EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Racing Style/All-Mountain Style - how to work on both
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Racing Style/All-Mountain Style - how to work on both

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Looking towards next year. I have two different sets of goals. One is to improve my racing style arc-to-arc skiing. I see the race coaches and literally drool over the pure carves, the beautiful tracks in the snow.

The other is to ski crud, powder, bumps better.

It's really two different styles. How can I work on both? Two coaches? Alternating my training approaches?

Raising the question. What are the similarities that can be worked on that apply to both?

The differences as i see them are:

Feet further apart, more outside ski dominant. vs.
Feet closer together more two-footed platform skiing.

This year i spent the first half of the season on the former the second half on the latter. It helped, but i need a different approach.

what to do, what to do?

Talk amongst yourselves - I'm feeling a little verklempt.
post #2 of 16
Quote:
It's really two different styles. How can I work on both?
Hey SMJ--It's a great question, I agree that racing has become more and more specialized, with rapid gates ("targets" that you should run into, rather than obstacles you must avoid), armor, and specialized equipment optimized for the consistently smooth and firm conditions (even more than years past, due to injected courses that don't get rutted as much). But I don't think the meaningful differences are as great as you suggest. The two main differences you bring up are debatable, but even if they are real, they are just characteristics resulting from the terrain/condition and tactical variations of racing vs. off-piste skiing. The underlying fundamental principles and the skills involved are, I would argue, identical.

Foremost among these principles is the importance of offensive habits--of gliding vs. braking, keeping your skis going the direction they're pointing, using technique to control direction and tactics to control speed, skiing "the slow line fast." (Of course in racing, someone else--the course setter--chooses your line for you, for the most part.) Also principle is versatility and adaptability, mastery of the full spectrum of technical and tactical options, the ability to make the skis do what you want from less-then-optimal positions, and to ski through imbalance.

So, what about the points you raised:
Quote:
Feet further apart, more outside ski dominant vs.
Feet closer together more two-footed platform skiing.
I can tell you that I make very few conscious technical changes in most conditions and situations. I do not intentionally go from "1-footed" to "2-footed" techniques when conditions go from firm to soft and deep. Indeed, while trying to "pressure both skis evenly" is common advice for skiing powder, I've never had much success with focusing on "equal pressure," personally. In fact, I rarely care at all which ski bears more "weight." What I do is focus on the same movement patterns of my feet as on firm snow--keeping them both moving continuously forward, parallel to each other, and at about the same level. On firm, grippy snow, my balance shifts naturally toward the outside ski due to the forces of the turn (rarely to any intentional movement on my part)--just as balance shifts toward the outside wheels of a car zooming around a curve. So I become "one-footed" naturally, without conscious effort. It would take more effort to prevent my balance from shifting to the outside than to let it!

But if that outside ski slips or skids a little, or less firm snow breaks away, or the outside ski sinks deeper into soft snow, pressure will naturally move to my inside ski. And I'll let it. With both feet buried the same depth in bottomless powder, the "weight" will be about equal. So, with the very same movements, I'll become more two-footed in soft conditions, and more one-footed in firm conditions. Same technique, varying outcomes. Same principles, different characteristics.

Stance width changes are similar--characteristics that arise from varying conditions, speeds, and (perhaps) tactics, rather from conscious choice to use fundamentally different technique. Compared with typical turns in powder, crud, and steeps, high-speed carved turns on grippy firm snow generate much greater g-force, which requires deeper inclination (leaning in) for balance, with the inside leg flexing much more deeply than the outside leg. The skis simply can't stay close together on the snow and allow these kinds of angles, so stance naturally widens.

In addition, racing often creates the need for quick and sudden direction changes, sometimes when out of balance, which creates a greater need for foot-to-foot movements than is typical off-piste. And those movements work better on hard snow, too, where there is a solid platform to make stepping movements from. (Ever try skating in deep powder?) So hard snow provides opportunities that don't always exist off-piste. Not a "different technique"--just more options.

Really, I think that there is nothing better for developing your off-piste skiing skills than some time spent in gates, with the objective feedback of the clock as your coach. And no great racers spend all their time in gates. (Many mediocre racers do, of course, which furthers my point....) It's all skiing. It's all the same skills, combined with the versatility, tactical wizardry, and "touch" that all great skiers share. Practice it all, everywhere--narrow stance in gates, wide stance in powder, carving, braking, pivoting, gliding, stepping, skating, foward, centered, back, one-footed, two-footed, ... everything. Ski powder, steeps, crud, bumps, ice, trees, and gates. Ski fast, and ski slow. Ski with abandon, and ski with focus. Mix it up. Don't ever get bored.

