Skiing down a race course as fast as you dare is one of Alpine skiing’s sweetest adrenaline rushes. After the first time or two, if you have an ounce of competitive nature, the challenge of how to go even faster inevitably kicks in.
There are ski races every day in Vermont during the winter. Whether you’re competing for beer league bragging rights or a NASTAR (National Standard Race) gold, chasing points as a junior, or trying to cuts 10ths off your time on the masters circuit, everyone who enters a race feels the need for more speed. If you’re sick of finishing second, here are seven tips guaranteed to improve your performance:
. Many racers lose up to two seconds between the starting gate and the first turn. The two most common mistakes are (1) putting your poles too far in front of your feet and (2) using all arms and shoulders to push through the timing wand. Point your ski tips toward the first gate, then place your ski poles over the wand, planting them firmly enough for a strong push, but not so firmly they get stuck.
Bring your shins close to the wand, then bend your knees and coil your body like a cheetah about to pounce. On “go,” push forward using your legs, core, and upper body as you open the wand. Continue pushing until you no longer accelerate forward from the effort or until you reach the first gate.
The least intuitive part of ski racing is looking two or more gates ahead. You naturally want to look at the gate you’re heading toward, but if you look gate to gate, you’ll feel rushed and likely get later and later. In general, you should place two-thirds of your turn above the gate, which is only possible if your eyes are focused down the hill.
As you stand in the start, look past the first gate to the second and third gates, then keep doing it all the way to the finish. In other words, if you are turning around a blue gate, look past the next (red) gate to the following blue gate, farther if you can. If you look ahead, you’ll not only ski a better line, you’ll feel as if you have a lot more time to react.