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What can be accomplished in one Race Lesson?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I've been skiing for 25 years, doing Nastar off and on (mostly ad-hoc), been a fairly steady Silver handicapper, independent of my age. Consider myself fairly good overall skier, but a mediocre racer. I'm in a rut and need to break out. Never had a race lesson and would like to avail myself of a trainer/instructor's viewpoint of my weaknesses for one private lesson (this is what the budget will allow) this season. What would be the best structure for such a lesson (I plan to do it midweek)?

My goal would be to come away with an overall assessment, couple of things to work on. I am interested in having someone see me and tell me what I need to do to break out of the rut: My handicap has remained fairly steady. Even 10 runs on the same course over 3 hours produces erratic results: 31, 28, 29, 27.5, 32, 33, 29.5, 31, etc., etc. So I've got consistency issues here.

1. One hour or two?
2. On a course or not? Some threads here say much can be taught outside of gates.
3. Do it with the NASTAR course setup?
4. What should we work on?

I work FT and weeknights are pretty much out. I've a young family with a hyper schedule, so corporate beer leagues are pretty much out. I have to race when I can, which relegates me to NASTAR - which is fine for me right now.

I might be able to swing a lesson a year. I'm not out to go to Nationals, at age 49, I'd be pleased to just keep improving my personal best. I've got a call into a local race director, we'll see what he advises.

It is also very clear that my equipment is holding me back. I have been demoing equipment this season and brought my handicap down nearly 3-4 points on equipment alone. On shop buyer recommendation, I plan to demo Head iXRC 100, Volkl P60GS and Fisher RX9. I'm a GS skier by nature, so I'd like a ski that can cater to both free ski GS and Nastar, if that's possible. Opinions?

Thank you!
post #2 of 17
I would Take a private lesson, 2-3 hours hours or maybe 2 separate sessions. 1 hr each. Let the instructor know your goal but plan on being outside the gates for a while. Work on your basics. Plan on doing "boring" exercises on flat easy runs. Good Fundamentals will make for better times in the course. you need to learn to carry your speed through your turns. This means clean carves, clean transitions, precise movements. Speed can mask these sloppy movements..

I took a lesson with Ric (vailsnopro) last season. My first time ever in the race course. We talked about the start, (how to do get a fast start) and slipped the course. Then a short talk to make sure I understood the tactics (where to turn ie:before the gate) and then we ran the course. I managed 1 silver on the first run. We chatted about what I did wrong. Rounder turns, better line selection, etc and then 5 golds (6 runs total) with my best handicap at 18.54. The key. Fundametals!
post #3 of 17
Like you, I've been trying to improve my racing. Hunter's NASTAR program offers a private race instruction program including video assessment on the course with a level III coach and then a review of your video and dissecting it frame by frame. This has helped in improving my rise line, anticipation, evaluating a course before running it, and has shaved a significant 2-3 seconds off my times in a very short amount of time.

What works well and you seem to be doing it is using the same NASTAR hill. If the pacesetter is there when you are running the course ask if he has time for you to watch him ski it.

Also, it helps that when you do get something out of the course go apply it to your free skiing. If you just keep going up and down the course with no free skiing it can prevent you from feeling what it is you need to feel in order to ski confidently through the course.

Most skis that are made now will tell you what radius the ski is designed to turn. If you are on GS skis it will be harder for you to make that ski turn in a modified GS course.

I highly recommend you coming to Hunter, I don't know of other NASTAR hills that are doing this video racing assessment. NASTAR at Hunter is open Wednesday through Sunday.
post #4 of 17
The 2-3 hour lesson should be equaly balanced with tech drills and tactical teaching. Your technique won't look very good if you're on a bad line and "pinching" the gates like many inexperienced racers do. I'm a big advocate of free skiing drills and miles but after 25 years you'd probably gain a lot from tactical work. The drills you can work on anytime but gate time is usuall pretty limited.
post #5 of 17
I agree Slatz, balanced work I suggested 2, 1 hr sessions for that reason. I think a session on basics, to work on technique. Focus on precision and accurate movements. Then a chance to practice this for a few days. Get the movements into muscle memory. Then a second 1 hr session in the gates to apply those movements to tactics.
post #6 of 17
What kind of protective clothing and other gear like a helmet do you suggest for SL?Ive planned on taking a SL lesson on my skiing holliday if I get a chanse.
post #7 of 17
If you're not familiar with slalom, contact with the gate really screws everything else up(and slows you down) Contact should be learned with stubbies or brushes so the proper technique gets imprinted first.
In my program I teach with stubbies and pole plant targets to get the pattern of the turn and rythm of the pole down first. Then I add tall poles and emphasise that the clear is a result of preparation for the pole plant. If you intentionally clear the pole, you mentally stop at that point for a micro second and are behind the course from that point on. I don't let little kids(J IV, V and VIs) clear poles until they get some size(about 100 lbs)
In answer to your origional question, shin gruards, pole protectors and a mouth/teeth protector. Face bars won't necessarily protect your teeth but are a good idea.
post #8 of 17
Originally Posted by tarkulich1

1. One hour or two?
2. On a course or not? Some threads here say much can be taught outside of gates.
3. Do it with the NASTAR course setup?
4. What should we work on?

