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post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I would appreciate it if one of the gurus would write a bit about Nastar turns.
Aerodynamics is very important on our flat hill.
I knoiw it is always better to arc than tuck.
The low handicappers do both.
I won't call them tuck turns...let me use the term low drag turns.
Kinda like arcing clean turns while bowing to Mecca at the finish.

What's up?
post #2 of 10
The more skilled you become in your core balance and edging skills the more able you'll be to carve clean turns through a NASTAR course while in a tuck.  That's what the fast guys you see doing it have; a solid base of foundation skiing skills. 

Tucking will provide some speed enhancement, but as you said, the most important factor is skiing a clean edge carve.  That includes absolutely no pivot or washy initiation at the start of your turn.  

Just to give you an idea of how some of these factors influence time, consider the following.  When I just stand up straight and ski (fully clothed) a relaxed round line, doing super clean arc to arc turns I'm ski about a 10 handicap.  If I push the line and tuck I drop my handicap to about 5.  If I strip down to a speed suit my handicap drops to 0. 

The point is that by just standing up and skiing a conservative line it's possible to get a good handicap if you're ultra clean on your edge.  Do that while sporting a suit and you can drop your handicap by about 5 points.  That 5 point suit drop a consistent figure that I've tested multiple times.  So without even attempting a tuck it's possible to platinum medal if your edging skills are solid. 

One last thing.  The start is crucial.  Go out of the start and after that first gate like it just kicked your mother. 
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

I appreciate the info.
I ski platinum (60-64 class) almost every run now that I have been doing Nastar for three seasons.

There is a thread I posted about the starts.
Drag races are won in the first 60 feet.
As an inseam challenged guy, my skating at the start is not so strong but I'm a gym rat and can bench my body weight 10 times.
With long poles I get out of the gate pretty strong.

The fastest guys I see do a tuck where they bend at the waist to get their heads low but keep their legs pretty long for clean arcing.
It is really hard to see where you are going when doing this.
It also seems to hinder upper/lower body seperation.
Any other thoughts?
post #4 of 10
Different body types need to exploit their individual assets to get the most out of skating.  Your best approach may well be strong power steps over the quick multiple steps of a more wirey kid.  Both can work equally well.  Practice 1000 steps drills, they will enhance your ability to skate around a turn, which is often needed in a flat start. 

Yes, it's called a high tuck.  It's not as aerodynamic as a low tuck, but it allows the legs to function more effectively while turning.  It requires a different arm postion than the low tuck to be most effective.  While the chest is kept down, it's never as down and out of the wind as well as in a low tuck, so it's a bit of a wind catcher.  To resolve that problem the hands and elbows need to be pulled together in front of the chest.  That creates a wind break that deflects the wind down and through the space between the legs. 

Again, as you know, that position should not be held at the expense of clean and tight turns.  Play around with it and see how your times are affected. 
post #5 of 10
I received a PM today from an Epic friend who said that when he races NASTAR he attacks the course with all he's worth, but doesn't get the results he'd like to.  He asked if I would expand here on the clean turns idea I spoke about in my first post in this thread.   Here goes:


The attack mode works up to a point, but if the turns aren't ultra clean carves you're really just spinning your wheels.  A clean edge will always be the fastest edge.  It will carry through the course all the speed that gravity provides.  Any skidding, steering, pivoting, sloppy initiations or hard edge sets will immediately dump speed.  It loses you time you can never get back. 

Working on being clean on edge when outside the gates is the first step towards being able to do it in the gates.  Two seasons ago I worked with a a guy who had been running NASTAR and wanted to improve his handicap.  He was at the time doing handicaps in the high 30's here at Breckenridge.  The first thing I did with him was get him out of the gates to work on developing his core edging and balance skills.  We spent about 4 days doing that, then I put him back into gates.  Within a few races he was cracking into the single digits with his handicap and had won his first platinum medal.  Actually even won one of the races with over 50 people racing.  Even qualified for Nationals. 

