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NASTAR racing - handling the headwall

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I'm a high handicap NASTAR racer, so I have many things to work on, but the one that I'm trying to solve right now is keeping a good clean carve as I come over the headwall on a short GS course. I scub alot of speed on the first gate or two after the transition from flat to steeper terrain. After a gate or two, I'm able to recover.

I'm looking for a tip or technique I can concentrate on to improve this part of my racing.
post #2 of 7
You have to have all the direction you need to hit the turning point of the next gate as you go over. That is, make a rounder turn that completes just before the pitch. When you go over the pitch you loose pressure for an instant so you need to be aiming for the point on the "rise line"(imaginary line that goes up from the turning pole of the gate) where you're going to start your next turn.
Also you should compress and push your hands forward and down at the breakover so you can extend and maintain some pressure on the downside of the breakover.
post #3 of 7
Set up early on the gate (or two) before the headwall so you have a little more time to manage the transition. Drive you hands forward as you go over the headwall. This helps to keep from getting caught on your tails and having to throw 'em sideways to make the next turn.

Eventually driving through the turn regardless of the change in pitch will become second nature (i.e staying centered and balanced) ... then you can start to straighten out the line for more speed.
post #4 of 7

Commit Forward

Slatz and Woodee are giving you good advice here, but I'd expand on Woodee's post to (1) give you some theoretical understanding to help you do the right thing, and (2) (my forte) highlight some mistakes you might want to avoid.

1. Commit forward in a big way as soon as you hit the lip of the steeper part. This is important, because without a big, conscious move forward, you will be left in the back seat, for two reasons. The first is mechanical: If you go from flat to steeps, unless you make a big forward move, your feet take off on you and your upper body is still lingering in the wrong vertical plane: It's "up" above your feet like a tree grows up from the ground instead of "up" in your new orientation, perpendicular to the new steeper slope. The second is fear: The natural reaction in the steeps is to lean back, away from danger. This is normal, even among ski racers. (In last weekend's OLN broadcast of the Chamonix downhill, the commentators pointed out how Byron Friedman and Scott Macartney of the U.S. were on their heels in part of the downhill course, and that that was the reason they finished 2-3 seconds back.)

1.1 The effect of not being forward is that you will skid your next two turns--you can't carve as effectively in the back seat (the skis skid) and you can't bend the shovel of the ski to decamber it effectively to carve a tighter turn and stay on line.

1.2 Really commit forward. Hands forward! Hips forward! Think elbows forward to get your whole CM forward, not just the hands or bending at the waist. The good news is that you only have to remember to do it at a specific point. However big you think your move is, it's probably not big enough--what feels like a huge change is a lot less profound than we typically think.

2. The advice from Woodee (early line two gates ahead) and Slatz (turn from behind before the first fallaway gate) is great, but make sure you aren't making mistakes that makes it hard to take that advice. The flat top of the course is not where you are gaining speed that will carry through the rest--instead, its those first two gates on the steeps where you're losing all the speed. So up on top, sacrifice everything else to get that earlier line that will allow you to not scrub off speed:

2.1 Don't sacrifice a turn for a tuck (and a tuck isn't paying off on that first slow flat section anyway.)

2.2 Don't go nuts skating and poling if that interferes with skiing a clean early line. This advice is a little contrary to general Nastar advice, which is that on those really short, easy courses a powerful start is huge, but given the tip over to steeps, the line is what you need to focus on.

2.3 Don't dive at gates: Complete almost your whole turn before the gate, and as Slatz says, make the full change of direction before popping over the lip, even if that means you've gone wide and turned way early. You may be skiing a longer distance to the finish, but you'll be carrying much more speed, skidding less, and even as you start to skid and get a little later in those turns on the steeps (and you will), you've started with such an early line you can afford to get a little later without having to throw your skis sideways just to stay in the course.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.


P.S. Which Nastar course? (My advice may be a little off in 2.2 if that top flat section is really long, like Beaver Creek's, where tucking and going nuts on the skating really do make a difference, because you're carrying that speed for a lot of gates before you hit the steeper section.)
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Some great, thoughtful advice! Thanks all.
post #6 of 7
Here's another concept- fear.

I worked up a lot of anxiety about the last pitch on our race course, which is generally fall-away and fairly steep. After watching a lot of video I realized that it was purely a mental thing. I would stand up and start trying to look over the pitch, my body would start becoming stiff, and I would blow the first few gates on the pitch, adding a lot of time on the clock.

What I did was to free ski the hill whenever possible, demystifying that section. Slalom turns, GS turns, straightlining it... I made sure when I was turning that I maintained the same turn rhythm from the flats to the pitch, and sometimes I even slowly tightened up the radius on the pitch to ensure I wasn't letting my skis get away from me. After a little while transitions like that didn't bother me anymore, and I was able to focus more on the tactical side.

My answer- free ski more.
post #7 of 7
I'll add a few things:

* Look ahead a couple gates as you ski the pitch.

* Keep a high line all the way down the pitch. That's the greater challenge.

* Move your turn completion aiming points further outside of the turning pole down the pitch.

* Picture an imaginary turning pole 2-3 meters directly above the actual turning pole you're approaching and go around that imaginary pole too.

* Get your feet well outside the turning pole to allow the hip room to drop into a high edge angle. Getting too close to the pole will restrict the turn radius you can carve.

* Remember, races are lost on the pitches. The goal is not to make time here, but to be mistake free. Don't push the line on the pitch, the penalty for error is just to great. Ski conservative down the steep, then take speed off the pitch onto the flats by straightening your line at the bottom gate of the pitch. Then unbutton your shirt and let it rip.
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