I'm part of the night-time master's group at Park City and I was up the night Phil joined us for SL training. (A very cold night, -10F.)
"A-frame, great athlete, very fast feet" is a good description. He doesn't ski much different than the video posted above, except more compact and controlled, which you would expect in training on what I'm sure was for him an easy course rather than racing in the Olympics. Also he has assimilated breakaways, he is cross-blocking and has his CM way inside the gate, unlike '84. Smooth, relaxed, quiet upper body, dynamic legs, very quick and deft applications of power, never even a hint of being out-of-balance or off-line - all the usual attributes of superior skiing. Chopped *every* gate at the ankle. That same characteristic little sweep of the inside hand towards the outside at gate clear.
I followed directly after him through the course at one point. Very straight line, a flat ski on the transition from inside to outside ski, a quick carve, a skarve by today's standards, just above and through the gate. (At least for the first few gates, I suck in gates and was quickly distracted from examining his tracks by the task of not killing myself.)
As for straight vs shaped debate, when I asked our coach about it at the next session he said Phil was up to get coaching in modern SL technique with an eye towards trying to win National's. He was on K2s, not sure exactly which model or size, but certainly a modern SL ski, most likely 165s. It was quite striking to me to see the flat ski in transition. This use to be the mark of the best racers; now, of course, it's two clean "railroad tracks." It was very cool to see such a fine example of classic old-school tracks right on top of new-school tracks in the same course. It was like a picture: "See, this is why new school is so much better, this is the kind of turn you can now make."
FWIW, I didn't get a chance to talk to him. He was very low key, just one of the guys. You wouldn't of known unless someone pointed him out to you. I had more than one lift conversation along the lines of: "Man, it's great to be out with a true legend of the sport." "What are you talking about it?"
Clarification for janesdad: The gate bends quite a bit, even hitting it with the boot cuff it still requires the hand to block it or it can hit you in the face or body. Gates are now cleared by cross-blocking, using the outside hand to block the gate. SL poles have guards over the fingers attached just below the grip. In the old days, the body was not inside the plane of the gate like it is now and the gate was brushed aside by the inside arm and also sometimes the thigh.
As for pole plants, my view is that fundamentals matter; the more every aspect of good technique is ingrained in muscle memory the better prepared you are to instinctively react in difficult situations. A pole plant is pretty integral timing thing and in certain situations crucial for balance. It's much better to have the pole planted instinctively than get a bit out of balance, need a strong pole plant and have to think about your arm getting there in time. Admittedly, we're getting into pretty gray terrritory, but the difference between good and very good is the sum of many small things. Sometimes the World Cup guys are good examples because they are really, really solid on fundamentals but sometimes they aren't good examples because, as Gary details, they're often applying tactics that aren't relevant to most skiers. Rocca is absolutely flying through a forest of gates, his hands/poles are active and very deliberate.
Breakaway gates came about because bamboo broke at the ground, which caused delays in the start hut as gates were replaced (not to mention the cost). Often the impact deformed the hole the gate was put in, so simply replacing the gate did not always return the course to its previous condition, the new gate couldn't stand up as straight as the earlier gate. A course would hold up for 3 or 4 racers and then pretty much be destroyed. It wasn't tenable, nor was modifying the rules to say what kinds of gate contact were legal. Judging whether a racer kept his knee outside of the plane of the gate or some other criteria would have been a nightmare.
Thanks for chasing down the exact timing, Gary. I was thinking it was right around 1980. I ski bummed in Vail in '79 and did the employee race series and that was all bamboo, IIRC. In '81 I had a friend of a friend on the US team and the friend and I went to watch him race DH at a World Cup in Aspen that year. He was telling us about melting the padding on his SL pants from gate contact. The US team pants that year had little metal studs in the shin padding. He was melting the studs as well as the plastic. So in '81 guys were shinning, at least occasionally, but not yet wearing shin pads. (Man, that must've hurt.) Come to think of it, pants with pads at the knee and down the shin were around at least by '78. But that video of Phil in '84 is breakways but Phil is not cross-blocking or shinning. That Torino link says they didn't start moving inside the gate until '85.