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Thread: Fastest line?

  1. #21
    On course inspection, I can provide the Cliff Notes version (which, sadly, is actually the fairly complete level of my current understanding, but in practice is often reduced to an even shorter in-race summary--"Oops. Meant to get early back at that gate...) I'll blather at some length, because it's actually pretty relevant to line choice, the master heading of this thread.

    Biff's simple triage rules for course inspection:

    1. Find the fallaway. Identify turns where there's a fallaway and set up early for those turns. (In that hypothetical parallel universe where Biff could actually consistently stay early for three gates in a row.) That gate that's set up on the far edge of the cat track that runs across your race hill? If you turn after the gate, while you're practically or actually catching air and the hill is falling away from your edges faster than you can set them, you'll be in trouble. But if two gates in advance you progressively turn earlier, you'll be able to complete your turn completely above the fallaway gate and will stay on course, gaining a lot of speed over someone who has to throw the skis sideways after the fallaway just to make the next gate, if at all.

    2. Size the skating rink. Figure out how far into the top of the course you can skate and pole to build up to optimum speed, making sure that you can still nail the first turn that needs nailing. Watch the fastest guys on a NASTAR course or the low handicap guys in your league race. They know exactly how far the skating rink extends.

    3. Find the cranker. (This is kind of a real world "Where's Waldo?" contest, where last prize is a binding ejection.) You won't see it in many NASTAR courses (though I was there one day when they set a doozy on the steeper section of the NASTAR course at Beaver Creek. Complete carnage.) But often in club league or other slightly more technical courses, there is that one major cranker turn (sometimes cleverly set in a Biff trap after a section you can run fastest by going straight and late in a high tuck) that's deliberately intended to favor racers who approach it correctly, as a skill differentiator. You have to set up early, once again, including if necessary making a "turn from behind" on the two gates above it, where you complete all of your turn before the flag to set up early for the next gate. If necessary, you may have to even scrub off some speed to make this gate, but if you do so, don't do it right before the cranker gate--a skidding ski will have the tendency to continue to skid instead of carving to turn more sharply--do it before the prior gate.

    4. Steep to flat compression. There are two important racing commandments about the steep to flat transition. (1) Thou shalt not screw up thy turn before the flats. Scrubbing off a little speed before a steep section has a reduced penalty--you pick up speed again on those steeps, and having scrubbed off some speed even gives you a chance for better line choice in those typically more offset gates. But that area right before the flats is like one of those school crossing areas where fines are doubled--losing speed by a mistake like throwing the skis sideways just before the flats has a huge penalty--it means you'll be slow, slow, slow across those flats and for the rest of the course, because you don't pick up speed on those flats at all. (2) Thou shalt bow before the force of a change of inertia. When you go from steep to flat, momentum wants to continue to carry you deep into the earth at that prior angle of descent, but your suddenly flat, grounded skis won't let it. The result is compression, and since many of us do interesting things involving up unweighting, down unweighting, or up unweighting followed by down unweighting in order to get our skis light and help with the transition shift of those skis from one side to the other for the next turn, this compression can seriously interfere with a smooth transition. And if you don't know the cause, sometimes it's difficult to self diagnose, since all you know is that you had trouble setting up for that next turn on the flats (and thus scrubbed off speed at the worst possible point--see above.) And if you also have the bad habit of bending forward too much at the waist, the compression can really throw you forward so you look like you're suddenly doing the "Grownup tries to ride tricycle" mime. Always a good look right before the yard sale, where the tricycle fits right in. Some of the fixes are (A) get a little back before the flat, so you're thrown into (not out of) a good ski posture; (B) extend a little before the compression, so you've got a position you can compress from; consider changing your line, so the point of maximum compression isn't at the key point in your transition where it creates the most problems; and (D) (at least briefly) take a break from any bad habit you have of excessive bending at the waist, so you absorb the compression in part with ankles and knees, not just a hinge forward.

    5. Flats to steep breakover. Again, there are two rules, and one additional guideline. First, if there is a breakover at or right after a gate, that makes it a fallaway, so look at the advice in #1 above. Second, you have to make a BIG forward move (or leg pullback) on a breakover. That's because of the combination of your feet accelerating and the hill changing your vertical orientation--if you go from flat to a 30 percent slope, unless you do something in response, you're instantly both (A) left in the back seat, and (B) effectively left leaning backward at 30 degrees compared to ideal ski posture--not a good position for initiating the next turn. This big forward move thing is great advice, but I had so much trouble following it in the race course I had to come up with a work around. One year, doing Super-G training, every time at the start wand, I'd say to myself, "remember, BIG forward move at the third gate where there's the breakover". But by the time I got to the third gate, I was already in complete survival/pure ski mode, the land beyond words, and I NEVER gave myself the cue. (This happened, I kid you not, something like ten times.) So now, when free skiing, I just try to remember big forward move at EVERY breakover. (Muscle memory and pure repetition. Always your best time investments if, like me, you're just between concussions anyway.) Finally, if you can't see the course ahead because of the breakover, do note during course inspection whether you need to make a turn way across the hill or not, and even use reference points you can see at that point. (Hmmn. Actually, I'd better turn earlier than the carved rut. Or aim at the tall tree to the left I can see.)