Building your foundation skills is so important.  Once you've developed good edging and balance skills it's just a matter of learning how to place those high level turns you can now make into a race course.  Where to start and finish them,,, how straight to run,,, where to pass by the gate,,, stuff like that.  But if the quality of your turns are subpar, line and turn placement will make little difference in your results. 

post #6 of 10
He was at the time doing handicaps in the high 30's here at Breckenridge.  The first thing I did with him was get him out of the gates to work on developing his core edging and balance skills.  We spent about 4 days doing that, then I put him back into gates.  Within a few races he was cracking into the single digits with his handicap and had won his first platinum medal.  Actually even won one of the races with over 50 people racing.  Even qualified for Nationals. 

You sir, are the worlds greatest coach.  Going from 30s HCP  to single digits in 4 days is quite an accomplishment.  I am not exactly calling BS, but I have been managing a 4 team adult league program for 8 years and I have never seen that kind of improvement even after getting our racers dialed in on equipment AND suited up.   I have also coached high school racers (and will be again this season after a 9 year hiatus.  Whoo hoo!!) and that kind of improvement is not very common.

Incidentally, I looked at Some Breck Nastar Results.  There are guys posting 4-5s one day and 20++ other days - I presume on the same course.  This means a pacesetting problem - not necessarily a leap in performance.  Do you guys have trouble getting consistent pacesetters?  I know a lot of programs do.

ALL THAT SAID - your advice to the OP is excellent and he could do a lot worse than to follow it!  In addition...add the following

1.  Big Start.  Longer Poles.  Hard skate.
2.  Tuck should ALWAYS play second to clean arcs. 
3.  Leave the gates alone.  Ski it clean and dont beat yourself up smashing gates.  Leave that to the teenagers.  As your technique improves and your line tightens up, the gates will take care of themselves.
4.  Get up - get down.  If you DO have to come out of a tuck, consciously get BACK into an aerodynamic shape ASAP.  Snap back into it.  PRACTICE YOUR TUCK IN THE MIRROR.  Standing on a balance board in your tuck for 1 minute is a great drill!  Ow it burns!
5.  TUNE.  If you are truly running a drag race, wax is important.  If more technical - edges trump wax.  Try and stay on top of both.
6. SUIT.  Is worth 1 full second on a 25 sec course.
7.  As for "attack."  Racing is not about killing something.  It is about being fast.  Attack too hard and your line gets late and low and you are done.  Think round and smooth - hold the carve and pop it into the next arc. 

post #7 of 10
Racer 256, my purpose in sharing the story of that particular student's success was not to toot my own horn, but rather to highlight with a real life example the value and power of first develping technical skills outside of the course.  The racer of which I speak went into that season with hopes of one day being able to capture a Gold medal.  Within 3 races he won Platinum, and from that point on has been consistently skiing single digit handicaps, at various resorts.   

Another example: we had a group of women in our Epic Cubefest event last season that had some equally inspirational results.  Coined as a skill building camp for non aggressive (read nervous) women, we did a day and a half of skill building, then for fun put them in the NASTAR race for their first attempt ever at running gates.  Results?  numerous medals won, including a stunning silver by one who thought she didn't like to ski fast ().  Here's her story: 

The moral of these inspirational stories is that good racing is all about first learning solid foundation skiing skills.  I know of many race training programs that consist of little more than simply sticking gates in the snow, and a coach standing at the bottom tossing out fleeting critiques as the skiers filter by.  The students think they're getting good training, and it provides the resort an easy way to conduct and staff it, but as far as improving the students skills and race results it leaves much to be desired. 

Anyone reading this thread who's hoping to improve your race results, or even just thinking about getting into it, I hope you take my message to heart.  Get out of the gates and build your core skiing skills, and it will show in your results.  If you've been racing for a while, and feel your results are stalled, it's most likely you've simply milked your current skill base for all it's worth.  It's time to expand that base. 
Edited by Rick - 11/9/09 at 4:09pm
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
This thread is getting interesting!

