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The four gate flush et other SL issues/questions

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Have others folks noticed the frequency of the four turn flush in WC SL? I see it often in the womens and almost always in the mens with occaisionally two of them in mens's.

Yesterday's SL training at reset time due to course deterioration I changed the two three turn flushes to fours to redirect and escape with partial vs full reset - and because of noticing their frequency watching the WC. I strategized the best way to ski it was to hit the top two gates like a hairpin and the bottom two like a normal flush. This seemed to work but my execution left alot to be desired.

Anyone else play around much with fours as opposed to threes? Don't believe I have ever run into it at any of the Masters races out here. Noticed in the rule book and USSA DVD that particular combination always says three to four gates.

Another related topic is per USSA the delay gate in SL is going to slowly go away. Has anybody yet seen a SL sans delay at a race? Last season there always seemed to be at least one.

A third issue of note. Last season at one SL there was a difficult vertical combination (3 gate flush) immediately before the finish. I notice that in the rule book it states: "803.4.4 It is not advisable to set difficult gate passages either right at the beginning or end of the course. The last gates should be rather fast, so that the competitor passes the finish at a good speed."

That day a large number of the competitors biffed out at that combination including one tired old Fossil. This was a Master's race so almost everybody was a fossil to some degree but it occurs to me that the Jury might have interceded here at inspection and asked the setter to remove the combination and replace with a few opens. Note there was already at least one flush further up the course so it did not violate a requirement. Does anyone have experience with such issues? Seems that nobody even thought to question the approprateness of the combination's location that day. In future I might at least say something to the Referee.

I don't bring this up to make waves but rather to increase my own knowledge and ability as a course setter. One thing I struggle with in the Masters is that the normal direction for course setting is to set to the average ability of the first 30 competitors. Example that day we had 2 world champions and probably five national champions yet we also had a number of folks over 70 even 80 years of age. The first 30 to run in Masters are the women old to young then the men old to young. This is in opposition to FIS where the first 30 are the lowest FIS points. So for Masters the question is do you set to the ability of the first 30 in terms of racing performance or first 30 to run the course?

- Fossil
post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying Fossil View Post
Don't believe I have ever run into it at any of the Masters races out here.
I don't think I've ever seen it either.

Quote:
Another related topic is per USSA the delay gate in SL is going to slowly go away. Has anybody yet seen a SL sans delay at a race? Last season there always seemed to be at least one.
There always seem to be either one or two. Some, though, are kind of nothing as a practical matter. It seems pretty common that they're set so as not to affect line, and often so close to the prior gate that it's not even possible to "mis-read" it and try to turn around it.

Quote:
A third issue of note. Last season at one SL there was a difficult vertical combination (3 gate flush) immediately before the finish.
I suppose my ill-educated impression is that it's really the last two gates that the rule speaks about - they're typically open gates, with no turn to speak of at the last one.

It does seem pretty common to set a flush right near the end, e.g. a flush followed by two open gates, then the finish. I don't know if that happens because the setter gets near the end before he realizes he needs another flush, or because they want to give the people hanging around in the finish something interesting to look at. I've certainly seen a number of courses that produced an inordinate number of DNFs (or hikes) just before the finish.

Quote:
One thing I struggle with in the Masters is that the normal direction for course setting is to set to the average ability of the first 30 competitors.
I think you need to think about the spirit of the normal direction. It's apparently oriented to non-classified races with a fairly homogeneous talent pool. The spirit, I think, is that the course should be set to challenge the general group who are "in the running," at least for top 10 finishes.

Clearly (I think), the "first 30" is supposed to refer to the best 30, not the first 30 who come out of the start gate (they're the same in a non-classified, seeded race).

As applied to masters, I'm not sure what the best practice should be. If you look at as one big race, I suppose you could set for the best 30. Who that winds up being obviously depends on the size and mix of your field. Just for example, say you have 60 men: the top 30 would thus wind up being about half the men (with maybe a handful of women). Typically, I guess that would be about half of each class through 5, and smaller proportion of 6 and 7. The course winds up "too hard" for the other half, most of the older men, and all but a few of the women.

If you do it this way, the course "works" at its purpose of properly distinguishing between first and second (and third, etc.) at the top of each class, at the expense of being a struggle for the lower half of the field.

I suppose I would suggest that the course be set more to the middle of the field in a typical masters race. In a lot of classes, any course would work to distinguish the very best of each class from one another (and the rest of the field), because there's such a difference in abilities among them. What you give up by setting more to the middle of the field is that in the few classes where there are two or four guys who could realistically win the class (say, Men's 3-5?) the course doesn't necessarily do the job of giving the best racer the opportunity to use his skills to beat his rivals. What you gain is having the bulk of the field feel like they're working for speed rather than hanging on just to finish.

