Tag Archives: ski instruction

Race Ski Testing 101

Spring is the time of the season that we begin testing skis and boots for the following season. Here are some key reasons why we stress testing now opposed to the summer time:

Snow: When testing products you should test it on a condition that is most similar to what you will be racing on during the season.  This all revolves around the feel of the ski or boot.  Depending on the condition you will find that there can be differences that will/can eventually add up to a time difference in the course and that can be the separation between you winning or losing.

Tune:  Having the ability to test multiple different brands of products with the exact same Start Haus tune.  This will result in you being eliminate the tune as being a variable in the test and making it easier for you to feel exactly how the ski feels.

Product:  Ultimately you are testing skis or boots to see if you are faster than other brands.  When you have the ability to test multiple different skis or boots in one day you are easily able to determine the differences between brands.  This is easy because the snow conditions are the same, tune is the same and now the only differences will be product.

These three key elements are all necessary components to an effective test and deciding which brand is the best performing ski or boot for the athlete.

Ski camps will be taking place over the next few weekends through the Squaw Valley Race Program and Sugar Bow Ski Team; both camps will be open to all other programs as well. If you have any inquiries regarding these camps please contact Start Haus at 530.582.5781 or comment here and we will be happy to assist you the best we can.

Tackling Man-made Snow

Skiing man-made snow is a far cry from those fluffy powder days that we dream about.  But skiing firm man-made conditions can be fun too, especially when it’s the only snow around.  The first thing you need is a good tune.  Sharp edges and a smooth waxed base go a long way in these conditions.  In order to take advantage of those sharp edges you gotta tip those skis over.  Tipping action originates in the feet and ankles and then moves up the body to include the knees and hips – in that order.  Practice rolling your feet and ankles side to side while standing in place, start mellow with just your feet and ankles, then work your way up the body. Next try gliding and tipping the ski side to side by initiating the movement pattern with the feet and ankles. The next move is to take the hill at a diagonal and practice rolling your feet down hill and back up hill as you go across the hill. Once you get comfortable with this move, try tipping the ski through a complete turn. If you ride the side cut of the ski without offering any guidance to turn shape from the legs, you are in for a very fast ride (depending on the radius of your ski). Tipping of the feet, legs and hips must be done in conjunction with guidance from the legs as to the designated arc path that the skis should follow. Good carving skills will give you more purchase on the slick man made snow surface.

Looking for hard snow edge grip???

Dynastar has been a major player in the race world with many Olympic and World Championship medals as well as World Cup titles in their long history. This racing pedigree really shows in the Dynastar Speed Course TI. The Course TI wears race graphics, carries a racing binding plate, and shares the wood/metal construction characteristics of the World Cup skis. Despite this, it is in fact a pretty different animal than a pure race ski.  A wider waist width and rounded tail are the first visual clues that this is not just another race ski. The Course TI has a tight 15m turn radius in the 171 size and it is available in sizes as short as a 159 and as long as 183. This is a very good dual event race ski for non-FIS level competitors and also makes a great “cheater” GS ski for Masters racers. The Speed Course TI is even more than this though. This is a very good ski for someone that doesn’t race at all and is looking for a hard snow biased ski for everyday use.

The first runs I took on the Dynastar Course TI was at Winter Park during the annual SIA intro. The main test run there is an FIS homologated GS trail and has very hard snow most of the time. The upper part of the run is relatively narrow and has a moderate pitch. I used this part of the trail to vary turn shapes between short medium and long radius and then back again. The tapered tail released much more easily than the grippy, squared off tails that you find on real race skis these days. Through this exercise the Course felt amazingly comfortable and compliant through changing turn shapes and the turn release was energetic but manageable. As the trail got steeper it also gets wider and in this section of the trail, I opened up the turn radius and picked up the speeds. While the Course TI is easy enough at slower speeds, it really stands out when skied aggressively. The grip was like a razor even on the spots that were scraped off and shiny and the dampening was on par with a World Cup GS ski. The tighter turn radius kept the ski from running out at the turn finish the way a GS race ski would and when I took it out to the edges of the trail it managed the soft crud very well. For the skier or instructor/coach looking for a hard snow specialty ski, it doesn’t get much better or more versatile than the Speed Course Ti.

Athlete’s Preferences for Parental Behavior During Competitiong

Parents often wonder what their role becomes when preparation for the race season is over and the competition season begins.  New research published in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, investigates the athletes perspective on their parents behavior during competition.  Competitive youth (age 12-15) tennis players were studied and although different from ski racing, the information has validity due to the ever present parent/athlete relationship in all youth sports. The findings are described below in order to guide parents to better understand what they can do help their child during the competition season.

