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Thread: Nationals: Tips for skiing a steeper course

  1. #1
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    Nationals: Tips for skiing a steeper course

    Ive been watching with interest the discussions here about the more difficult terrain encountered at Nationals. I can see the points of those who object to it. The fact that NASTAR has started inviting the top 5 from each division to Nationals instead of 3 leads me to suspect that the participant numbers were not where theyd like them to be, and this was a way to boost them. Could intimidation by the courses and terrain be a factor in a numbers drop? Perhaps those here on this forum who voiced protest about the difficulty of the terrain are far from alone?


    Be that as it may, its not the topic of this thread. If youre going to Nationals you very may well be subjected to terrain and courses that are much more difficult than what you encounter at your home resort NASTAR races. In this thread Ill offer some quick technique and tactic tips on how to handle the more challenging courses youre going to be racing in.


    I hope you find the following hints helpful as you charge down the Winter Park venue in search of National level success, however you choose to measure it.


    1) Line:



    On flatter hills course setters will generally set the gates with less offset. Too much turn for the existing pitch slows the speed racers travel too much, not allowing a high performance race ski to bend and perform as its designed to do. Slight offset allows racers to take a pretty straight line from gate to gate, and this is the line most NASTAR racers will find brings them success at their home resort.


    As the hill steepens course setters begin to add more offset, to both keep speeds down and require a higher level of technical skill from the racer. The straight line used on flatter courses no longer works. Go too straight at the gate and youll find yourself skidding low and late for the next gate, dumping much of your speed, or blowing out of the course completely. You now need to ski a rounder line, moving your aiming point out, starting your turn sooner, and thereby giving yourself more time and space to execute the needed direction change.


    A safe line on the steeps is something called a High Line. It involves moving your turns apex up above the gate slightly. This allows you to get more of the turn done before you reach the gate, making it easier to stay clean on your edges, and ahead of the course. This works particularly well when courses are rutted up badly with holes and chatter marks. It allows you to avoid the majority of the damaged track. Its also a useful line for racers not used to skiing steeper pitches, to help them avoid making costly mistakes.


    Of course, the High Line is a tad bit of a slower line, requiring the racer to travel a slightly longer distance, ski out of the falline more, and turn somewhat more, but thats the price that comes with safety. Get late one time on the pitch and any savings that would have come from running a line with apex at the gate will be out the window and then some. Judge your own ability, and make your choice accordingly.




    2) Fore/aft balance:



    On a flatter hill a skier can more easily get away with riding the tails. In fact, at times it can even be fast. When the hill steepens, however, getting on the tails can spell disaster. It can put you out of the course in the blink of an eye.


    Speeds on steeper hills are going to be faster, and its very easy to fall aft as you begin or go through a turn. You cant be intimidated by the speed, you need to charge aggressively into it. Work hard to drive your Center of Mass forward at the start of the turn, to engage the tips for a strong turn initiation, then keep driving it forward as you go through the belly of the turn.


    As you approach the turns apex speed will be increasing, so keep driving forward and staying off your heels. Feel the ball of your foot all through the turn. Experience the sensation that your body is leading the way through the turn, out in front of your feet.




    3) Angulation:



    Angulation is your tool for maintaining lateral balance. Its tipping the legs, but keeping your torso more upright, and your shoulders more level. Angulating moves more pressure to your outside ski.


    Angulation becomes ever more important as terrain steepens and offset grows. Through the bottom half of a turn youll feel your outside ski seem to fall away from you. Theres also a tendency to lean into the hill, towards the next gate, in a panicked desire to get to the next gate. Both are culprits that will cause the outside ski to loose edge grip and leave you skidding sideways down the hill and off your line.


    Avoid that by angulating strongly, especially through the apex and bottom half of the turn. That will keep your outside ski solidly engaged so that it can keep you on line and carving cleanly all the way through the turn.

    4) Tucking



    How much you can tuck in any course is directly related to your individual skill level. The cardinal rule, though, is never sacrifice a good turn for a tuck. If in tucking you start to skid, or your ability to ski a tight and well placed line is affected, youll end up loosing well more in time and speed than the tuck saves in aerodynamics.


    Generally, the steeper and more turny a course is, the less you should tuck. You may be able to tuck the entire NASTAR course at your home resort, but that doesnt mean that tactic will work in the steeper course youll see at Nationals. It likely wont. Stand up and make good turns when the course steepens. Only tuck when the hill flattens and the course straightens.


    And, of course, dont forget: you should almost always tuck the last two gates.

    5) Terrain changes:



    More challenging race trails will have terrain that changes in pitch. Its important to ski those terrain changes properly.


