Here we go. It’s the first full week of the New Year, the ground is white pretty much everywhere in ski country and the racing in full swing. Game on!
Before we get too far along, it’s a good time to take a deep breath and remember some of the basics that can help make the racing season productive and fun for all. Each new ski season brings along a new set of challenges, as bodies and gear grow. There may be new hills, new peers and new coaches to get acquainted with, but there are a whole lot of things that stay the same. As one of my good racing friends mused at a training camp in our primes, “Isn’t it funny how every year or two we hear about ‘the new GS turn’ and every year it turns out to be basically the same?’” There are changes in terminology, approach and tactics, but the physics and the challenges of hurtling oneself down a frozen slope, around sticks, as fast as you can, are tenaciously consistent.
To be more blunt, ski racing is not rocket science. You need to be patient, stay positive and work hard. As simple as those things sound, they are anything but easy—for athletes and parents alike—in a sport uniquely fraught with variables, harsh conditions and a ridiculously long glide path to success. With that in mind, I put together a few of my most requested posts to help keep things productive and positive:
First and foremost, remember that the journey to reach your full potential, even purely in the realm of athletics, is a Long Road. For ski racers this is true at age 8 and still true at age 18. You’ll have a better journey if you can look down the road, rather than focusing on the bugs on your windshield.
If you want to be the best at any sport, you have to learn the basics. In ski racing that starts with balance, timing and clean carves. Responsible gate-clearing and honest pole plants are a good place to start. The lack thereof inspired these odes to each. I sincerely hope that some day reaching, rotating and leaning in will be quaint reminders of our past. Until then, read up!
The start of a new season means a whole lot of opportunities to show good sportsmanship, which is something every single competitor (including wannabe Ted Ligetys) can work on and succeed at every day. It’s the part of sports that builds kids layer by layer, day by day, into respected and respectful adults. It’s also the part that makes parents prouder than any podium could.
Everyone has his or her own definition of what winning is. Here’s mine. Hint: It involves fun and friends. If you have more time on your hands here’s the visual version, complete with more F-Words you DO want your kids to embrace.
A FINAL REMINDER: RACE DAY IS A SKI DAY
I recently had the privilege of interviewing many ski racers from the Pro Tour. World Pro Skiing epitomized the irrepressible spirit that fueled 70’s ski culture, and in its heyday enticed the world’s best skiers to face off in head-to-head competition. It was a revelation to me that a big part of the draw to the pro circuit was the sheer number of race runs you could get in a day. Rather than being seen as a grind, the ten full runs it took to reach the finals was itself a reward.
It reminded me that often, when we get caught up in the season, race days turn in to more lodge time than snow time. Every away race is a chance to ski on different terrain. Particularly if your home ski area is small, race days are golden opportunities to cut loose, explore and let the mountain do the coaching.
When it comes to snow time, it all counts! Whether negotiating mogul fields and facing down steeps, or even skating along a cat-track and sidestepping up and down a hill to build a kicker, time on snow is valuable. Even time spent riding surface lifts—the edge control of keeping your skis straight on a t-bar track, and the balance of keeping snow contact in a poma track— is a bonus.
I get a little squeamish when 12-year-old’s are referred to as “athletes,” because the title seems like an unnecessary professionalization of something that ought to be primarily about fun and health. As much as I respect the training and effort that goes in to the pursuit of ski racing, I still think of youngsters learning this sport as kids first, then skiers, and then—if they choose to approach sport with intrinsic drive and intent— athletes. Whatever you call yourself, if you love this sport it’s time to get outside and enjoy it. It’s snow time people—so let’s go skiing!