  1. Parents should focus on supporting the athlete’s involvement in the sport rather than the outcome of the competition.  You want to give them support not put pressure on them .  By focusing on the outcome(aka winning)  the athlete may become nervous and their performance may decrease.  In turn, this could make it even harder for them to focus on their next run or race.
  2. Athletes don’t value technical or tactical tips from their parents if the parents have limited knowledge of the sport.  Your athlete knows you are truing to help them but sometimes it just confuses the, causing lack of confidence in their own ability.
  3. Athletes prefer feedback regarding effort and attitude.  Athletes are aware when they don’t have their best race don’t need to be reminded by their parents that it was not their best.
  4. Athletes notice when the tone of a parent’s voice does not match the comments made, or the body language. This may make the athlete feel under pressure and become distracted.  By staying relaxed and showing support to your athlete they will relax and most likely their performance will improve.
  5. Athletes expressed the need, and like when their parents provide practical support.  Parents can help “prepare and recover” for their next race.

The relations between athlete and parent is always complex and the above findings are only a few suggestions to help athletes reach their potential.  The most productive way to understand your athlete’s likes and dislikes during the race season is to simply talk about it.  Ask your athlete about what helps them have the most confidence and have fun.  By Helping them to achieve these two things the will be on their way to finding their potential!


Knight, C. J., Boden, C. M., & Holt, N.L. (2009) Junior Tennis Player’s Preferences for Parental Behaviors.  Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22, 377-391.

Using the Ankle as a Hinge

It is important to maintain a centered stance over your skis to work the skis effectively.  While standing on your skis on flat terrain, try moving your body forward and backward over the skis by using the ankle joint as hinge.  This is how we want to re-center our center of mass over the skis.  The goal is to maintain a perpendicular relationship of body to the skis.  When approaching steep pitches it is natural to move your weight back because you are hesitant and maybe a little nervous.  Unfortunately when this happens, you lose the ability to direct and work the ski effectively.  You may find that you are suddenly going faster than you want and may be heading out of control.  When skiing steeper pitches, concentrate on keeping your body perpendicular to the hill by hinging the body forward through the ankle joint, especially at the start of the turn.  This will help to apply pressure on the front of your boots with your shins.  The pressure on the front of your boots is conveyed to the tips or your skis and will allow you to control your skis with more precision.  Skis are designed to perform best when strong forward pressure is applied to start the turn.  It is amazingly easy to adjust the radius of your turns if your weight is centered over the skis.  Don’t hesitate when you hit the steeps – be assertive, move your body down the hill and have fun.

An easy tip to improve your skiing

Staying centered over your skis at all times should be a key focus for
all skiers.  This starts by having an open stance over your skis while
balancing your weight between your feet.  Make sure that you keep some
contact with your shins against the tongue of both boots.  This pressure will
increase while flexing your ankles and bending your knees into a turn and
somewhat decrease while extending and preparing to start your next turn.
This contact focus will help you keep centered over your feet through out
the turn shape giving you more precise edging movements and pressure
control.  Keeping a centered, open stance allows for smoother shifting of
pressure between the feet and cleaner use of the four edges of your skis.
Staying balanced in the center of your skis and over your feet also allows
you to respond to changing snow and terrain conditions more effectively.
A centered stance allows for better independent leg and foot action,
which is key to sound skiing. The outside ski in the turn needs to be the dominant ski while the inside ski is actively guided through the turn with
less pressure while complementing the desired turn shape.  Skiing powder
and difficult snow conditions require a solid, centered stance over the
middle of the skis to evenly distribute your weight on both skis allowing
them to bend evenly and float through the snow as a unit. Skiing bumps
requires constant centering over the skis so that the skier can remain in
balance and not get pitched all over the mountain.

World Cup racers use both skis at the same time by changing their
edges and turning both feet equally while balancing over both feet. They
keep moving their hands, upper body and hips forward and downhill to
help them stay centered over their skis at all times. A centered and balanced
stance is of primary importance for all skiers. It allows you to steer and
edge your skis more effectively while controlling the pressure on your
skis as they are guided across the snow no matter what type of turn we are
making on any slope or snow condition.

Join us for a clinic at NASTC or Sugar Bowl and get some great exercises to help you become completely centered on your skis!

By Mike Iman, NASTC Trainer and Sugar Bowl Mountain Sports Learning Center Director

You can be an even better athlete this winter!

By: Chris Fellows

As director of the North American Ski Training Center and father of three active kids, I don’t have large chunks of time to spend in the gym.  However my skiing performance and fitness is important to me. I’m guessing that’s the way you feel as a passionate skier too?

By staying healthy and fit throughout the season, I can provide my clients with solid skiing instruction and demonstrations and I can keep the wheels from coming off the cart mid-season due to overuse injuries, bad alignment, or illness due to lack of recovery time. Don’t forget well-fit boots and the right skis in your quiver complete the perfect relationship: good fitness, good equipment, and good technique = lots of fun, excellent skiing and reduced risk of injury.  Thanks in advance for reading.