It is also very clear that my equipment is holding me back. I have been demoing equipment this season and brought my handicap down nearly 3-4 points on equipment alone. On shop buyer recommendation, I plan to demo Head iXRC 100, Volkl P60GS and Fisher RX9. I'm a GS skier by nature, so I'd like a ski that can cater to both free ski GS and Nastar, if that's possible. Opinions?

Thank you!
My free advice, worth what you pay for it:

1. At least 2 hours. I race, and I've never had a semi private or private lesson or clinic that wasn't well worth the money.

2. Both--a mix of free skiing (work on technique fundamentals, analysis of your issues outside of the gates, and learning drills you can practice while free skiing) and gates (learning a great start, course inspection basics, and an early line.)

3. Yes, or on a similar pay GS course, since you race Nastar (easy short GS-type course with simple left/right gate set.)

4. Work on whatever your issues are, but with 29-32 handicaps, those issues probably include: (1) late line, turning at the gates instead of completing the turn 2/3ds in advance; (2) partially skidded turns, which are partly the result of not commiting your center of mass forward and keeping the hands up and forward (think elbows forward); (3) not using the sidecut of the ski optimally with an early rolling onto the new outside ski and pressuring of the edge early, before and through the fall line, with an early release of pressure.

Skis: If you want a gate monster that rips free skiing, my biased advice is to also look at the SX:11 from Atomic. (Super cross ski, available cheap on eBay.) It's rock solid at high speed (unlike the old 9.20s; it really has the feel of a stable GS specialty ski like the 11.21s) but at 180 cms has an 18-meter sidecut, meaning that it's more turny (better for you in beer league and Nastar courses) than a FIS-legal 21 meter sidecut GS race ski. Also, wax your skis and keep the edges sharp. It's hard for a racer to understand why some recreational skiers abuse their bases by not having them waxed regularly and ski on edges full of burrs. (You don't see me driving my car, on four flats, just cruising on bent rims...) Your local ski shop can wax the skis and sharpen the edges regularly, or you can learn how to do both yourself.

Budget advice: (1) Hang out at your local Nastar course or masters training area. Watch the fast grown ups (no slam on kids, but they're typically current racers who do what they do, and may not have a lot of understanding or advice for a 49-year-old recreational racer and his issues) to see what they're doing differently than you. Then engage them in conversation on the lift or waiting in line at the starting gate: What's their advice for going fast? What advice would they have for you, skiing at a 30 handicap? Ski racers are (in my experience) among the most generous free advisors on the planet, and very knowledgable about how they changed habits that were slow in the gates. (2) Check out the racing tips thread on this forum.

This weekend is a good weekend to watch fast guys on the Nastar course, since it's the last weekend to post a qualifying handicap for the Nastar nationals.

Good luck!

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you. Now It's Show Time....

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful and helpful comments. I will take them all to heart.

I've got a private race lesson setup for Friday at my local area with a race coach. I haven't spoken with her directly, but with the Race director. He feels 1 hours for starters would be good, will give me a lot to think about and work on, then come back another time for comparison, to see what's improved. The NASTAR course will be setup. What we are probably going to use it for it to see where my weaknesses are and for the coach to demonstrate for me what good technique looks like. I suggested and they accepted my offer to bring my digital camera which doubles as a video recorder. We'll film both the coach and myself so I have a take-home to study and compare. Then we'll work outside the gates most likely.

He's also agreed to leave the course setup, with the automatic timer running after Nastar hours so I can just run gates the rest of the afternoon. Boy, I hit paydirt here. Nice to find the right people!
post #10 of 17
For your budget concerns, you might want to try showing up at a group lesson line-up and requesting a race lesson. There is a good chance they will accomodate you. And being an advanced skier wanting a gate lesson, you might end up by yourself or with just one other. It'll be a private or semi-private for the cost of a group lesson.

