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Best drills/tips for going to shaped skis from straight skis?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
What are the best drills/tips for effectively using shaped skis instead of straight skis especially in race courses (SL, GS)? I'm primarily interested in free-skiing drills but gate drills are also good.

After having learned how to ski and race on straight skis (203-205 cm for SL), I am getting back into racing through Masters racing on shaped skis and would appreciate some advice. I think I am a level 8-9 skier but I am new to shaped skis.

I have heard that the technique of stepping up to a higher line especially in GS courses has been eliminated with shaped skis. Also I learned to carve by lifting the tail of the inside ski while keeping the tip down to put the vast majority of the weight on the outside ski. I have heard that this technique has been discontinued in favor of just rolling both edges over. Finally, J-turns have been replaced by arcs in SL courses. Are these shaped ski technique myths or truths?

Thanks for your help.
post #2 of 25
If I were your instructor I would ask what you were hoping to accomplish by going to shaped skis. Most people answers are probably "well, easier turning of course!". If this was your answer I will let you in a secret......you don't have to work as hard and let the ski do the work for you. I guess on a more in depth note it would really depend on what type of skiing you like to do and what you're hoping your shaped skis will help you do. Write back if you're bored, let us know. Maybe we can help you out even more!
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

My primary goal is to cut my SL & GS course times to reduce my handicap.

My secondary goal is to continue to enjoy moguls and chutes.
post #4 of 25
Hey Ski03,

I don't know if it'll help, but you might want to read the thread Death Knell to Equal Weighting .

There's a discussion of race technique, its changes, real or imaginary...

[ February 05, 2003, 07:33 AM: Message edited by: Warren ]
post #5 of 25
Originally posted by Ski03:
Also I learned to carve by lifting the tail of the inside ski while keeping the tip down to put the vast majority of the weight on the outside ski. I have heard that this technique has been discontinued in favor of just rolling both edges over.

I just learned this same drill last spring, on shaped skis, from a race coach. I don't think it's gone anywhere requiring a travel visa...

[ February 06, 2003, 07:01 AM: Message edited by: Warren ]
post #6 of 25
Tip - have a lesson with a GOOD instructor...
If you fill in your area then someone may have a suggestion...
post #7 of 25
We did the lift the inside ski drill at a race clinic this January, but you would press the lifted tip into the snow until the ski tip bent. It was more for body position (getting forward) and balance than a "way to ski".

Lifting the inside ski as a general practice is pretty inefficient and probably could be considered obsolete. I had (have?) that same habit until the end of last season, but tipping the edges together and carving similar arcs is faster and gives you more stability. The majority of weight is still on the outside ski, but the inside ski is actively guided through the turn. Of course, conditions and circumstances may dictate another approach.

We have race coaching in the Masters program at Alyeska, so if your program is similar your best bet is to talk to the Masters coaches, or perhaps work with the junior program coaches. However, if availability or scheduling prevents you from getting coaching, I can offer this suggestion:

Do a lot of railroad tracks with your feet hip width apart. Roll the knees together or focus on just rolling the inside knee into the turn (the outside will follow)- keeping the skis the same distance apart in each section of the turn. Start with passive pure carves using the ski's natural turn radius on gentle terrain. Use as much of the trail side to side as you can while still remaining on edge (nice, round turns). Once you are making perfect, clean arcs down the hill, experiment with pressuring the ski at various points to see how it will react, and try to tighten up the turn radius without any skidding. Make sure you still maintain foot seperation so you can efficiently get the skis on edge.

Once all of this is firmly in your muscle memory (could take awhile), move to steeper terrain and start all over. Add in some off-piste stuff once that's done to practice absorbing terrain and keep the skis carving.

In the gates, you might want to take the traditional, rounder line at first. You'll probably find that it's easier/cleaner than with straight skis. You'll need to experiment to see how tight you can make the turns without skidding or running late at the gate. That's more a function of your ability and your skis.

Good luck. It's a bigger change than you think, and it doesn't happen overnight. However, the rewards more than justify the time spent.
post #8 of 25
Every camp or clinic I've taken has started with stance and balance drills, which often take the form of one ski drills.
post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 
Alaska Mike, Warren, and any other racers,

1. Has the technique of stepping up to a higher line especially in GS courses has been eliminated with shaped skis? If so, are racers shifting their weight at the end of the turn to the inside ski on a wider stance sooner to gain a higher line?

2. Have J-turns (steer or pivot the skis through the top third of the turn and then apply a quick and forceful edge set to complete the turn) have been replaced by arcs in SL courses i.e. are the lines through modern SL courses with shaped skis going towards traditional GS lines (rounder carving lines)?
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your helpful suggestions so far.

If anyone else has any other ideas, I would like to hear from you.


What was the purpose of the inside ski drill that you were doing with shaped skis?
post #11 of 25
not a racer, but...

the J-Turn is almost obsolete given the carving capacity of modern slalom skis.

