What he said...
Originally Posted by Alaska Mike
First off, congrats on a successful first day.
For your stance width issues, it's something that you'll have to fix outside the gates. While freeskiing, try to ski with what you consider an excessively wide stance while maintaining a parallel relationship between the skis. Make nice, clean, round turns and concentrate on an active inside ski, pulling the inside foot back.
A coach of mine always said to keep your bellybutton in front of your boots. A lot of people try to get out of the backseat from the head down, but the hips are what matters here.
The gates aren't a target, they just define the course. In other words, ski a tight, clean line and you'll hit them. If you aim at the gates, you'll be late, twisted up, and probably out of the course. Ski early/high, round, and clean, and tighten up your line as your abilities and confidence improve.
Race armor helps build confidence. Hand guards for your poles and a chin guard are nice additions as you start tapping more slalom gates. A little extra padding on the shoulders can help minimize the pain of repeatedly brushing GS gates.
...if you're looking ahead, and looking at your line, you won't see that much of the gates...just peripherally as you go through them in SL or brush them in GS. I can't emphasize enough, as AM says, that you've got to get your technical chops down outside the gate, then apply tactics when you get in the gate...and when things go south, don't keep pushing a rope. Get out of the gates, go free ski until your technique comes back.
Also agree totally with the Armor All approach to ski racing. Note that helmets are required in all events in Masters this year...and that might even be for FIS races, too. A good idea. A Marker helmet, or something similar, is a great all-round helmet, and you can also buy the highly-recommended chin guard for SL and a full-face guard for speed events.
A GS suit is a good idea for GS...padded on the lats, forearms, thighs, which is where you'll usually catch gates in GS, or wear a DH suit with a Stealth top or similar on top.
For SL, I use a 2-piece SL suit with the pads where you'll contact SL gates, plus handguards, plus shinguards. Get good ones, otherwise you'll be replacing them every two weeks and you won't get the protection you need. I like Dainese stuff, personally...I have a pair of their shinguards I've had for 4 or 5 years, and they're still going strong. I happen to like Swix guards, which I got because I have Swix carbon fiber poles...but your mileage may vary.
What AM is saying about protection is totally true...it's not just, um, for your protection, it's so you concentrate on tactics and don't worry about what happens when you go into a flush a little late...