Something to consider.
post #11 of 17
Tarkulich1, out of curiousity, do you mind stating where you are taking this lesson? Also, would love to see a report post-lesson on your thoughts/impressoions. Thanks.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 


Wa-wa-wachusett, Massachusetts

And I forgot to mention, they have a demo center and are setting me up with appropriate equipment too. (My equipment is pre-cambrian/pre-shaped thus i've been demo'ing all this season) Not cheap, but I want to do right and make sure that I'm working on the right things, not compensating for bad equipment.

Happy to report in the results sir, over the "weak-end".... Not so sure I want to share the video though

Snowin' in N. Vermont right now...
post #13 of 17
Thanks, T-1! From a free skiing perspective, I'll second sfdean's comments on the SX:11's. I picked up a pair pre-season from a fellow Bear and these things are rockets!! Have fun on Friday!
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 

The Deed Is Done

Well, Friday was a helluva day. Chocked full, I was beat by the end of it.

In a nutshell, the lesson with the coach turned out to be constructive but also frustrating. She gave me some important critiques and tips (her job was well done), but it was me I was frustrated with.

Conditions were very firm (rain 2 days prior, frozen and ground back up good into packed FRGR base, made for very FAST conditions. Edging became tantamount.

I took away a couple of important lessons:

1. After skiing for 25 bad habits are going to be REALLY HARD to break. Some things, like step turns are easy to remove, other things, like weight balance (I lean far forward rather than bending my knees forward) are much more difficult.

2. I also learned I don't carve as well as I thought. We spent a lot of time looking at tracks. Picked up some good exercises. Again, I tend to lean downhill, my body isn't upright as it should be in a racing carve. Too much sunny-day GS cruising I suppose.

We did off-course drills, which I didn't do too well at - well, baby steps improvement. It's in my noggin, now getting the old bones to do it is the challenge. What became quickly apparent was it's not going to be a "silver bullet" fix. We ran the course 3 times, after the drills and critiques each time. While my form began to look a little better, it did nothing to my course times - they held nearly even.

I fixed my "turn too late" problem, and also fixed my "hands too low". I guess I took the book learning a bit too far.

I was a bit disappointed that my private lesson turned into a semi when there was a scheduling snafu, so I might have gotten a bit more face time, but then again, I have enough to work on. We never got to the video (my choice), since I had enough to work on.

Perhaps I was getting a little tired - I was skiing demo skis, then I did 2 hours of Nastar (8 runs) before the lesson. The coach suggested that the edges on my demos weren't all that sharp. Then again, the other thing I had working against me was that while the skis are great skis, I wasn't familiar enough with how to work them (Volkl P60s) to take full advantage.

One other neat idea that the other student had was to use his FRS 2-way radios. He ran the gates with an earbud in, the coach talked him down. Interesting idea, but I didn't need that yesterday.

So, thanks for the ideas and encouragement. Bottom line is that there's a lot of work ahead for an old-timer, breaking habits to get a breakthrough.
post #15 of 17
I might suggest that your may have improved your course time if you had not run so many races. I noticed my times started to drop off after 4 runs (my best run was not my last. As much as many people think good skiing in the course is not hard work, It really takes a lot out of you to full bore even it it is only 17-20 turns.

Good luck and keep it up.

post #16 of 17
Plus you had some variables involved. New to you skis, questionable tune and snow conditions. I'd almost throw the clock away at first and concentrate on the lesson take aways.

Would you do it again and, if 'yes', is there anything you'd do differently? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 

Sure would

I sure will do it again. It just brings home the fact that there is always more to learn, you're never as good as you think and that old habits die hard.

Sure, I kind of regretted taking so many gates prior to the lesson, but as I always tell my kids, "practice makes perfect". I think next lesson, I'll do it fresh. However, I still want to run as many gates as I can. There never seems to be enough time for me. I don't belong to a race league.

The week away gave me time to contemplate my navel (er, uh, skiing.)
I internalized a number of things the coach said, and put different aspects together.
The big takeaway was learning to carve your turns and not unweight between gates as you switch. So I worked on this a lot when free skiing with my daughter this week.

One specific critique has really "bothered" me (in the sense that I'm now obssessed to fix it): I skid too much, and I don't engage the tips enough. So I worked on that and I couldn't get any better or get it right. I remember the coach saying that I really need to work the Then I paid close attention and realized that no matter how much forward pressure I put on the boot it wouldn't carve right. The skis had just been tuned and waxed. It occured to me that I might have a boot problem. So off to the bootfitter yesterday. Sure enough, my boots have my legs too far straight up. He made some adjustments and the proof is in the pudding next week.

Thanks for all the encouragement and advice. If anything, this will make me a better skier.
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