|It seems to me, if I can hazard a vast generalization, that ruts have somewhat changed over the years, with the advent of super-sidecut easy-to-carve skis. When people lay down railroad tracks, it doesn't really form much of a rut. It's when the ski gets sideways (to the direction of travel) and really plows up snow that ruts form.
In the old days, when racing turns tended to have more of an initial rotation and a hard edge set, there'd always be a huge rut (after very many skiers, anyway) alongside the gate, somewhat curved. Late starters typically "rode" the rut, sort of like a bobsled driver.
Nowadays, the obvious ruts are usually after the gate, and are formed by people who are late and fighting to get turned toward the next gate. There may be chatter-marks alongside the gate, but not ruts so much.
Of course, this isn't an all-or-nothing thing. There's still a lot of variation, depending on the snow, the nature of the particular turn and the type of skiers on the course.
Very true, the ruts that we often see nowadays are the result of the skis carving a hole right at the gate (or before it). So if the initial poster is going across them or avoiding them completly, he is either very round or very high , two things that are not necessarily very bad or problematic but that do not produce the fastest results.
Also, regarding the drift and edge set comment, unless there's no way to carve cleanly between two gates (because of speed, coming in late, or just plain tight course setting), it will always be faster to carve cleanly than to skid and set your edges. The way the WCupers are doing it nowdays require a fine touch* and I doubt someone who has spent a few years outside of the course has this fine touch.
* This is not to say that no one should never feather a turn or let the ski drift a bit in the very steep section of a course, but these guys do it for huge period of times in order to let the ski carve into the fall-line for a greater period of time than what could be achieved while carving and maintaining a good line.