You'll improve on both of your goals--and everything else!

Best regards,
Bob
post #3 of 16
somewhat related.... but an interesting story from *years* ago.....

when the 1980 Olympics were happening at Lake Placid, the men's US Ski Team came and trained at Killington, VT which was my home mountain at the time. one day they were training slalom on the lower half of Outer Limits at Bear Mountain (Killington's famous mogul run). the groomers had groomed the lower part so the US coaches were able to set their gates, but of course the athletes had to ski thru the bumps at the top to get to the top of their training course.

while some of the US ski teamers were able to ski the bumps pretty well, some of them kinda flailed. the *most* interesting skiers to watch were the Mahre brothers.... who had such a nice touch... made it look super easy, skiing icy "VW Bug" sized bumps... while holding 2 pair of skis (one on each shoulder) . they were so fluid and smooth, you would have thought that they *always* ski bumps like that... hehehe!!!

anyhoo... after watching those guys free ski, i made up my mind to focus on becoming the best multi-dimensional skier that i can. so while my background is lots of gates, USSA, FIS racing etc., go figure... this year i focused on teleing, coaching/teaching teleing and had a blast. but who knows, in a couple years it could be back to coaching kids chasing sticks etc.

like Bob says.... "Mix it up. Don't ever get bored." just ski everything you can whether in a race course or not....
post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado View Post
The underlying fundamental principles and the skills involved are, I would argue, identical.
...
Really, I think that there is nothing better for developing your off-piste skiing skills than some time spent in gates, with the objective feedback of the clock as your coach. And no great racers spend all their time in gates.
Absolutely. And time spent practicing good off-piste skills will help develop better gate skills.
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post
One is to improve my racing style arc-to-arc skiing. I see the race coaches and literally drool over the pure carves, the beautiful tracks in the snow.

The other is to ski crud, powder, bumps better.
You started a thread which you later closed that asked for MA on your skiing. You were given a road map to improvement. If you follow that road map then you will improve in both of these areas.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
thank you oh wise sage. all of what I ever need to know was answered in that thread - I forgot. still I prefer counsel from those who's skiing and skill i've seen, not just been asked to assume based on their own braggadocio
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post
thank you oh wise sage. all of what I ever need to know was answered in that thread - I forgot. still I prefer counsel from those who's skiing and skill i've seen, not just been asked to assume based on their own braggadocio
No reason to be fixated on my comments. There were at least 3 qualified people all of whom said essentially the same thing. Gates, bumps, powder etc will be out of reach until you can make a turn on gromed.
post #8 of 16
Quote:
while some of the US ski teamers were able to ski the bumps pretty well, some of them kinda flailed. the *most* interesting skiers to watch were the Mahre brothers.... who had such a nice touch... made it look super easy, skiing icy "VW Bug" sized bumps... while holding 2 pair of skis (one on each shoulder) . they were so fluid and smooth, you would have thought that they *always* ski bumps like that... hehehe!!!
Very much related, Chili! I had the privilege of working with Phil & Steve Mahre for 15 years or so at the Mahre Training Center at Keystone (now at Deer Valley). I can vouch for their bump skiing ability, even though bumps weren't their first choice of terrain. They were awesome bump skiers. I also recall a time about ten years ago, when Keystone put in one the first terrain parks with a "hit line" that ended with an enormous jump with a huge kicker. The Mahres and the MTC coaches were just out skiing, and we came into the park. There were snowboarders and a handful of skiers sitting on the snow above the big jump, watching the brave few who were actually attempting it. All of a sudden, Phil came from way above them all, gathered a good bit of speed, slalomed through the spectators, and hit the jump fast, launching sky-high and throwing a perfect, very slow rotating 360, before disappearing over the horizon to the landing. The crowd cheered with awe--he'd gone way huger than any of the other budding new-schoolers out there. Of course, they had no idea who it was that had just impressed them so.

In 1988, I was skiing in the Arlberg region of Austria, home of the famed Kandahar World Cup races. It was four years since the Mahres had retired from the World Cup after their Gold and Silver medals in the Sarajevo Olympic Slalom, and yet the Austrians still revered them as super heroes. They were somewhat less enamored of the rest of the US Ski Team, who they said lacked versatility, because they only skied gates. What impressed them most about the Mahre brothers was that they SKIED--whenever and whereever they could, in any weather, in any conditions. They described a World Cup race one season when a blizzard conflicted with some of the training days. The rest of the US team, they said, stayed in their hotel rooms and complained about the "lousy conditions," while Phil and Steve went out and skied the powder, and the crud, and the steeps....

