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Gates without Tears

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Okay. Its that time again. Off to Whistler this Saturday, where I will probably do the 4 day Ski espirit. This is not so much about technique, but about skiing the whole mountain, without lift lines,and with an instructor who knows when the conditions will be decent.I've done this twice before, and I realize that people tend to group themselves at Whistler at levels LOWER than their ability. So in a level3,you have people who did Blacks the day before, or people who have been skiing for 15 years.

The problem is, on the third day, we do this race, involving gates. However, since these classes are not about technique, nothing we do on the days before really preps us for this. I always end up in class with people who have bad form but great speed. And for some reason, I can't get the "gate thing" down pat. What happens, is that when I make a turn, I end up turning too far away from the gate and off track, ending up with a humiliating time. Then, on day four of the Espirit, I'm a bit sulky.
This year, I'm thinking of either not doing the darn thing, or cheating and placing myself in a group thats below my abilities.
If anybody has some last minute tips on basic gate technique, I'd appreciate it.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited March 07, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 20
Do it.
Don't cheat.
Who cares if you lose?

It's been 12 years since I've raced, I'll let the racers answer the technique question.
post #3 of 20
Since I don't race and have only read about things I can't give you too much on technique but I can give you this since it sounds like not so much of a technique issue with you but a timing issue.

Think of your skiing like driving through the gates. If you want to make a turn at the gate (sharp turn) you don't normally wait until the corner to start your turn. If for instance you are pulling into a tight driveway you swing out and start your turn early so you are straighter in the driveway. If you do your skiing like this, start your turn above the gate so the apex of the turn is at the gate or even better just before the gate so you are actually starting your next turn as you pass the gate, you won't get way down past the next gate. or have to scrub off speed to make the next gate.

And then just go have fun

I have skied through a sl course, probably not at the same speed as some of the racers here but I think this is how it's done.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by dchan (edited March 07, 2001).]</FONT>
post #4 of 20

As you learned from your past experiences, it's all bout the line you take. Do you know what I mean when I say "ski a 'high' line"? This is what you need to do. You should worry more about the path you take, than the speed you are traveling. Because if you take a good line, the speed will be easy. Think about this; when you pass a gate, you should already be facing the next gate (but keep turning a bit more, until you are facing a bit above the next gate). So you need to turn early. Look at those sequence photos that Bob B posted a week or two ago, with Herman Meier. Look at the direction he is pointing as he passes the gate. That's where you need to be. If you start out of the start gate by going a fairly wide and passing the first gate aiming at, or just above the second gate, then you should do much better. One problem I have noticed with a lot of first-timers in the gates, is that they start as hard as they possibly can, head right at the first gate, then try to turn just after they pass it. Then they just slide sideways for a while without actually moving across the hill toward the next gate. By that point, they have already screwed up the entire race. When you leave the start gate, again, worry more about taking a good line than about going as fast as you can at the beginning. The first time you do it right, you'll feel like you are going slow, but skiing clean, and that it was really easy to get around the gates. And you'll end up with a good time and wonder how that happened.
post #5 of 20
If you have time pick up "Ski Faster" by Lisa Feinberg Densmore or Warren Witherall's "The Athletic Skier." There's good racing and general ski tips in both. In my club racing, I always find out that there are a lot of people faster, so just race against yourself. I assume that it wil be a relatively easy GS type course with gates spread moderately apart. The key concept to remember is "Rise Line". The rise line is the imaginary line drawn directly uphill from the gate. For the first gate, don't aim at the gate, but rather where you will be making your turn. Aim about 1.5 to 2 ski lengths away from the gate (to the outside) and then start your turn as you cross the rise line. The best turn is a rounded comma turn that is nearly complete when you come under the gate. It should be one smooth turn. If you turn too early, you will have a line that will want to take you into the gate or uphill of the gate. To avoid this, you will automatically release your edges causing a skid and making it harder to get back into a carved turn. Repeat this process of aiming outside of the gates (if there are two gates across the hill, aim about 1/3 in from the outside) and turning at the rise line. If you can look ahead 2 or 3 gates, that will help you maintaining a smooth line and not getting caught by a change in rhythm.