    When going from a flat section onto a pitch the offset is going to grow, which means the line you ski is going to have to get rounder. Dont wait to get onto the pitch to change your line, do it a gate before you hit the pitch. That will prepare you for the pitch so that you enter it on a good line.


    And MOVE FORWARD! When the pitch steepens youll fall onto your heels if you havent driven your Center of Mass forward as you enter it. If you fall aft, youll likely loose the good line youd hoped to enter the pitch with and drift late and low. Try to drive strongly enough forward so you enter the pitch with pressure on the front of your feet and the shovels of your skis.


    When going from a pitch to the flats you want to take as much speed onto the flat section as you can. Hold that nice centered to high line all the way down the pitch, but then one gate from entering the flats use that last little bit of pitch to straighten your line and take a shot of speed onto the flats. Most courses will be set to allow you to do this, and if you do it properly youll carry extra speed and be gaining time all the way across the flats.


    6) Inspection:



    At Nationals you dont get an unlimited number of runs to secure a good handicap, like you do at your home resort. As such, you will be afforded time to inspect the course, so you can make the most of the runs you take. Take best advantage of that opportunity.


    Some people will be able to memorize every gate, all the way down the course. Many people cant do that, though, and you dont really have to. More important is to remember the key points of the course.


    Where do rhythm changes take place? Where does the pitch steepen or flatten? Where do offsets increase or decrease? Where will you execute your line changes? Are there any weirdly set gates that youll need to prepare for? Any ruts, holes, bumps youll need to be over your skis for? Can you adjust your line to avoid them completely? Where will you tuck, and when will you stand up? How will you attack the first couple gates, and what line will you take through the last couple? Where will you cross the finish line?


    Looking for these crucial points in the course will allow you to devise a detailed plan of attack that will afford you the best possible time in your limited number of chances to run it. Close your eyes at the top of the course and mentally rehearse that plan, over and over, before you get in the starting gate. When you burst out of the gate you should be simply repeating a run youve already done multiple times in your head.

    GOOD LUCK, HAVE FUN, GO FAST !!

    www.YourSkiCoach.com

  2. #2
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    Continued:

    7) Equipment:



    Generally it’s not a good idea to change horses mid stream. If you have a single pair of skis that have been working well for you in the races at home, and you’re familiar and comfortable with them, take them to Nationals. The more challenging the course, the more you’ll appreciate being on a ski you know.


    Make sure your edges are super sharp and smooth. You’ll likely need a sharp edge to stay clean and hold your line when you get on the pitch. And wax those skis multiple times, to saturate the bases so they’re prepared for that big race. Final race wax according to temperature should happen in Winter Park, the night before the race, when you’re pretty sure you know what the weather on race day is going to be.


    Check those binding settings. If you run on the lower end of the DIN range for your weight and ability you may want to crank them up a notch for this race, as the steeper and more chewed up courses you’re going to see at Nationals are likely to test their limits. Clear this decision with your local ski shop where you had them set.


    And don’t do any boot setup adjustments last minute either. Changing a cant, ramp, or cuff angle can completely alter how your skis feel and perform. Save those type of changes until after you get home.




    HAVE FUN, AND GO FAST!




    Article by Rick Schnellmann
    www.YourSkiCoach.com
    GOOD LUCK, HAVE FUN, GO FAST !!

    www.YourSkiCoach.com

  3. #3
    Member Johnny V.`'s Avatar
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    Great post Rick! This should be a sticky in the nationals section!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Racer X's Avatar
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    I'll agree with that - excellent tips!

    Thanks
    If you win, but in so doing, lose the respect of your competitors, you've not won anything at all - Paul Elvestrom - 4 time Danish Olympic gold medalist in Sailing

  5. #5
    Administrator patmoore's Avatar
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    Vielen Dank Rick. Macht Schnell!!
    "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!"
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  6. #6
    Senior Member oldgold76's Avatar
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    I'm sure they will find your post helpful, FastMan. Lots of solid information and well written too. Nice work. OG
    Last edited by oldgold76; 03-08-2012 at 09:51 PM.

  7. #7
    Fastman, you are da man.

    Thanks

  8. #8
    Senior Member chuckp7600's Avatar
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    Thanks, I'm going to print that out so I can take a look at it in WP. Seems like all there will be to do around here before nationals will be ski prep.

  9. #9
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    Rick has given me more useful advice than anyone.
    He wisely chose not to address the issue of optimum skis for the Nationals.
    I'm not going to either.
    Good luck to all those who want to go.
    My only tip would be.......you have a few weeks...hit the gym!

  10. #10
    Senior Member chuckp7600's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Da Kine View Post
    My only tip would be.......you have a few weeks...hit the gym!
    Probabally better off hitting the road - either biking or running if you want to be prepared for the altitude.

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