I did a statistical analysis of last year's pacesetter races at our area where most pacesetters got two handicaps, one with suits and one with jackets.
Generally, the lower the pacesetter's handicap the more (percentage wise) the suit improved their handicap.
The pacesetters that were running in the single digits got an improvement of 4.5 in their handicaps.
Some pacesetters with high handicaps (15-20) were not any faster with suits.

Our area with a flat hill demands great technique to do well.
Five of our local guys beat AJ Kitt at last year's pacesetter trials.
AJ simply overpowered the course and was beaten by local knowledge.

Our local course setters have found many ways to mix up 13 gates.
Every week the course is a bit different which is another test of skills.
Figuring out the critical gates and being on line is critical.
I'm still learning about that line and how to find speed in my turns.

Thanks for the info here.
One thing I plan to do based on the input I have received here is practice my stance in front of mirrors on a half ball.

Thanks all....
post #9 of 10
A couple of tweaks to the good advise above.

Don't skate too long out of the start unless you are certain that you are gaining more speed than you would just skiing. If you can get a buddy to hand time your starts, one or two gates worth, you can learn a lot. You can also practice outside of the course with a buddy. Use long, strong cross country style double pole thrusts, not lots of quick short ones. You can gain a second with a good start over a weak one, and that is just to the second gate. The start is the easiest place most racers can gain time.

Bring your hands forward when you open your tuck, still keeping them in front of your face. Don't bring them out to the side. You want to have your hands breaking the wind in front of your body at all times. You want to just barely see the course over your gloves. Keep you elbows in, too, for aerodynamics. This is an active move and your arms will feel it after a while, and you will also feel a stretch in your upper back.

post #10 of 10
Here's my free advice, worth everything you pay for it.  It's mostly cumulative with the advice above. 

1.  The start is huge in short NASTAR courses.  (And this is particularly true of NASTAR courses with a flat top, then breakover--which is pretty much every NASTAR course except whatever they call Purgatory in Colorado these days.)  Watch the very fastest guys on your NASTAR hill specifically on how far they skate.  Get yourself some poles slightly longer than standard (perfect for powerful poling is the sizing they actually use in cross-country) and jam out of the start, but still set up clean for the first turn (without getting your feet too close together at gate clear.  Falling at the first gate will shorten your race, but not in a good way.)

2.  Speed suit (or jeans and underarmor--something way more aerodynamic than a bulky jacket and ski pants.)  It's a full second on a NASTAR course, once your fast enough that aerodynamics make a difference.

3.  The right ski, correctly prepared.  For a hack, you're probably better off in a NASTAR course with a so-called "cheater" racing ski (say, 17-18 meter sidecut) rather than a currently legal GS ski or formerly legal 21 meter GS ski, and you might even be better off with a slalom ski.   NASTAR resembles GS, but the courses are shorter and the course sets are tighter than a true GS.  Ski with sharpened edges and correct wax for the day's conditions. 

4.  Ski clean.  To do that, you have to fix YOUR bad habits.  (Typical bad habits, depending on your handicap, include, on the slow end, dropping your hands back, frankenstein arms, skidding the end of the turns; a little more advanced, not getting forward and not weighting the outside ski enough, not committing forward on breakovers.)  Fast guys have really good hand positions at gate clear, which is probably a product of doing a lot of other things right.  When in doubt, work on your balance away from the gates.  Couldn't hurt as long as you don't do something that does...

5.  If there's a flat part at the bottom with not particularly offset gates (another typical NASTAR set) you can typically run that section in a tuck safely and with little risk.

6.  Typically, your local NASTAR hill (like any other race set, although NASTAR sets are not particularly "tricky") may have a couple of areas that handling well will make a big difference--a breakover at the gate you need to turn early for, a compression as steep breaks to flat, a cranker you have to get early for two gates in advance.  Get that one right.

7.  Finally, if the low handicap is your end-all be all, you can game the system, if you must.  Run NASTAR on a fresh cold snow day when the pacesetters ran it in cold fresh snow.  After it's tracked out slightly, it'll run faster. 

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