Originally Posted by TAMSki
So I raced for the first time last week. Credible though slow in the GS but I was destroyed in the slalom. It got hard and icy and I could not hold a turn, yet a lot of the good skiers edged through the gates like it was nothing. I don't understand that edging technique. I can pactice for a thousand years and not be able to do that. How do you hold an edge on that hard, hard snow?? Suggestions? What should I start working on?
I like hard/icy conditions, because (A) I assume they mess more with other people's minds (although see post on "indenial" above about exaggerated positive thinking) (B) since I have a tendency to commit a lot to the outside ski, it's a more "natural" condition for my standard method than soft stuff, and (C) I ski on Atomics with three degrees of side bevel and I sharpen the edges religiously* after every day of use, so my equipment is probably better prepared for ice than some of the club racers I run against.
Here, though, TAMSki, are my quick positive tips for hard pack on slalom skis (departing briefly from my role as interpreter of the Biff method):
1. Have sharp edges. Essentially, your edges should have burrs removed and be sharpened regularly. Competitive ski racers often touch up their edges after every day of skiing, and do major sharpening after every couple of days. Ron LeMaster, in his latest book listing skiing tips, says to sharpen your edges at least every two days if you're skiing on hardpack/ice. If you don't hand tune yourself, with proper beveling guides, then have a good ski shop sharpen the edges (not regrind the base.)
2. Side bevel of at least 3 degrees. You can find an explanation of side bevel on the Tognar toolworks Web site under tips and tricks. www.tognar.com
. For slalom racing skis, on hard pack, you probably want a side bevel of at least 3 degrees. Some of the World Cup racers, running on surfaces with injected water that are even harder, sometimes have side bevels of 5 or 6. The result of a side bevel of at least 3 is that the ski edge is a sharper than 90 degree angle and more easily penetrates the hard pack. (Atomic racing skis typically come from the factory with a 1 degree base, 3 degree side bevel. For me, that feels right, but that's what I'm used to.)
3. Slightly greater commitment to the outside ski. In general, skiing on hard pack requires a slightly greater commitment to the outside carving ski than does powder, slush or other soft snow, which requires more two-footed skiing to avoid over-pressuring the outside ski. That having been said, successful slalom skiers on ice definitely carve with the inside ski's outside edge as well, which helps avoid sliding out, when your outside ski bounces a little instead of biting.
4. Stay forward. In ice, it's easy to get back, pushing with the heels out of fear, or balancing over the whole foot to get the slight balance advantage as the skis slide sideways. But it's even more critical to commit forward at turn initiation, since carving as tight a turn as possible for the conditions--by properly bending the shovel of the ski at turn initiation--is even more critical on ice, where a skidding ski skids more and a low line is harder to recover from. ("Low" being such a nice euphemism for "late," since it makes it sound almost like a tactical choice...)
5. Minimize skidding. Once a ski starts to skid, it has a tendency to continue to skid, especially on ice. Whatever bad habits you have that contribute to unnecessary skidding tend to get magnified on ice. And whatever bad habits you have also get magnified in slalom gates, which require all those darned turns with the sticks so close together. What I do when I hear that scraping sound is really try to create a large edge angle, with angulation to load up the outside ski, while keeping my weight forward. In GS gates, I also throw in a little counter to increase the edge angle further, but (A) I have been advised that I over-rely on counter, and (B) counter is way, way too s-l-o-w for slalom.
6. Ski a higher line if skidding is inevitable. As you watch other skiers of your same ability skid, keep that in mind as you plan your line--aim above where you'll end up. If you watch the five skiers in front of you skid low on the first gate, make your turn a little higher on that gate, to avoid the late line from turn one on.** When you're late, you have to skid even more just to make the next gate, and this gets repeated on and on down the course until either you ski out or you slow down so much that you can get back on an early line simply from lack of speed.
*Very religiously--I have even been known to make the sign of the cross with my ski tips shortly before a somersaulting free skiing double binding ejection.
**The author, as on-line apologist for the Biff Kneesprocket(tm) method, is, of course, something of an experienced hand on the late line from turn one on...