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Don't understand what it means to be early on a gate

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hello Folks: 

I am first time racer.  I am 34 years old.  I have skied since I was 3 years old.  This year I joined a beer league to get some exercise.  The hill is tiny and most times on the course average between 16-20 seconds.  The skiing we do is GS, but because the hill is so small its probably a hybrid of GS and slalom.  

I am high competitive and I am not happy with my results.  I want be the best I can be at this and I feel like I am not reaching my potential.  I find that halfway down the course I am hitting the brakes to make the next gate.  I loose all my speed because of this.  The coaches keep saying you need to be early on the gate, but I have no idea what that means. 

I also feel like I have issues with picking a line.  I look the course and I have no idea where the best line is.  I feel these two things are really hindering my progress.   

Sorry for these noob questions, but I really want to improve.


post #2 of 12

I'm at pretty much exactly the same level as you, so don't consider me an authority on the matter.  But for what it's worth:

1) Here's a thread on this topic from another forum: http://www.nastar.com/community/index.php?showtopic=2615

2) Check out this video, and others by the same person: http://www.youtube.com/user/BrodieMAD#p/u/8/56N04BIEM-8

3) Download the game at http://www.ski-challenge.com/index.php?mod...ons&lang=en and play it a few times. Initially you race against your "trainer". The two of you can ski "through" each other, and you leave a trail on the snow so you can go back later and analyze the line you took. Later, you race against your previous self to get better, or against the saved race of another real person at about the same level.

None of these are substitutes for real time on the hill, but still eye-opening as far as what the effect of choosing a certain line is.

Good luck!
post #3 of 12
 BigK75, the following is an educated guess, based on what you've said.  You're going too straight at the gates.  In other words, once you're pointing at the next gate, you stop turning.  

To ski a higher, rounder line you have to keep turning.  Create in your mind an imaginary aiming point to the outside of the next gate you'll be turning around, and keep turning until you're pointing at that point.  The further outside the gate you mentally place it, the rounder/higher your turns will be.  Try to have your turn done, so you're pointing at your aiming point, half way between gates, then start transitioning into the new turn there, so that by the time you reach the gate half your turn is done and your skis are pointing straight down the falline.  

Begin with a aiming point well outside the gate (let's say 8 feet), then gradually move it in until you hit the threshold where you begin to jam and slow down again below the gate.  With this methodology you'll soon learn to intuitively know how straight you can run at a gate without getting in trouble and dumping speed.  

The key to your future success is being able to link cleanly carved turns.  As soon as you jam and skid you dump speed you can't get back.  Picking the proper line with this aiming point strategy will help you ski clean arc to arc, as long as you can do it outside of the gates.  If you can't, you need to devote time to honing you're skills while outside the course.  
post #4 of 12
Early on the gates, means that you have completed most of your turn before you reach the gate.

The diagram indicates the early, direct and late lines. You typically want to be between the early and direct lines. Direct requires the greatest strength and tenacity and willingness to hit gates. The direct line is the shortest line, but not always the fastest. Late is rarely good, but the good line is variable from course to course, hill to hill, skier to skier. FYI, the intersection of the rise line, H line (horizontal line) and the fall line are the turning pole of the gate. The rise line is an extension of the fall line, but above the gate. The H line is perpendicular to the rise line and goes through the gate.

Line is so course and slope specific that it is very difficult to put into words what a 'good line' is as you could take the same set on a hill and move it 2 m left or right for the entire course and the line could change considerably. You have to take into account all factors: slope pitch, slope roll, banking, fall away, ice, soft snow, etc.

The best line lets you make turns that are close the same size throughout any particular section, carving the turns as much as possible with as little skid as possible. Additionally the line should take advantage of the fall line, so that if you have a banked turn, you utilize the bank and use less pressure/edge angle to make the turn or let your turn start in a different place. Likewise if there is a fall away, you may try to make your turn before or after it so that you are less prone to slide.

Speed in skiing is about not slowing down or loosing speed gained. Line is a big part of that. So are good turns. Well maintained skis. And aerodynamics.
post #5 of 12
Here's a visualization exercise.

Picture the hill covered over with smooth concrete on a nice summer day, and imagine riding a bicycle (or roller skating) down the course through the gates.  What would happen if you let the bike go perfectly straight for the gate and turned when you got to there?  What will happen at the subsequent gates? 

Now, what line would you have to steer on the bicycle to make that series of gates at speed without going way out of the course?  Hint: you would have to aim above the gate and initiate your turn well before the gate (i.e., "early").
post #6 of 12
Rick put it nicely and has given you a good plan of attack. It is practially always better to be early than late as you can straighten out an early line, but late is just... late.

Another aspect about being fast is to reduce the amount of time you are pressuring your edges. Pressure should build up progressively and peak as you are at the apex of the turn. Releasing should be progressive as well. If you look at WC racers, you will seen them on edge for quite a while, but the actual pressure zone in the turn is fairly small.

Make quality turns, start on an early line and work it into the most direct line you can ski well, and watch the seconds fall away.

Another excellent place to gain time and speed is in the start. Watch the fast guys and see what they do. I'll bet they have a strong kick start followed by long, strong pole thrusts and long hard skates to the first gate. They might even skate around the first gate so they can go straighter at it. They can make their first 'turn' by skating into the new direction to the next gate.
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Okay guys here is the update from yesterdays training. 

I read this 10 times and went to my training last night.  The advice helped enormously.  For once I felt like I was not hitting the gates dead on and I was no hitting the breaks at gate number 3-5.  I also felt fantastic at the bottom.  In the past races I was so slow at the bottom I barely had any speed going through the finish line.  Yesterday I was flying through the finish line.  Yesterday was just training so I am not sure what my times looked like.   

Not all my runs were perfect and I was still late sometimes, but for the most part, 70% of my runs were good with no breaking.  I have two races left and I will post my results.  The first two races I finished 19th and 19th. 

Thanks for the advice guys.  I really do appreciate everyone that posted.  I will keep you posted with my progress.  Stay tuned.  The next race is the 17th of Feb. 

I know its just a beer league, but I want to be the best I can be.  This is my Olympics LOL 


post #8 of 12
Claude, I'm glad to hear you had good runs. An advantage of being early is that if you mess up a turn, you have some space to get back on line. Best of luck in the upcoming races. MR
post #9 of 12
Claude- Here is some info that I have found very helpful- in the attached link you can download the technique and tactics powerpoint presentation. I think it was very well done and the way the Lemaster photos are used really helps to visualize tactics and line in a course. Also some good stuff in there on technique.
Good luck!
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

I said I would update you guys with my results to let you know how I was progressing with your help. Yesterday was our third race.  I am very happy to report that I came in 11th.  I was 0.3 from breaking the top 10.  I was 1.4 seconds from the top guy.  We had roughly about 52 racerr's both men and women.  This is a huge improvement for me.  I know this is only a beer league but I just love the racing and competition.  Getting in the top 10 and and eventually the top 5 would be amazing.  

post #11 of 12
Beer league or no, the kind of improvement you describe is great. In the beer leagues around here, the top guns are really good. I imagine they are in your neck of the woods, too.

So.... Congratulations!
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hey MastersRacer: 

The guys that are in the top 5 are really really good.  Most I would say are ex-skiers from the days they were kids. 

I would say excited last night I could not get to sleep.

Sports are so amazing.  I feel really blessed that I can go out there every weekend and try my best.   

Thanks for the encouragement MastersRacer. 

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