Slow turnsSlow speed turns are actually a major challenge. In many ways they are MUCH more difficult than higher speed turns where you can use momentum to bend your skis to carve and use the change of momentum to generate G-forces to balance against, using inclination to create edge angle to use your sidecut more effectively. You actually have fewer tools, and if you try to make turns just like you would if you were going faster, you fall in or skid. But whatever speed you fail to gain by nailing those first three gates, you lose for the whole rest of the course, so in some ways they are the very most important.
Here's my advice:
1. Be as fast out of the start as possible. Cultivate a powerful, efficient start (forward, not up) and use everything (skating, poling) that makes sense to generate as much speed as possible through the first few gates (unless your course starts with a steep drop, which wasn't your situation.) Similarly, put the right wax on your skis for the conditions, and especially if you're racing in wet snow, use a high fluoro overlay. The frictionless feeling of skis waxed that way on wet snow in the start is not to be believed.
2. Use angulation. You do not have enough speed to use pure (or even mostly) inclination for those first few turns while loading your outisde ski enough to bend it and keep it from skidding. Try to tag the gate with your hip (side crunch) and do NOT pick this as a time to drop the inside shoulder.
3. When appropriate, consider a skate through the first gate. In a truly flat start area, sometimes you can time your skating to skate through the gate. (Exploding of your right ski to go left at the next gate or exploding off your left ski to go right at the next gate.) Then it's not a turn at all, simply an explosive continuation of your skating start, but dog-leg redirected toward your point of entry of the turn for the second gate.
4. Set nailing the first three gates as your key focus in the start area. Katherine Tichy, who skied for Canada in the Olympics, once told me some of the best advice she ever got, from one of the greats of womens' ski racing (sorry, have forgotten the name) --all she thought about in the start was nailing the first three gates: After three gates, we're all in reaction mode, recovering from our first mistakes, adjusing our line for the conditions, dealing with ruts. But you can have a plan for those first three gates, and nailing them gets you in a rythm and in confidence for nailing the rest of the course.
5. As suggested above, you can use a pivot entry turn, but it's really a special case. (We are now in the realm of controversial advice. Your mileage varies with this. 1,2, and 4 are good advice, for most racers this may not be.) Usually, you use a pivot entry turn when (A) the course set is too tight for a pure carved turn; or (B) when you got late or got trapped in the back seat delaying your transition and need to get back on line. (The coaches at the race clinic I was at this weekend barked in suprise at the video of my deploying a pivot entry turns--"that's an ADVANCED skill". Yeah, maybe, but for those of us who navigate the gates in linked recovery mode, it's actually essential to not eating the fences...) It's possible that the course is set too tight given your skills and speed to carve cleanly (case A) but there are also particluarly advantages of a pivot entry turn in your flat-top-of-the-course scenario: When the skis are light and you kind of "hop" them, pivoting them while light and then engaging them firmly when the angled edge hits the snow (A) you actually bend the shovel of the ski considerably more than if you just rolled onto the edge, and (B) you don't have as big of a remaining arc to carve, so you can actually do it, even with the limited speed (and limited ability to use inclination to engage the side cut.) You can combine advice 3 and 5 (and do what someone else suggested with putting all your weight just on the outside ski) by pivoting the outside ski landing on it edged, and exploding off of it in a skating step in the direction of the next gate. (Or, hell, you could take up juggling your ski poles between gates two and three. This is pretty advanced, and pretty free form. But I have seen it done, by a wicked fast Masters racer in his 60s.)
Caveat: Why everything in this number 5 is controversial is that hopping around on one ski unnecessarily, is slower in most cases than strong balanced two footed skiing. Double caveat: SfDean is drawn naturally and inexorably to the enthusiastic rather than the efficient. I've learned recently, that perhaps there is a LOT more speed not located in the neighborhood outside my particular collection of gross motor detours. Perhaps more about that later, but in the meantime, let's all just lurch back to the undeniably GOOD advice. i.e.,
6. Leave your bad habits behind, those first three gates before the breakover, and carve the cleanest turns you can. It's flat. This is the one time old man fear shouldn't be getting you to push the heels or to fail to get forward enough to properly bend the ski at turn initiation. You don't need to drop that inside hand, because you're just not that inclined and close to the snow. If you can nail the first two turns, you'll be going fast enough on the third, that you won't have to worry about not having enough speed to use your usual higher speed technique. And heck, even those of us who go to the land beyond words by gate three can remember advice for the first two gates ("stay forward" or "level shoulders" or "no frankenstein arms" or [fill in your second-saving particular bugaboo here].
7. Keep your feet wide enough apart. This is the wrong time to look like ski patrol. When you are going slow, and you have less momentum to play with, it's very easy with a narrow base of support to fall over (embarrassing, unfortunate, and before gate two you didn't really get your money's worth out of the tank of gas) or it leads to some desperate accidental 1000-steps shuffle/bobble almost fall over. Gate two is not really the ideal location for starting a new dance craze. (Believe me. I've done it. But it's the kind of thing that really shouldn't catch on.)
Good luck, and let us know how it goes. If all else fails, swap bib numbers with a really fast guy. Those guys nail the first three gates. That's why they're carrying so much speed by gate 12 where the snapshots are taken, showing that they can get crazy edge angles driven by inclination, legs way out to the side, balancing against all that speed they've built up and using that kinetic energy to make those edges bite and carve.