“Get forward!”

Every athlete at every level of ski racing has undoubtedly heard those exact words come out of a coach’s mouth at some point during their careers, but what does it really mean to “get forward”?

Athletes young and old can be easily confused by this simple feedback, often making the wrong adjustments to their skiing, causing frustration for both the athletes and their coaches. Now, all of that uncertainty and doubt could be a thing of the past thanks to a groundbreaking device called Forward Ski.

Forward Ski is an on-snow, instant feedback device for skiers that works by giving the athlete instantaneous audio feedback of forward ankle flexion and foot proximity.

Pressure and proximity sensors worn on each leg send an auditory beep to ear buds worn by the athlete whenever the feet come too close together, too far apart, or the shins lose contact with the front of the boots.

Forward Ski’s inventor, Chris Bender, developed the product out of frustration after watching his athletes make a couple of well-balanced turns before ultimately getting sloppy and finishing their runs out of balance and on their heels.

An avid racecar driver, Bender draws inspiration from the many instant feedback devices found on his cars that constantly feed information as a driver speeds around the track. After some initial thought, Bender wondered if there was a way to develop a similar device to aid skiers and ski racers.

After some positive feedback on his prototypes, Bender launched Forward Ski in 2012 with patents on the pressure and proximity modes. The device has built a loyal following – including several athletes on the U.S. Ski Team – since then.

“It’s an incredible product,” says American Downhiller Bryce Bennett, who has used Forward Ski as a training tool for the last two seasons. “When I put it on and I think I’m forward, I’m not. You can hear it.”

“For warm-up and working on things, it’s pretty important to have that instant feedback,” he adds. “Sure, your coach can tell you to get forward, but when you can hear that instantly and then correct it immediately, that’s super important.”

Another Forward Ski convert is reigning U.S. National Slalom Champion and World Cup regular AJ Ginnis. Ginnis first used the device during a development team training camp when he was 17 and hasn’t looked back since, using the device as an essential piece of his on-snow routine.

“I use it as a warm-up tool,” Ginnis says. “It really helps me understand what it takes to carve a ski on different types of terrain. On the steeps, you don’t realize how far off the front of the boot most people are; Forward Ski is the best indicator of this for me.”

Carving perfect, in-balance turns on flat terrain is relatively simple for an expert skier. The challenge comes when the slope steepens and instincts take over, shifting the center of mass further back and making proper ankle flexion difficult to feel. Forward Ski lets an athlete know when what they are feeling doesn’t match what is actually happening inside their boots.

“It’s a really sweet tool,” Ginnis continues. “It gets you set and focused, and it’s a big part of my routine and it’s how I prepare for a day of training or a day of racing.”

The Forward Ski system has two modes: “forward pressure” and “boot proximity” which are both customizable, so each athlete can choose his or her desired forward pressure point and separation stance. Only one mode is active at a time, giving athletes and coaches options when it comes to how to best utilize the device for their own personal needs. It even has a “happy tunes” mode for young skiers to turn on when they get forward.

For more information and purchasing options, visit Forward Ski’s website at forwardski.com.

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Sean Higgins
Senior Editor
- A Lake Tahoe native and University of Vermont graduate, Higgins was a member of the Catamounts' 2012 NCAA title winning squad and earned first team All-American status in 2013. Prior to coming to Ski Racing Media, he coached U14s for the Squaw Valley Ski Team.
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