What many American racers seem not to realize is that race courses have varied conditions, so you cannot expect to win many races if all you do is train gates on groomed runs on sunny days. Phil and Steve themselves were critical of typical American race programs, which seemed to spend more energy working on cross-blocking techniques than on learning how to make a good turn.

Anyway, these stories certainly bring some reality to the ideas we've described here, that racing and free-skiing are the same, and that you can't get really, truly good at one without getting good at the other.

Best regards,
Bob
post #9 of 16
There is a great story about Warren Miller shooting the Mahre brothers at White Pass, Washington (where they grew up skiing). Anyway, conditions were dust on top of a very hard crust, but the Mahres just cruised. Apparently, the film crew was somewhat put out because their effortless skiing did nothing to convey on film the difficulty of the conditions!
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado View Post
What many American racers seem not to realize is that race courses have varied conditions, so you cannot expect to win many races if all you do is train gates on groomed runs on sunny days. Phil and Steve themselves were critical of typical American race programs, which seemed to spend more energy working on cross-blocking techniques than on learning how to make a good turn.
ahh.... this is *very* true.... at least when i was growing racing in the early 80's thru early 90's.

so many of my peers were dying to get to Europe because we had heard thru our coaches and other more accomplished racers how difficult the conditions and courses were over there. it was no wonder the Europeans would come over and clean our clocks on our "nicely groomed" slopes and courses....

SMJ... just to add a couple of other tidbits. i am the same age or around the same age as the Shane McConkeys, Brant Moles, Jeremy Nobis, Gordy Pfeiffers of this world. obviously guys that are *very respectable* free skiers and former racers. i lived with, competed, went to school, hung out, partied, etc. with these guys all thru high school. we all went to rival ski racing academies in VT.

similar to Bob's comments about the Mahre brothers skiing out in all conditions.... so were these guys (and i for that matter). before training gates, we'd be skiing everything we could, till long after the course was taken down... we still be skiing everything we could. i didn't care "how" i looked, as long as my buddy saw me get bigger air than he did on a jump... or my "sick" trick off of some kicker. for us it was all about having fun, pushing each other's limits... and trying to one-up each other. but that's what high school age guys do....

anyhoo, my opinion would be to stick to racing, but free ski with as many of the top skiers you can... as much as you can.... just my 2 cents.
post #11 of 16
Chili, Bob and geoffda - thanks for the great stories!
There was an article this year in the New York Times about some of the US ski team free skiing in between world cup races. Actually, I can't remember if it was in between or the race had been cancelled (I'll try to find the article). I believe it was Resi Steigler and Lindsey and a few others who were skiing in the woods off the race trail in the powder. The author was quite surprised that nstead of going inside they were in the woods skiing.

I think it's very unfortunate that in the East, most of the junior racers are no longer skiing in late March and April. They've usually had to move on to spring sports or their families don't go skiing any more. Some of the snow conditions you get at that time though provide exceptional feedback for how subtle changes in pressure on the ski effect it's speed.

The snow that's like lumpy ball bearings lubricated by water is a great example. That snow is surprisingly fast and you can feel immediately how subtley shifting the pressure from ball of foot/front arch to heel/rear arch has a dramatic effect. There's also the constant change in density as one runs into clumps of the stuff make subtle flex/extend or balance movements.

I think they could learn more in 1 day on that stuff than a week of skiing on hard snow. In some ways I think it might be better to ski more soft and variable snow and less hard snow even if one is usually racing on hard, icy snow.
post #12 of 16
I think Mr. Barnes and others have covered most of the important points, but I'll just toss my own observations.

Firstly, you ask what they have in common? Balance! Nothing's better than skiing 3D terrain for your balance. Last season I had a Saturday group of high end kids (10-12) in Banff for a couple weeks, and there was nothing they couldn't ski. They charged harder than a lot of the instructors on some pretty (dare I say) gnarly terrain. Coming from Ontario, I was very impressed, but these kids grew up with that stuff as their backyard, it was nothing for them.
My point is, if you put those kids up to similarly aged Ontario racers, I'd be willing to bet in virtually no time you could get the Banff kids beating the Ontario kids that have spent most of their skiing time on groomers and in gates.
The Ontario kids might have an advantage with experience and tactics in the gates, but with very few exceptions, they don't have the kind of truly versatile balance that the other kids get from skiing tree runs, powder, bumps, etc.

