I'd say this is probably the best teaching aid...
Originally Posted by ssh
BTW, weems, I just registered for the Copper Mountain PSIA-RM race clinic in May.
...you're gonna experience. I guess I'm biased because I'm an L3 with 5 years teaching at Breck/Copper, but for the last 15 years I've not taught, just kept up my cert and raced/trained Masters. You've got a ton of good input that pretty much covers the gamut of what I see, so I'm not going to rehash that...basically, I see pretty clean skiing and you've noted the skill areas you want to work on.
So how is running gates going to help? Here's what I think: when I was teaching/free skiing, I found that, on a certain level, we got obsessed
with skills development as an end in itself. To an extent, that's fine...it's sort of like the guy who decides he's going to take up woodworking to make fine furniture, but somewhere along the way he gets fixated on how to carve a perfect free curve in a piece of oak. In a way, that's fine, because it's the true expression of the Work Ethic, which is the work for it's own sake. But it's also a little limiting...kind of like the artisans who used to paint elegant landscapes on the underside of the king's chair in the Louis the XIV era.
I started backing off from the "technique is God" approach when I got a succession of students who had
to improve their parallel because: (a) They had
to get better so they could ski with their wife/husband/kids/whatever (b) They had
to get better so they could stick it to the guys in the office, (c) They had
to get better because they were hard wired to succeed at everything they ever tried, whatever succeeding meant.
So I said, "Hey, that's fine, but why do you
want to get better? I always thought getting better would let me see things and have experiences on skis I couldn't at a lower skill level...don't you want to go ski the steep and deep? Run downhill? Go to Zermatt and ski over to Cervinia? All of those things are rare experiences that few people ever get to have...pick one out or make one up for yourself, and go for it...that's
the reward for developing your skills."
The first time I ever ran a downhill, I didn't really know
I could do it. But I figured that the risks were worth the reward, and I'd figure it out somehow. Which I did, with a little help from my friends, and the rewards...well, let's just say that my first trip down a course at 65 m. p. h. plus was better than sex.
Running gates is a good dose of reality, because there are no style points. What the judges think doesn't matter. The clock doesn't lie. Obviously, you have to have a clean turn to be fast or even make it through the gates, but you also have to have good tactics, otherwise the best turn in the world isn't going to buy you anything. Tactics...a lot of which consists of looking ahead...is something we sort of neglect outside the race course, but as we all know, tactics are really important skiing out in the weeds, or in cruddy snow, or flat light.
Running gates is good discipline for free skiing, because you don't get to pick the turns, the course setter does. It isn't that everybody has to turn in exactly the same place...slalom has maybe the most constrained line, but even there, as in all the other disciplines, there is always a green line, a yellow line, and a red line, and a bunch of other variations thereof. Watch some World Cup GS, and you'll see that Bode, Benni Raich, and Daron take vastly
different lines in GS. What is common, however, to all racers is in that nanosecond where you cross the rise line, you need to get on your new edges right now
...or even sooner, depending on the set. Anything less, and you're out...no second chances, no video replay.
One other thing about running gates is that skiing fast is not
the same as making 45 or 50 cookie-cutter turns. I had a coach who told me to stop trying to ski perfectly (because I was skiing Perfectly Slow) and start thinking about going fast. "Look at Hermann Maier," he said. "He makes mistakes and still wins ski races."
You'll see some "perfect" runs...Benni had acouple in GS this year, and definitely his second run in the Olympic SL was pretty close to perfect. But he also hacked a turn big
time at the top of Golden Eagle pitch in the 2005 World Cup GS at Beaver Creek...and still hung tough and won the overall race. Skiing well doesn't necessarily mean skiing perfectly, and vice versa. Some of my fastest runs in slalom...and the most fun...were basically a series of linked recoveries.
I got some similar coaching this year..."Attack more, be more aggressive, because it'll open up all your senses so you can read the course and terrain coming up at you and make whatever adjustments you need to keep your momentum. Be quick, because when you start skiing faster, the gates come up quicker..."
So I think running gates can amp up anybody's skills, and confidence, and because it's so much fun
...which is why we all got into skiing, right?...it'll give you a whole new set of larger goals in your free skiing, teaching, and so forth.
One thing I'd say is don't try to run gates on the skis you have. Borrow somebody's GS skis (and slaloms, if that's on the menu), and definitely wear a helmet, and pad up fully for slalom...which is Full Contact Ski Racing...good luck...