Good Luck and hope you enjoy the gates better this time. Let us know. Also, if you have the time you can practice on the courses they have set up (one ususally on Whistler side (Emerald Express if I remember correctly) and one on the Blackcomb - off of Jersey Cream.
post #6 of 20
Wedging through it seems to work for celebrities. Try pretending that you are Jennifer Aniston.
post #7 of 20
Lisamarie, you are making me sad!

You are going to Wistler (I am actually drooling as I write this) and you seem to worry about minor things instead of being ecstatic about the whole experience. I don't want to come across the wrong way and I don't want you to feel that I am lecturing, but your attitude has to be more positive and you have to be more confident. At your level (assuming that you are an intermediate skier) gates are totally immaterial. Enjoy your ride around the gates, keep a good form and don't worry about speed. By all means, take the good advice given in this thread about the line that you should take, but don't beat yourself up if you are slow or miss a line. And don't worry what others do or how fast they go.

Anyway, I hope that you trip to Wistler will be wonderful and you will come back and tell us what a great time you've had.

Good luck!
post #8 of 20
My one easy to remember racing tip: always be looking 1 gate ahead of where you are at. A common problem with novice racers is they are only thinking about the turn they are making and not setting up the next one. As a result they get later and later and end up blowing out of the course. If you stay ahead of yourself it's much easier to ski a smooth line.
Have fun!
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hmm! Good points about picking a good line and thinking ahead to the next gate. Although the turns were bigger and did not involve gates, this is sort of what I had to do at Sugarloaf last weekend, on a crowded somewhat steeper trail. Since I was "leading" 6 other people, I had to really think ahead, and make my movements pretty precise.
Tom, you are correct, I do need to lighten up. Problem is, Whistler, it seems, has some pretty meager conditions at the moment. Whereas, the N.E. , where I'm from, just had there "Noreaster". So I'm not as psyched as I should be. But I'm still pretty psyched! This year, for some intangible reason, is my year for setting very high standards for myself. I wonder if its a coincidence that this is the year I started reading this board.
Thank- you. Everybody!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited March 07, 2001).]</FONT>
post #10 of 20
Blow off Whistler, go to Jay Peak.
post #11 of 20
Lisa Marie,

Congratulations! You're going to ski gates! This is probably the best thing for you right now particularly if you get a good coach/instructor. Alas, it seems like you'll get no coaching at all so you'll have to use us.
I say it's good for you because when you're in the gates you'll have to stop thinking about technique and concentrate on the line you are skiing.
It seems as if you are Epic skis "student". While this is great, you have way too much information to carry around in your head when you ski. I know if I was you at your level and had all this technical discussion I'd go crazy skiing. I'd constantly be wondering if I was doing the right thing and I'd be incredibly confused and frustrated. Thank god you're taking lessons and can get immediate feedback. This will keep you sane.

Skiing is really about feeling. Feeling what your skis are doing, are they skidding? are they carving? what is the edge angle, how is the terrain changing? Feeling where your balance is. Weight on heels? the ball of the foot? even?
It's very important to establish your own feedback loop where you feel what's going on and you make corrections. This feeling starts at the snow with the feet. The better you get, and the more experience you have the quicker these corrections will happen. At first you may have to really think about the corrections like "my skis are skidding, I'll apply more edge angle". Eventually this will happen quicker than thought. World cup skiers do this incredibly quickly, but yes, they are constantly making adjustments to what they’re doing.
Beginners often have an idea that "expert" skiers are just doing the same thing over and over. They've become experts so they're able to perform the maneuvers properly. The name "Perfect Turn" to some ski schools reinforces this concept. What happens when you make said "perfect turn" ? Do you stop on the hill and get a graduation medal?
The reality is that almost no two turns are identical, the "expert" is constantly feeling what is happening and is adjusting or trying something different. The important thing is they have a feed back loop where they feel what is happening and react before thinking. They may think after the correction "wow I'm really sitting too far back on those last two turns". They may feel like they really only made one or two good turns in what looked like a great run.
Now a really experienced, high level instructor (not me) can watch this and say "I noticed you were x, or doing y, so let's go work on this" So they go do exercises to try to get the student to do something differently. If the student can do it and feel the effect then they can own it. This may take quite some time. It may not be till next year that the person actually feels it and goes "aha! now I see what the instructor meant!"
Though we have technical discussions on all this one needs to own it before it works. To own it you have to feel it. If you don't feel the effect of something it's just a pose. Then at the appropriate time an instructor can introduce the next step.