I learned some things about decent skiing in the late 70s/early 80s from a couple of race coaches where I used to work. One of them posts here under the name "erdz." I learned J-Turns as the lightweight/weak skier's method for finishing a turn at speeds when you aren't moving fast enough to flex the ski's tail into an arc. Of course, erdz and I were about the same size and he didn't need the J-Turn -- a testament to his skiing prowess.

When I returned to skiing in 1999 after a 10 year hiatus, I demo'd some Salomon X-Scream Series skis and learned how to carve small, quick turns at low speeds. It wasn't that I'd changed in the 10 years of absence. It was the ski.

On modern carvers, I can see using J-Turns in the bumps if you're a hip-swiveling kind of mogul skier, but for most other purposes, IMHO, the J-Turn is a rarely-used tool that I reach for when in trouble on ice.

Hopefully some racers will shed more light on these thoughts.
post #12 of 25
Arcmeister, +mike+, and SLATZ are the experts here, but stepping to a higher line is the exception now, not the rule. You really want to keep your skis on the ground and carving as much as possible. If you can carve the same line you used to step to, why step?

If you want to see modern technique in action, watch a few World Cup races. In GS, keep an eye on Von Gruenegen. His upper body is extremely quiet while his legs work like a spider's, constantly seeking and adjusting to the terrain to find the quickest line. Unlike a lot of the male skiers, he's all about finesse and line. For slalom, I generally watch the women for technique pointers since they tend to rely less on brute force. Janica Kostelic and Anja Paerson are my favorites, although Janica's brother Ivica is one hell of a smooth skier as well.

You probably have a highly developed skiing style, and that's going to take awhile to modify. A lot of time is going have to be spent out of the gates to absorb new habits so that you're not thinking about anything except the course. Swallow some pride and hit some easy terrain where unfamiliar movements can be explored. See if the local juniors program coaches will give you some pointers, since they are usually the ones on the cutting edge of technique. The Alyeska Ski Club's program has a punch-pass program so you can train with the juniors for a fee. I haven't had the guts to be humiliated in that manner yet, but it's available to me and there might be something available to you as well. You might also look into racing camps at various locations around North America (Hood, Whistler...) that cater to Masters. Camps have been the best way I've found to make meaningful progress in a short amount of time.
post #13 of 25
I haven't participated in a while. Been working too much. Here are some keys for people moving from old "less shaped" skis. (I hate the term "straight skis" because they were not straight, rather did not have much shape to them.)

1) Don't try to turn the skis. Let the skis turn you. This is VERY hard to do. Our tendency is to try to get them around. Be patient, the ski will turn you.

2) Use your ankles first. Practice flattening and edging your ski by using the ankle first and your knees second. Think of it as a kinetic chain that starts with the ankle rolling from the big to the little toes. Someone said
Do a lot of railroad tracks with your feet hip width apart. Roll the knees together or focus on just rolling the inside knee into the turn (the outside will follow)-
I respectfully disagree with this. Do them with the ankles first and let the knees follow.

3) Keep the skis on the snow! Do NOT lift the inside ski. The faster you can get the inside ski carving the better off you will be. Those exercises where they pick up the tail of the ski and press the tip in are an attempt to get the ski carving early. Watch any good racer now and you will rarely see them lift the inside ski. What you'll see is them going from edge to edge.

4) A good turn is nothing more than going from one edge to the other. A quick question: when does one turn end and the other start? Answer: when the weight and focus on the downhill ski goes from the inside, big toe, to the outside, little toe.

Hope this helps.

post #14 of 25
Mike, for GS you ar right - especially with von Gruenigen, but for quick SL turns, you still need every now and then to step uphill into it - or get a pair of short-radius-turn SL skis; these days SL turns are too tight to go without it. The J-turn - I still see it there in SL, even though the stem of the "J" is now a lot shorter.

[ February 06, 2003, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: AlexG ]
post #15 of 25
In ski racing today above the club level, if you aren't on a short pair of slalom skis with a fairly decent radius (12-16 meters), you probably aren't winning. So, I stand by my assertion that the goal is clean arcs- even in slalom. Obviously situations arise where other techniques are required... the fastest guy through the gates still wins. I've seen White Pass turns on the World Cup this season, but I don't think you'll find anyone advocating them as the preferred method. Watch WC videos from a few years ago and you'll see a lot of stepping and "float-sting". Coaches are still absorbing the new technology and a great deal of debate still exists as to what constitutes the fastest developmental route.

As for knee vs ankle vs toe, I think it all boils down to what focal point you respond to. I usually start big and refine, some people work the other way around. Ankle focal points usually led me into rotary initiation- don't ask me why. The toe focal point had me rolling my feet in the boot and cramping them up- with limited edging. Once I got the knees working, the toes and ankles made more sense.
post #16 of 25

Your question concerns using shaped skis on race courses. Some form/s of visualization has to be part of the training process. Others can comment on what visualization should or could be, and how and when it should be used.

To help you with just this ONE component, as well as provding some very useful ideas, including that of rolling the skis on to the new edges [#1 in the article narative] the following suggestion is made:

The Feb 2003 issue of Ski magazine p.131, entitled: "What We Can Learn from Caroline Lalive."

