Should we copy what Racers do?
A Racer’s Perspective
Verses a recreational skier’s
I have been very lucky in my career in Snow sports and have met many professionals and influences along the way. I’ve used the word racer but you can also think any high level performer including; bump skiers, slopestyle/parkrats or extreme off-piste skiers.
Along my 30 odd year career path various questions and debating points come up, one being:
My answer to this is; not necessarily and has many facets, not only the physical limits that most of us can’t get our inside hip an inch off the snow. Let’s look at what drives a competitive racer in any sport and also if these drives and desires are appropriate or similar to the ones learners and recreational skiers have:
- A top level athlete competing in a race wants to win, sometimes at almost any cost
They will use economic, efficient and effective movements a lot of the time, this side of what they do is something we should copy. However, at other times they may use (or be forced to use) movements that may not always be utterly safe – especially to the lower end skier – as racers will take chances and test their bodies to the limit of what is generally accepted (risking injury).
- A racer’s body will also be under more stress than most recreational skiers because of the forces created at the speed they are travelling and the fact that they are being dictated where they must turn to get around the gate
- Racers are “looking for chances to accelerate” not for control in the normal sense (See Dealing with Fear)
- They will constantly tread the fine line between being in and out of control and while doing this the run is closed to the public (safety)
- The stresses they under-go are not all physical, they can be psychological along with others too (strength of mind)
They train hard and beyond the norm to enable them to deal with these stresses and strains and recover from the injuries they pick up.
- When using strength racers apply it to great technique, generally weaker skiers will be the other way around (trying too hard and wasting energy)
- They also have time to spend working on all these aspects, not the normal 1 or 2 week holiday of most recreational skiers
This doesn’t mean an average person shouldn’t aim high and have dreams and goals, as everyone has to start somewhere to become great. BUT….
Ask yourself: Are you prepared to take these chances? Is your style, ability or fitness level going to allow you to achieve this? Is your psychological make-up going to enable you to deal with the mental stresses?
Or are you looking for something slightly toned-down to suit your own drives and desires? These could be:
- To reach the bottom in one piece
- To be in control the whole way
- To ski slowly
- To turn where you want to
- To ski/Telemark with a certain style
- To be able to handle the whole mountain
There must be others and whatever your drive is, it has to be achievable and realistic. Being constantly at or beyond your limit may not only be a danger for you it could be dangerous to others, be safe and considerate (know and follow the FIS safety rules).
Another deciding factor might be to note that lots of high level athletes in any sport for that matter end up with major injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives. I’ve been really lucky or skilful to not end up with any sporting injuries and hope to ski and Telemark well into my dotage with any more luck thrown my way!
When I first started horse riding, we mainly hacked (the normal impression of a line of horses all trotting and cantering at the same time, nose to tail). The main fun element for me was being involved and “winning” the gallop when we’d all line up across the field or track and the horses would go wild; rearing and bucking and turning about with the gathering excitement, before someone said GO. Toward the end of my time riding my mates would ask “where were you?” as I would do a collected (slow) canter up to them. I had started to get my kicks from having a different control of the horse, holding it back and having it wait until I allowed it to go at a walk, then trot and then into canter and maybe sometimes a gallop.
This equates to skiing so well, lots of us love tearing down the slope at mach 3 but to become complete try to master all elements and ski slowly and accurately too, slow is pro.
Skiing with the big boys!
The one thing you’ll see if you’re lucky enough to ski with any of the ski world’s Demigods is that when they ski they make it look easy and that they don’t look like they are doing anything!! This is due to the vast amounts of rehearsal and practice of all the multiple skills and elements they will need to use in any given and changeable instants. They use small and almost invisible inputs unless they have to make big corrective adjustments or movements in a race course to deal with a mistake, this side of it we should copy along with preparing ourselves physically and mentally as best we can to deal with the knocks.
So in conclusion; yes Didier Cuche, Lindsay Vonn, Alain Baxter or the Lau brothers (insert your own favourite) are among the best skiers and Telemarkers in the world and do have awesome and brilliant technique but do we need to water it down a bit? I believe that we should base our technique on the principles of world cup technique (WCT) but look toward a balance of what we or the student really wants and needs (sometimes what you want is not what you need) and if that is to follow WCT then fine but the people we teach may want to overcome fear and desire control of their descent.
Remember that whatever level of skier/Telemarker you are, we all DO the same or similar things to make skis turn and either get control and or gain speed. It is our drives, fear factor and desires that create the why’s and wherefore’s of the type of result or outcome we enjoy.
Can we learn anything else from Racers?
When you watch a race on television and there is a delay, they sometimes show you one of them warming-up, either kicking their legs, stretching or the like. Other times you’ll see them there with their coach, visualising the course but because they can’t go anywhere as they’re on course in the next few competitors, they will be using their hands.
They have a memory map of the course in their heads and go through it left and right up and over with their hands and arms copying the movements they will be making with their feet and legs and if this is good enough for the best in the world then it surely must be a good thing for us to use!
Is this what is behind the transferring of ideas from hands to feet?
Yes, take any of the ideas in this book, 0xo for example and use your hands to first understand it, then transfer ideas and feelings to your feet. For example locate a point on your hand, say the palm and place it on the table and feel for different parts and then imagine doing the same when skiing – standing and Balancing within the scale idea on the palm of your foot.