Blah blah... Sorry for rambling.

O.k., back to the gates issue.
So the important thing for you is here is a chance to ski without thinking about technique but thinking about the line your skis take.

*Try to think of the gates not as obstacles you have to go around but as markers for movements.*

Now as John and SnoWonder said you need to know about the "rise line". The fall line points directly down the slope, the rise line points up. So the concept is you "hook up" or "lock in" your turn when you reach this imaginary line pointing directly up from the gate. (If the gate has two poles, it’s the pole you will turn around).
So when your skiing the gates you’re looking ahead and "seeing" the rise line come up from the gate and when you cross it you’re committed to the turn. You may be surprised how long you have to wait to reach this line. (Assuming your course is more gs like). This is the type of thinking you do in gates, not "am I angulating enough" etc. There’s no time to think about that stuff so you just ski like you ski and concentrate on the line you take.

O.k., now what type of turn are you going to make?, because the rise line just tells you when to start the turn. This depends on the pitch of the slope and the offset of the course. (Looking down the course from the top, the offset is the distance across from left to right between gates. If the gates are in a straight line down the hill then they’d have 0 offset.)
Where the course has some pitch and a fair amount of offset you want to make most of the turn before the gate and come up underneath it. This is what SnoWonder refers to as a comma turn.
Where the course is flatter and there’s less offset you might want the apex of the turn to be right at the gate. So 50% of the turn is done before the gate and 50% after.
This is quite easy to show on paper but unfortunately we have only words, so try drawing it out so you see.
Alright, here’s the procedure you should follow.
You inspect the course by making slow wedge turns through it. You think about the line you will take. (If the course is pretty simple you might skip this step and go to 2, but you’d be better off doing it.)
You make a slow run through taking what John referred to as a "high line". That is you start your turn high up on the rise line. This gives you plenty of time to finish the turn. You’ll be going pretty slow but the important thing is to try to be exact with your line.
You do the same thing only you take a lower line. You start your turns lower on the rise line. You’ll go faster this way.
Same as three only lower still. You’re speed will increase.
Race run! You’re line is a little lower and tighter and you’re going for it. Don’t think about going fast, think about skiing your line. The speed will just happen.

Now most people in this sequence make their fastest run in step # 3! Usually because they’re most relaxed and not thinking about going "fast".

Line, line, line.

Further tips:
- If you can, volunteer to help set the course. Even blow off a free run with the group to do this because it gives you more time to see what you’ll be doing. Besides, they always like help.
Get friendly with the course setter and ask them to show you the rise line. Just remember to stand to the side so the course setter can see up and down the course.

- Make sure your skis are tuned the whole week you’re up there. Don’t suddenly get a tune the night before. You don’t want to be surprised by your skis. The first day you’re there you should find someone who hand tunes skis. You don’t need a $30 stone grind, (unless your skis are not flat), you just need your edges sharpened. If you don’t do it yourself, have this tuner touch up your skis each night and wax them. (this can be very cheap because it’s not a lot of work if they’re in good shape)

- Don’t suddenly wax the skis on the night before the race because again, they’ll feel different. Don’t make a big deal of it, it’s not the world cup. If conditions are variable from day to day just use an all temp wax. Dominator’s "Zoom" is a good all temp wax. Let the tuner figure it out.

- Be sure to use goggles, they protect your eyes and face. If you ski with a helmet that’s good, but don’t suddenly ski with a helmet just for the gates. (you’ll be distracted from thinking about line, line, line!)

-Adjustment to rise line: If there is a fall away turn, where the hill slopes away to the side of the gate and down, the rise line points further away, not directly up hill. In this case you’ll actually go past the gate before you start turning. Remember, you’re helping the course setter! so ask them to show you the rise line if there’s a fall away turn.

- Again:
*Try to think of the gates not as obstacles you have to go around but as markers for movements.*

- Who cares what happens! Be happy if you have one good turn. It will feel good so you’ll want more.