Well ... it's a thought, anyway.
post #3 of 19
Good topic. Its seems here in the IMD that "give 'em something to watch" is an unspoken rule. Our slalom courses typically end with a Flush, one open gate right into a hairpin (or the reverse, HP, OG, FLUSH), then two gates and the finish line. Lots of fun when you're tired and charging and especially for us 6's running back around the 60th seed

There is always a lot of oohs and ahhs :
post #4 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Dranow View Post
There is always a lot of oohs and ahhs :
And probably some choicer expressions, if you listen to the person out on the course!
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston View Post
And probably some choicer expressions, if you listen to the person out on the course!
You guys are probably spot on and I never even thought of the peanut gallery angle. Especially since that race was at a big vertical fufu area that even has a "race department" to put the thing on. Those kids probably do that to watch the old folks flail. :

I came through on one ski but when I lost the other ski didn't even know it until I weighted that foot - the one with no ski on it - wham face plant. Into the finish area and wham another face plant. Then completely out of breath from the race, the crash - and everyone is yelling at me to go get the ski I left in the middle of the flush so the next racer doesn't get impaled on it. : So I'm running up to get it out of breath, ready to heave and they are screaming at me not to run backwards through the finish line setting off the timer : - like I'm that stupid, well maybe I look that stupid. Ain't racing great?

- Fossil
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying Fossil View Post
You guys are probably spot on and I never even thought of the peanut gallery angle. Especially since that race was at a big vertical fufu area that even has a "race department" to put the thing on. Those kids probably do that to watch the old folks flail. :

I came through on one ski but when I lost the other ski didn't even know it until I weighted that foot - the one with no ski on it - wham face plant. Into the finish area and wham another face plant. Then completely out of breath from the race, the crash - and everyone is yelling at me to go get the ski I left in the middle of the flush so the next racer doesn't get impaled on it. : So I'm running up to get it out of breath, ready to heave and they are screaming at me not to run backwards through the finish line setting off the timer : - like I'm that stupid, well maybe I look that stupid. Ain't racing great?

- Fossil
And of course the official and gate keeper are standing up there about 10 feet from your ski snickering "Watch this"
post #7 of 19
In the almost 30 years that I have been coaching, racing, and watching races, the primary creedo for course setting has always been, "make it challenging, but allow them to finish"!

It's easy to set courses which are so difficult that virtually anyone without the natural gymnastic abilities of a Bode Miller can't finish. Is that a good thing? Absolutely not. It takes much more knowledge, understanding, and experience to set a great, challenging course that everyone can feel they had the opportunity to perform their best on.

Surely, the course SHOULD challenge the athletes, but at the same time, if everyone finishes, the fastest skier still wins. And even on a predictable, moderate course, the fastest skier will still be the fastest skier.

For a course setter to create some horror story, causing a high percentage of DNF's, this should be reason to challenge his/her course setting philosophy, knowledge, and ability. And should that course setter repeat such a situation, then whomever is responsible for selecting the course setters should remove that person from the pool. This happens even at the WC level!

I think the comment made re: the jury doing its job with regards to a proper inspection is pertinent. most juries do NOT know what a proper and safe course is... They will rely on the one or two members who are racers/ coaches, etc to tell them if something is wrong. Since few Masters Racers will stand up and say something (usually only the younger ones vying for a top finish), then everyone is stuck with it.
The coaches at USSA races will not hesitate to call out a course setter who, in their minds, has not met the criteria of safety and competence.

Just my opinion....
post #8 of 19
VSP- They should have called out Kostelic's dad when he set a course that something like 8 out of the 30 second run racers DQ'd on. But I guess that's racing...

At Alyeska we occasionally set 4 gate flushes, but it's usually to work with the terrain (fall aways, lift towers...) and not to confuse anyone. Since the finish is right after a fall away, righthand turn on a pitch, the spectators only get to see a few gates from the finish. A hairpin or short flush usually livens up the action without any real impact on the athletes. I usually look forward to the combinations, since I'm usually way behind at the bottom of the pitch.
post #9 of 19
I'm with you, FF. Good course setting involves using the terrain and creating an ever flowing rhythm within that terrain. It's a mixture of art and science. The course should challenge the best, but be skiable for the lower level racers.