As an example of this applied at a higher level - look at the Aspen Women's DH in December. Britt Janyk won her first WC race, and largely attributed it to the fact that there was tons of heavy wet snow, which was exactly what she was used to growing up in Whistler, whereas most of the other girls had no clue how to deal with it. The more conditions you can handle, the better skier you'll be.

The other point I wanted to make was your mention of a wide outside foot dominated stance vs. a narrow more two footed stance. I'd echo Bob's comments about narrow not necessarily requiring even weighting, and vice versa, but I'd also like to point out that racing doesn't have to be a wide stance all the time.
In racing you can think about stance largely as a choice on a spectrum between Stability (wide) and Mobility (narrow). Both have their applications in racing. Certainly in speed events you're going to keep a wide stable stance, but in tech events you need more of a mix - just try skiing a slalom hairpin or flush with the same stance you ski GS or open SL gates!
post #13 of 16
Quote:
What impressed them most about the Mahre brothers was that they SKIED--whenever and whereever they could, in any weather, in any conditions.
That's the paydirt right there: the best skiers in the world, including the best racers, love to ski anywhere and everywhere. One of my favorite experiences in skiing was getting in some powder turns with the Austrian mens' ski team in 2001, after one of the Snowbasin World Cup races was canceled. Seeing the big smiles on the faces of Maier and Eberharter was so cool: they loved just being able to ski all over the mountain, and they really got a lot out of the terrain.

Looking back to when I was racing, my best seasons were ones where the snow fell so deep early in the season that it wasn't really possible to set safe courses. So a lot of our early training was skiing trees, chutes, cliffs, moguls, powder and the like. We developed keen balance and intuition by doing this, and when we finally got to race (a DH series was usually the first event of the season), our team took most of the trophies. Had we trained any DH gates before going to the races? No, but we'd free-skied for a couple of days on our DH skis - skiing the chutes, powder, and even the bumps (big, SG-style turns across the bumps, at speed, to learn to absorb and balance at speed).

Since then, I've found that good all-mountain, all-condition abilities translate well to the race course. Sure, things have become a bit more specialized (and more homogeneous) with modern racing. Rapidgates, consistently hard snow, tighter sidecuts and such have made racing a much more specialized endeavor. But the best racers out there - the ones who make it far - are usually great all-mountain skiers, as well.
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by songfta View Post
That's the paydirt right there: the best skiers in the world, including the best racers, love to ski anywhere and everywhere.
I think that's the beauty of our race program - it snows so dang much, they run gates maybe 40% of the time...and the racers are almost disappointed. Who wouldn't rather be skiing powder?

And it is true - to be a good racer, first be a good skier.
post #15 of 16
SMJ, Come to Mad River and Stowe next season. We missed you this season. Come ski those tight lines and you will improve. Ski in the woods and prove to yourself that you are a better skier than you ever realized.
post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry_Morgan View Post
I think that's the beauty of our race program - it snows so dang much, they run gates maybe 40% of the time...and the racers are almost disappointed. Who wouldn't rather be skiing powder?

And it is true - to be a good racer, first be a good skier.
Well, the kids get pumped for running gates when they're on a race team. After all, if they want to ski powder, they don't need to be on a race squad to do that.

Sometimes it's tough to get younger racers thinking about the bigger picture: that being able to ski the whole mountain will pay off in the gates. The Janyk example is a perfect one: she knew how to ski the softer snow because of training and free skiing in the stuff. Those who over-skied the softer snow paid the price - either via a slower time or via dangerous crashes. Especially in the speed events, snow feel is one of the keys to success, and learning how to delicately ski tricky powder, crud and other conditions pays off. My big thing was gliding, which is a skill I mastered on soft, Utah snow and then transfered to the icy conditions in the race course.

I think that it's a matter of balance: the racers will have plenty of time in the race course, both training and racing. If they spend too much time in the gates, it can cause burnout, frustration and one-trick-pony tendencies (e.g. park-and-ride, over-skiing the snow, et al). Even for the elite skiers, free skiing is part of the training regimen - even in mid-season. When I skied with the OSV gang, the delight they showed in skiing chutes, popping cornices and cliffs, and slaloming through aspens was palpable: it was a welcome respite from day-in, day-out gate running and course inspection. And the same rule applies to those racers who aren't on the World Cup/Europa Cup/Nor-Am circuits: mix it up, and the sport becomes a lot more enjoyable.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Racing Style/All-Mountain Style - how to work on both