skier can create. All other factors being equal, more ability to angulate leads to a larger ski edge angle, and less ability to angulate leads to a lessor ski edge angle.

A monoskier with no to minimal trunk control must use a restrictive monoski seat combined with physical restraints to create static upper body stability. While this static stability is necessary to keep him or her in an upright posture, it directly reduces his or her ability to angulate. On the other hand, monoskiers with the ability to control their trunk posture use as little physical seating restraints as possible to allow for the greatest degree of angulation. Generally speaking, the level of seating support is inversely proportional to the person’s ability to control his or her trunk. Monoskiers with a high degree of trunk control use seating systems with a low degree of physical restraint. Whereas, monoskiers with a low degree of trunk control use seating systems with a high degree of physical restraint.

While there are some exceptions due to individual athletic ability and extensive skiing experience, on average, monoskiers with more trunk control have a greater ability to carve turns than monoskiers with less trunk control. This is a statistical fact. The existence of a few counter examples does not change the overall truth of this statement.

If you put a monoskier with a high level of trunk control in a restrictive seating system, he or she will have a diminished ability to carve turns. If you put a monoskier with minimal control in a seating system with insufficient physical support, he or she will have a very difficult time balancing the monoski and will likely continually fall. To put it another way, while a too restrictive seating system reduces a monoskier with trunk control ability skiing performance, a too lax seating system destroys a monoskier with minimal trunk control ability to ski at all. As a result, monoskiers with minimal trunk control will accept a lower ability to angulate and carve turns as a tradeoff for being able to control their monoskis on mostly a flat ski and by skidding turns as opposed to carving them. This tradeoff is the status quo of skiing. It hasn’t changed since monoskiing began in the early 1980’s.

The skiing system created by a monoskier is made up of an upper and lower portion. The lower portion consists of the ski, the monoski frame, and the seating system up to the level of the skier’s restraining straps. The upper portion starts at the body level of the straps and consists of the skier’s torso, head, arms and outriggers. The skier’s body is able to bend at the strap level and this bending ability creates a hinge between the upper and lower portions. For skiers with trunk control, this hinge can be as low as their waist. For skiers without truck control, this hinge can be as high as their shoulders. The higher the hinge level, the less ability the skier has to create angulation. Conversely, the lower the hinge level, the greater the skier’s ability to create angulation. A lower hinge level allows for more of the skier’s mass to be above the hinge, which enables greater ability to balance the angle when carving a turn. Therefore, lowering the hinge level will create more angulation which will lead to a greater ability to carve turns.

The Articulating Bucket functions by creating an additional hinge between the bottom of the skier’s seat and the top of the monoski frame. This hinge enables the monoski sit to articulate side-to-side. Thereby, creating the ability to further angulate and put the ski on a greater edge than before. Since the hinge is below the monoskier’s butt, a few degrees of seat angle translates into a significant displacement of the skier’s weight. Even through the monoskier is using a supportive seating system, he or she is able to create a much greater degree of angulation with the use of an Articulating Bucket.

In the diagrams, the Articulating Bucket is using an angulation block which is made of springy foam on the left and right sides and solid foam in the very middle. There are other methods that can be used to create the same effect.

The seat is mounted through the center of the block using a line of bolts that are secured parallel to the ski. The uncompressible middle of the block becomes the fulcrum point. When the monoski is leaned over to the right, the seat can be pressured to the left through the use of the right outrigger. This causes the left side of the block to progressively compress, lowering the left side of the seat and raising the right side of the seat. The net result is significant additional angulation that doesn’t require the monoskier’s upper body to bend to the side since the seat itself does the bending. Since the block is symmetrical, the opposite process occurs when the monoski is leaned to the left.

The prevailing seating theory is that the monoski bucket is “like a ski boot” and must be rigidly fastened to the monoski frame in the same manner that a ski boot is tightly secured to the ski. The general thinking is that any intentional control movement of the monoskier’s upper body should translate directly to the ski via the seat. Therefore, any bending of the monoski bucket will reduce the translated force to the ski making the monoski less responsive. In addition, having an Articulating Bucket will make the monoski more difficult to balance since they bucket will allow for movement. As a result, monoski manufacturers have all developed seating systems that do not allow for side-to-side movement.

While it is possible that a monoski bucket that articulates from side-to-side will create the detrimental effects as outlined above, it is also possible that the benefits from the increased ability to angulate will far outweigh any negative side effects. The Articulating Bucket is a tool for those who need it. As with all tools, its effectiveness depends upon a variety of individual factors.

The Articulating Bucket will be most beneficial to those monoskiers who feel that they are too restricted in their seat to achieve sufficient angulation to carve a turn. Common indications of not being able to angulate sufficiently are as follows:

  • Repeated High Side falls from catching the downhill edge.

  • The skier’s tendency to lean up the hill with his or her head and/or shoulders in an attempt to counter a High Side fall.

  • Repeated Low Side falls where the monoskier leans (as opposed to creating angulation) up the hill and falls over.

  • Repeated Low Side falls where the monoskier’s ski slips out from underneath the monoski during turns due to insufficient edge angle and downward pressure.

  • Turns that are constantly skidded as opposed to carved.

  • A lack of upper and lower body dynamics and separation when turning.

  • Heavy use of the outriggers to prevent the monoski from tipping over to the side.

While the Articulating Bucket will not solve all the monoskier’s control problems it will enable him (or her) to manipulate his Center of Mass in a manner more similar to a monoskier with a less restrictive and supportive seating system. The monoskier will still need to learn proper skiing technique and balance, but his/her body movements will be more aligned with the body positions required to control the ski as the ski was designed to be used.

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