    6. Tuck time. Check out where, because the gates are not offset, you can run the course in a tuck to gain speed. But remember (A) never sacrifice a turn for a tuck, and (B) the reduced drag of a tuck only really begins to pay substantial dividends at speeds of 30 mph or higher. Don't ever tuck those first three gates if that means you can't stay on a good line to set up for gate four, where line really counts.

    And remember-have fun. Even if all you do is 1-3 above and you ignore the rest, you will be tactically ahead of most NASTAR racers. As they said on the Web site summarizing Austrian coaching advice on course inspection, nothing should be viewed as a "problem" or "difficulty," but rather simply as an opportunity to make up time by making a good and appropriate tactical choice in light of the gate set and the terrain.
    Life is short. Ski fast.

  2. #22
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Where its too warm and flat :(
    Originally posted by backtomasters

    Oh yeah, NO AUSTRIAN SIDE SLIP INSPECTING (that's a very quick slip), you'll get yelled out, especially in USSA sanctioned races :lol:
    In PA races they flip out at you, if you even go through one gate, but deffinatly if you go through two in a row. But if you go up into NY, VT, or NH everyone slips the whole course, going through all the gates. Good thing I had a coach up there the first few times I was racing above PA, who told me I was able to :?
    ^^Check it out^^

  3. #23
    I'd say that some simplest take-away for the rest of us (less accomplished) skiers from Ligety's comments would be:

    (1) if you can crank a bigger edge angle early in the turn you can also get out of that turn and on to your transition to the next turn nice and early.

    (2) if you can achieve a big edge angle for part of the turn, you don't need to maintain that high edge angle for a long period of time to generate the change of direction necessary to stay on course.


    (3) modern skis give us lots of opportunities to ski fast, if we're willing to modify our technique to take advantage of some of the opportunities those skis present.

    For those with a high threshold of boredom, I posted a much longer response on my thoughts about the physical demands of Ted Ligety's higher-edge-angle-for-a-shorter-time skiing on the EpicSki forum.


    The lifts are running at Loveland, my son and I are signed up for a Copper Mountain racing camp on November 18-25, my new eBay skis (including the Atomic Super-Gs) are in the garage, work looks like it will be less out of control this ski season than last, and life is good. Happy ski thoughts, all.

    Life is short. Ski fast.

  4. #24
    Gary Dranow, Bob Harwood and others--

    What's your reaction to the following aspirations, as I head off to slalom camp in two weeks to actually work on making turns in the gates (will ski GS for two days). The following was partly inspired by (1) a discussion of Ted Ligety's technique and what some of it might mean to some of us who are less accomplished and (2) a re-review of the movement analysis article of Gary's on the MSRT Web site of common would-be racer mistakes.



    Anyway, my thoughts about some things to play around with as I actually get a ski season this year:

    Hips and feet. Im always trying to figure out a way to make my skiing consistently better without just strapping myself to a different bad habit and flinging that shiny new anchor down the hill at the gates. This is my latest try. It seems to me, particularly in slalom, a key to good skiing without immediately lapsing into a collection of various bad habits instead, is to ski with a proper awareness of where the hips and the feet are at specific times. Hip needs to be low, low, low at that maximum edge angle portion of the turn. Hips need to be ahead of feet at edge set to properly pressure the shovels at turn initiation. Hips are inside the turn (Schlopy/Heismann drill) for adding angulation and its incremental edge angle. Hips dont need to be bobbing up in an old school up unweighting in the transition between slalom turns. As long as I can think hips forward (or, as Deb Armstrong puts it, think elbows forward, not just hands forward, which pulls the hips, not just the shoulders forward) at turn initiation, I wont be doing the drop the posterior back thing, and Ill be properly bending at the ankles and knees for a balanced, athletic stance, instead of just bending at the waist to achieve that funky riding the tricycle pose so incompatible with good skiing.

    (Slightly) Narrower Stance, in Slalom. One common recurring problems in racing camp video is skiing inside ski dominanttheres falling onto the inside ski or insufficient pressure on the outside ski to carve well with it, or theres the A frame, where the inside skis edge angle is much less, and it thus skids in the turn instead of achieving a two footed carve. As long as the fix is moving the inside ski out a little, and as long as theres enough angulation to load the outside ski, problems solved.