Remember, racing has been the soul of skiing since the beginning.
It’s a privilege to run gates. ~//~~//~~~///

post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
WOW!! Tog! Incredible! Grazie!...O.K., where to begin?
I guess, in a way, I am Epicskis' student. Although it wasn't until this year that I started posting here. Last year, I didn't know what questions to ask! Yes, I do carry around a great deal of technical information. At Sugarloaf, last weekend, the instructor asked us a question about some aspect of skiing. His response to my reply was "Can you explain it to the rest of the group without using all that PSIA jargon?"
Fortunately, I could. Pilates teachers carry in their heads a great deal of tecno babble, which always needs to be translated into plain English, so as not to bore the living daylights out of our students.
Having learned to ski in my 40s, I am all too aware of the apparant slower learning curve. This is magnified by the fact that skiing cannot by practiced 365 days a year. What I have found on this forum, however, is people {such as yourself} who are so incredibly descriptive with their explanations, that they provide a "virtual skiing" experience. Some people "surf the web", I prefer to ski it!
But, as you say, "Skiing is about feeling".
So true! Awhile ago, we had a thread entitled "Landmarks of a Skier's progression". This weekend, I realized that feeling and awareness are less tangible, but important landmarks. I skied for many hours by myself. And for once, I was able to feel "hey, that was a skid, that was sort of a carve, etc." Prior to this past weekend, I always needed instructor feedback for these sorts of things.
Sometimes, I like to do a search for all my posts on Epic. Interesting, because they read like a journal. I can practically draw a flow chart of my progress this year. The graph line would go up, up , up, hitting a peak at my weekend at Mount Snow, then, swooping down at my week in Italy. Then, a BIG jump back up after this past weekend at The Loaf. But sometimes, I only talk about the technical progress, {or lack thereof} and neglect to talk about the pure "fun".

Your comments about the idea of the "Perfect Turn", rang true. I have heard that Mikaela {sp?} Egan, a former ski racer who sometimes gives workshops at Okemo, has made similar statements. it is her opinion that this quest for a "perfect turn", is what sometimes turns adult novices away from skiing. "When I do any run, maybe 2 or 3 turns are what I call perfect", she told an instructor at Okemo. So where does that put the rest of us "mortals"?

So, back on to gates. This is the first I have ever heard of a "rise line". I had to give it a bit of thought. Again, the only analogy I could think of was my experience at The Loaf this weekend. The trail had various obstacles such as a boarder sit down fest, someone wedging with a young child in front of them, some icy patches, someone talking on the cell phone in the middle of the trail. I had watched my "classmates" ski prior to doing this exercise, and I knew that they would stop and get flustered right before each of these "obstacles", and then suddenly try to jerk the skis into a turn. My guess is that they would spend the time going down the trail being anxious ab out these obstacles, rather than starting their turn at an earlier point. So I guess, in calculating my turn arcs, I was seeing the rise line of each obstacle, or each human "gate".
Thank you!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited March 07, 2001).]</FONT>
post #13 of 20

Just go and have some fun and relax.

Don't worry about stylish technique.

Practice a bit beforehand by picking a series of things on the snow to make turns around. Distribute a few ice cookies on a quiet section of trail (read... put Mark to work).

If it's a GS type course most of your turns may be better without pole plants, just simple hands forward/balanced.

Take a close look at the last two or three gates. There may very well be a straight line right through them (tuck here).

Your second run will be way faster than your first.

Past forty we are allowed to relax and have fun........ Or did you put a few $$$$$ on your self to win?????<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by yuki (edited March 08, 2001).]</FONT>
post #14 of 20
Ignore my advice, sorry.

Tog is right on though.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your great advice. Unfortunately, I just found ut that my Dad, close to age 93, is in his "last days", and my Mom has also been hospitalized. So I need to got to N.Y.C.
post #16 of 20
My prayers go to you and your family. Take care..
post #17 of 20

Ditto what dchan said! My thoughts and prayers!
post #18 of 20
It's never easy, but I hope those were 93 wonderful years.
post #19 of 20
Lisamarie, Make sure you take care of yourself during this time. You are very fortunate to have had your father for such a long time,
post #20 of 20
Lisa Marie,

So sorry to hear about your dad. If you need anything in NYC drop me a line. I'll be back on Monday.
*remove this*chand411@earthlink.net

I have another long post about your gate experience but I shall hold off. You have more important things to do.

-take care of yourself
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