Entrances and exits with combinations are critical. A combination a few gates from the finish should not be a problem. I would suspect the problem you witnessed was an entrance/exit set mistake.
post #10 of 19
Vailsnopro is dead on, I think, that it's much easier to make the mistake of setting a course too hard than it is too easy.

Setting courses by eye is a real skill ... I'm impressed by the people who can do it quickly and well. They're generally experienced coaches who've set hundreds of training courses.

Most people can't help but set a course with at least one gate or combination that's "unmakeable," or that requires you to come to a stop to get through it. Not a big deal if it's just a training course (after all, that's where the junior coaches get to practice their course-setting skills). Not so great in a race.
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Vailsnopro wrote: It's easy to set courses which are so difficult that virtually anyone without the natural gymnastic abilities of a Bode Miller can't finish. Is that a good thing? Absolutely not. It takes much more knowledge, understanding, and experience to set a great, challenging course that everyone can feel they had the opportunity to perform their best on.
Surely, the course SHOULD challenge the athletes, but at the same time, if everyone finishes, the fastest skier still wins. And even on a predictable, moderate course, the fastest skier will still be the fastest skier.
For a course setter to create some horror story, causing a high percentage of DNF's, this should be reason to challenge his/her course setting philosophy, knowledge, and ability. And should that course setter repeat such a situation, then whomever is responsible for selecting the course setters should remove that person from the pool. This happens even at the WC level!
This is so true apparently even on the Worldcup even last weekend. Ted Ligety got into the news about what Mike referred to at Beaver Creek SL 2nd run. But by making the statement that Ivica can't win anymore he might has well of telegraphed the Reiteralm result. Funny how that works in pro sports. Arizona Cardinals are at the bottom of the heap, Seattle at the top but words were said earlier this week and today it was Arizona 27 Seattle 21. : There must be a moral to that story somewhere?

Quote:
Ligety did just that after the second run of Sunday's World Cup slalom when eight of the 30 racers failed to finish on a ridiculously tight course set by Croatian coach Ante Kostelic. Ligety, who had the second-fastest first run but straddled a gate 12 seconds into the second, said Kostelic set the course to favor his son, Ivica. "Kostelic's father is known for setting doozy courses," Ligety said. "It's too bad they let him do that. It doesn't make the sport all that entertaining when everybody is hacking it up. He tries to get people to go out because he knows Ivica isn't going to do that well anymore. That's what he has to do to get guys out, so Kostelic will have a better result." If that was the plan, it didn't work. Kostelic wasn't able to negotiate his father's tight set, either.
"It was super tight," said American Jimmy Cochran, who finished 22nd. "This is probably the tightest course we'll run all year, as far as distance between the gates and how far across the hill you have to go. A couple sections were kind of funky."
Quote:
Rick wrote: Entrances and exits with combinations are critical. A combination a few gates from the finish should not be a problem. I would suspect the problem you witnessed was an entrance/exit set mistake.
That sounds like another technical area to explore and setup as important criteria for inspection. I better add another technical section to my notebook of technique hints I am getting from Rick and MSRT crew Yesterday I watched the amazing Master Fu, today doing drills/SL with my team and coach I was trying to recruit and screw down my abdominals - I get this feeling alot: quote: "Suddenly the feeling of bracing against a heavy and dragging outside ski is gone, and it's replaced with a feeling of lightness and acceleration. " The drills we were doing and where the coach was trying to get us to go might as well been the MSRT progression - only thing missing was the whole point of MSRT about the abdominals - but everything else was there It's a strange world - not to digress but I am very low on the totem pole on this team since there are several national champs including the coach so I am strictly learner/student and not saying anything! (while I'm working those stomach muscles like crazy) :

- Fossil
post #12 of 19
When my kid was a J-5, his coach tried to set a tricky flush to give the kids "home court" advantage. It was pretty funny watching the kids come to a dead stop trying to figure out which way to go .... he did such a good job that our kids (who had practiced this), were stopping too.

Instead of a reset, they came out and put marker dye with arrows ...
post #13 of 19
Yes, yuki, funny but,,,, NOT! Better to teach kids how to ski well, then to degrade the quality of a course trying to give skill deficient racers an advantage. Not fair to other racers that have trained hard, traveled far and spent heavy to throw a crap course at them, and does not send a message of the importance of sportsmanship to offending coach's young racers.