    Angulation. The simplest way for us hacks, at slower speeds in less extreme courses, to simplify some of Ligetys technique is to add angulation. We dont have the speed for steep inclination without simply falling in, but by adding angulation, we can achieve steeper edge angles for something that moves toward that short turn phase steep edge angle turn that Ligety has going on. And adding angulation means we dont have to achieve anything like Ligetys massively greater lateral distance traveled of the feet compared to the upper body.

    Faster sinking down at edge set. This may be where I go rocketing off in the wrong direction, but it seems to me one key to Ligetys technique is how quickly he achieves that huge edge angle after edge set/upon rapid pressure build up. One advantage to keeping the hips low in transition is so that they dont have as far to fall to create that big inclination driven huge edge angle in mid turn. One of the lessons for me from Ligetys skiing is the observation that if I can get to a bigger edge angle quicker, I wont have to maintain it as long, and I can get on to the business of the next transition and looking down the course much faster, which puts me in a better position for the next turns. For me, somehow achieving earlier transitions just seems to make everything go in what seems like slow motion.

    Your reactions?
    Life is short. Ski fast.

  5. #25
    Administrator patmoore's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Ludlow, VT

    Re: Bob Harwood - The Road not Taken, Tactics and Line

    Originally posted by backtomasters
    Bob has authored a very good (actually really, really good) article on tactical and strategic choices.

    Here's the link;


    Bob Harwood, dedicated to our sport!

    Thanks Bob from all your team members at MSR.com!!!
    Sorry I missed Bob's article earlier. Thanks for sharing the link. Excellent article!
    "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room"
    "When you're over the hill, you pick up speed!"
    NASTAR# MOO95 Ski Race Record
    NASTAR# MOO2023 Snowboard Race Record


  6. #26
    Gary Dranow (backtomasters) noted:

    "Next, regardless of the discipline is proper hand position. Hand position (and movement) is rarely studied or talked about but has a profound affect on each turn and the quality of your carve. Carve better, go faster."

    In one of our league races a couple of years ago, we had a photographer taking pictures at one gate, who posted the complete portfolio on line. We've got separate skill classes, covering a VERY broad range of skiing ability. (It's not like Masters racing where even the "slow" guys are pretty fast.) So, if you had an analytical bent, you could go compare guys at the exact same point and note, by bib number, how differently the stomper guys ten or twenty (!) seconds faster in the gates looked from the stompees.

    You'd think the big differentiator would have been inclination, angulation, stance width, early line. Not really. The one consistent key was that the fastest skiers had the best hands. Uniformly. Outside hand was never back. Ever. Inside hand wasn't back. Arms weren't stiff, either, just forward and slightly relaxed, in a kind of what's-so-hard-about-this-I'm-just-skiing-in-balance look.

    I plan to work on that too. The best advice I got on that front (best, in the sense that I could understand it, and it made sense to me in a vivid way, especially after looking at some more race pictures--your mileage may vary) was (1) to ski generally with arms relaxed loosely forward, like a bear cub hugging a tree, but not too tightly (go check out the pictures of Raich and Rahlves in Gary's post on "What the Austrian Coaches are talking about now" to see conceptually what I'm talking about), and (2) (separately, because I tend to bang GS gates hard, especially in NASTAR where I often take a (too) direct line through the gates) at gate impact, it helps to get that inside forarm driven forward to minimize drag. (Hooking gates is slow. Brushing them out of the way with a glancing impact is faster...) (You sometimes see a World Cup still of a skier way inside at GS gate impact jamming both arms forward straight to pass it on the correct side, but that's essentially a special case exception to the relaxed arms forward rule.)

    And videos of the top GS guys show a pattern, with arms out for balance in transition, pulled in at gate clear and compression in the turn and then opening up again for the next transition.

    My current theory is that it helps to practice balance exercises with hands in roughly the positiond that you want them for skiing. I'll let you know whether that theory seems to make any difference at all in a couple of weeks, when I actually get on snow and start wrestling with gates.
    Life is short. Ski fast.

  7. #27
    On the pole plant, there's a nice video online of Bode Miller and US Ski Team coach Phil McNichol demonstrating the timing and mechanics of a good pole plant, step-by-step and phase-by-phase. (Pole tip goes forward as skier begins rising back up, pole plant occurs to start the process of the next turn. Appropos of the separate discussion here of loading vs. pressuring and nomenclature, they like to describe the pole plant as initiating the next turn instead of finishing the last turn, because they think that's a better way for racers to think about it.)

    Pole Plants


    (If that doesn't work--and my luck with posting URLs and typing them is spotty--go to post #30 on the following thread and click "Pole Plants" for the link:


    It's especially nice for those of us (like me) who never really got a basic or systematic grounding on the when and how of pole plant. (Showed up at a slalom camp a few years ago, looking to buy a good pole plant, only to find that they were de-emphasizing the teaching of pole plants in favor of some other skills.)
    Life is short. Ski fast.

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