Lalive stunned the world with her Olympic performance in Nagano '98, but was a huge disappointment in SLC '02.

As to her making the '06 U.S. Olympic Alpine womens ski team, that remains to be seen, but if you read the article it seems she still has something to prove. Right now Kristina Kosznick seems to be the best U.S. female alpine skier, at least in slalom.

I hope the above suggestion helps, and that in two years you are also at the National NASTAR finals as well as being successful in the masters racing program.

[ February 07, 2003, 08:50 AM: Message edited by: wink ]
post #17 of 25
Another question to isntructors:

Is the movement of the inside ski up, but with the tip higher than the tail still practiced these days on shaped skis? It was a rudiment of scissor-like stepping up with the inside ski I guess, but is it totally useless or is it still used in SL courses or off-piste?

I understand that just rolling the edges will make you do a nice carved GS (or superG) turn, but if everybody were doing nothing but GS turns, ski slopes would look like Orwellian Animal Farm.

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using the tail of the one ski in transition phase between the quick SL-style turns, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of scissor step-turn?
post #18 of 25
I don't have the background to offer a historical background on that particular move, but it seems counter-productive to me. The way I see it, having your ski tip higher than the tail puts you in the back seat. Every stance and balance drill I've ever done that has involved lifting a ski required the tip to be LOWER than the tail, if not flexed into the snow. Try to stand on a 160cm ski's tail and you'll find yourself sitting on the snow.

As I've discovered, there's a place for everything... I just can't think of a place for that move unless you're already in the backseat and trying to make a tight turn. As I said, with the new short, 12-16 meter radius skis you try to keep both of them on the snow and carving as much as possible.

If the new skis were limited to just one turn size/shape, they wouldn't be very useful. Application of pressure and variable edging allows you to vary that shape at will, without stepping.

If you haven't tried a short slalom or a race carver with a 16 meter radius (or thereabouts) in a shortish length (165-180), you really need to give them a shot. Experimenting with new technique on older style gear is a good way to frustate yourself.
post #19 of 25
Mike -

actually my skis have a turning radius of about 16.5 meters, and I have no problem carving whatsoever, but the reason behind stepping into the turn (not pointing the tip up above the tail, but stepping up) was to make you higher above the next gate on the rise line and to load that spring. And the fact that the SL turns are so dynamic (almost by definition) ensures that you are never in the back seat for longer than a split tenth of a second, but wherever the balance takes you.

And can you make a carved 10-meter-radius turn on skis that can only give you 16?
post #20 of 25
And can you make a carved 10-meter-radius turn on skis that can only give you 16?
Yes. Don't forget that a 10 m radius is over 30 feet! That's not exactly a small distance. But here's how: yeah the side cut is 16 meters, but when the ski is on edge it bends to an even sharper radius. For a shorter radius turn, get a higher edge angle. (or do a little skidding)

As far as the stepping thing- Athletes will do what they have to do. If they're late for the next turn and need to change line by stepping then they step. It's not the desired technique though.
post #21 of 25
Actually I was talking about a 16-meter turn radius, not the radius of the sidecut. If a ski cannot make the turn, it will skid if you try to go for a higher edge angle (unless you play around with edge bevel angles and make a variable bevel, but it becomes expensive to get the skis retuned each time you want them to carve a sharper turn until you dial it in just right [img]smile.gif[/img] )

Thanks for the comment on stepping.

[ February 11, 2003, 11:35 AM: Message edited by: AlexG ]
post #22 of 25
I skied in the old school, more like pre-school, style from the time I was 6 to when I was 26 and had no problem adapting to the new equipment. I wouldn't recomend my approach, which was to take 20+ years off from the sport so my old skills were only a faint memory, but it did work quite well. Typically when I take a lesson now the instructor just repeatedly tells me to keep my skis apart -- a holdover from the old days when keeping your boots and knee together was the primary indication of a good skier.
post #23 of 25
There is a big difference between stepping up to gain a higher line in a race course and stepping up to engage the downhill edge of the uphill ski.

The former we do frequently, especially on an icy course where you might have skidded more than expected. But, the latter is a no-no. You do not want to move away from the turn. Moving your body diagonally downhill and forward to engage the uphill edge is the way we do it now on shaped skis.
post #24 of 25
How about this picture of Bode? Just before the last red gate here I'd say he's stepping up to the downhill edge of the uphill ski. Of course he got a little late...

post #25 of 25
There's right, there's wrong, and then there's Bode.

I think the question is more what is desired than what is used in certain circumstances. If all I had in my bag of tricks was perfectly carved turns, I'd never finish a course. However, my general focus has been a centered, wider-stance, equal edge angle turn. Weight distribution seems to take care of itself and that's just fine with me. I try to actively guide the inside ski, which requires some pressure, but I'm by no means 50/50. To create the pressure on the inside ski, usually all that is required is to pull the inside foot back, which pressures the boot tongue/ski tip. With the inside ski on the snow and actively carving, I can respond to bumps and other stuff the hill throws at me a lot easier and much quicker.

Hands, knees, and shins. That's all I can focus on right now, and very rarely at the same time.
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