On that note, one of my training techniques is to set BAD courses. Some with absolutely no rhythm,,, and some with a number of wacky gates that suddenly break the rhythm. Then I would go through and move gates as kids continued to run the course, so each run was different and a surprise. Great for learning to look ahead, and developing fast reactions and recovery skills. Started as a means to prepared my kids for the many bad courses we would get from one of New York's coaches who set frequently, but had the rhythm of Steve Martin trying to dance on that porch in Southern Mississippi.
post #14 of 19
I was born a poor black child...
post #15 of 19
Rick, I agree totally. This guy had "issues" and even though he was the head coach, he was given the boot after the race or, would have been if he could have been located, he stopped showing up.

I was glad to see him go.
post #16 of 19
I enjoy watching and reading about ski racing, but I have not participated. But, I would still like to learn more about the various course sets. Which of the USST DVD's goes into that detail?

Thanks.
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I enjoy watching and reading about ski racing, but I have not participated. But, I would still like to learn more about the various course sets. Which of the USST DVD's goes into that detail?
That would be Alpine Training Environment in the Sport Performance series at USSA Coaches Education Dept. If you are new to course setting it is very comprehensive with a section for each event including lesson plan, diagram, video and PDF summary. Slalom, Giant Slalom, SuperG and DH are each covered in detail, plus an additional section on setting Drills. Remember your membership card gets you a discount. Also the CSCF stuff is online.

I'm planning on freeskiing this weekend on GS and SLs, working on early pressure, getting the ski bent in the fall line with quick SL and patient GS transitions. Trying to experiment with my rudimentary WS applications. Be neat if there was some way to watch USSA Alpine Fundamentals and MSRT DVDs on the lift then apply on the run review again on the lift apply on the run and so on...... The Austrians apparently have a deal where they ski right into a tent from the course, sit on a bench with their skis on and review video of their run within 30 seconds of making it. : Their research says there is a 30 second window where visual review connects to kinesthetic memory of the actual run.

- Fossil
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying Fossil View Post
That day a large number of the competitors biffed out at that combination including one tired old Fossil. This was a Master's race so almost everybody was a fossil to some degree ....

So for Masters the question is do you set to the ability of the first 30 in terms of racing performance or first 30 to run the course?
As with age group racing (under 14) it would seem that vertical drop/course time would be a consideration when setting for masters - a late combination after 38 seconds of racing is much different than after 56 secs ....

I glanced at the early season masters SL results in Rocky - whew! The times are long!

I would think racing would be much more fun, upbeat and safer with shorter courses that reflect the fitness of the field. Might winning run times in the low 40's instead of the mid-50 seconds (for the few elite!) make more sense?

Now please, don't rail me for saying these athletes aren't fit - yes, they sure are and they should be admired for their commitment - but....

Has this ever been addressed?
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whygimf View Post
As with age group racing (under 14) it would seem that vertical drop/course time would be a consideration when setting for masters - a late combination after 38 seconds of racing is much different than after 56 secs ....

I glanced at the early season masters SL results in Rocky - whew! The times are long!

I would think racing would be much more fun, upbeat and safer with shorter courses that reflect the fitness of the field. Might winning run times in the low 40's instead of the mid-50 seconds (for the few elite!) make more sense?

Now please, don't rail me for saying these athletes aren't fit - yes, they sure are and they should be admired for their commitment - but....

Has this ever been addressed?
I noticed those high times in the Rockies SLs too. Must have been brutal if they are skiing longer than normal courses at that altitude!

Shorter easier courses might make sense for us older racers but....there would be too many complaints from the young macho dudes or the mid aged "I'm still a contender" crowd. The key is to set to FIS regulations but to set with flow and in such a way that there is a high finish rate. Not to set blind gates on knolls and things that may trap an unsuspecting newbie or rusty old racer. That may be a tall order with all the egos out there. It definitely appears on the World Cup level that the SLs are set to have some action at maximum viewing locations as the coaches suggested.

I looked back at the highlight films from last season's World Cup slaloms for four gate flushes. Although the first time I noticed one was in a women's SL season before last I couldn't find one example in last years women’s races. Most female courses had two 3 gate flushes although some had 3. Another interesting fact is that out of all the courses in the eight slaloms on the tape there were only 2 runs with a delay gate.

The men's was a different story out of 11 races six had 4 gate flushes. In the men's it was rare not to have at least 3 three gate flushes only one course had two. I found only four runs with a delay set although the first run at Kitzbuhel had 2. Many of the 4 gate flushes were just a couple opens from the line.

So as far as four gate flushes go on the women's it appears to be an unknown. In the men's they seem to be more common perhaps on the increase. In both women's and men's the delay gates are disappearing as was announced in USSA Coach's Ed earlier this year.

- Fossil
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