The following tips keep me moving athletically throughout the ski season and help prevent injury.

  1. Exercise fads come and go. Make a commitment to keep fit and make exercise a part of your daily routine.
  2. Posture, good or bad, can effect your athleticism. Pay attention to your sitting, standing, walking and exercising posture.  Poor posture will result in poor performance; good posture will help you perform like a top athlete.
  3. Focus on a strong core for stability and flexible hips for skiing mobility.  Limited range of movement and weak core muscles can over-stress connective tissue.  This will limit your performance and body durability.
  4. In the winter, cold weather tells your body to pack on fat for survival.  Don’t let it go too far. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits and don’t overdo the high carb foods. Diabetes runs in my family and I’ve seen the damaging effects of the disease.  From a young age I have tried to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
  5. The biggest technological breakthroughs in sports in the next decade will include advancements in human performance through food.  This will come in the form of body enhancement foods or super foods.  Like the tobacco industry 15 years ago, the food industry will be under the microscope over the next 20 years and will be expected to clean up its act. Athletes are ahead of the game and are adjusting their diets to exclude starches, sugars, industrial additives, pesticides and dyes.  Athletes’ diets are rich in nutrients and proteins, like raw locally grown fruits and vegetables, nut, whole grains, yogurt and smaller portions of meat.
  6. Change up your work out intensity.  Mix up your high intensity days with low intensity days and don’t skimp on sleep for total body recovery.
  7. Ski athletes focus on total body work outs. The best weight training program for ski athletes is NOT the muscle specific routines of bodybuilders, but instead sessions that work out the whole body.
  8. Keep your aerobic engine active throughout the winter.  You aerobic levels will slowly dwindle if you forget to get a run in, go for a cross-country ski or backcountry climb regularly.  Your aerobic fitness is the furnace that fires your athletic abilities, without it you are running on fumes.
  9. When crunched for time, up the intensity of your work out. Skip rope fast for ten minutes or do 100 split squats for a personal best time. High intensity workouts will force the issue and teach your body to adjust to high power output.  Skiing is high power output.
  10. Energize yourself with the youth!  Work out with people younger than you.  My kids force me out of my comfort zone.  “Daddy try this trick on the tramp”, or “Dad, race me to that pole and shimmy to the top, let’s see who wins”.  Younger partners will make you rise to a higher level of performance.

Most importantly, remember to have fun with your workouts. This is the single largest indicator that you will continue them regularly throughout the ski season and off-season.

Diary of a Non-Wimpy Ski Racer

Journaling isn’t just for detectives like Nancy Drew (and diaries aren’t just for wimpy kids like the wimpy kid that kept a diary).  Writing, journaling, diary keeping—whatever you want to dub the pages soaking the ink of your thoughts—is rad.  And if you want to be numero-uno down the road, a training log is a great key to long-term success.  If you track it, you’ll always be able to go back to it.  If you end every training session with a journal entry, you’ll begin to recognize patterns, and solve the issues when you hit a plateau

Writing is also a good way to problem solve.  Ski racing is full of confusing, convoluted lingo.  Believe me, there were many times when I had no idea what my coach was asking of me.  Don’t feel ashamed to ask questions, and in your journal, work through those questions.  Technical talk is often hard to understand.  When you work through a training session in your journal, you may realize, “Hey, I didn’t even know what my coach wanted me to do.”  Ask for a drill the next day, and record it.  If you’re ever having the same problem again, you’ll be able to look back and know exactly how to solve it.

You’ll also learn what works and what doesn’t work.  Say one day you take two warm-up runs and the next you take five.  This pattern continues and you realize that two warm-up runs work for you.  Five just tires you out.  Boom, problem solved and now you’re on to a more productive training session.

If you want to hit the front page every race, get proactive.  Keep a ski journal.  It’s a smart way to victory.

Bro-Ski is for Real

Boy or girl, we’ve all got bros that ski. Pant sagging, goggle gapping, and ski rapping—your bro-ski, man. You know who I’m talking about. It’s likely they give you a hard time for your ski strapping, goggle lens-packing, gate bashing style. And it’s likely you give them a hard time for—well, bro-ing. You love them for their different style, and their argyle one-piece pile.

Truth be told, we have a lot to learn from each other. To ski racers, technique is all discipline of the body. To free riders, technique is all creativity of the mind. Oftentimes, in the world of ski racing, the athlete gets very caught up attempting to travel past a gate the “correct” way. I’ve been a victim of this mindset, and I’ve watched kids ski stagnant trying to force technique. While there are basics to master, in the end, every skier has a different style, a different strength, and travels a different line.

Consider this common scenario: Your coach instructs you to move your hips forward in the transition. This piece of advice doesn’t mean move your hips forward like Johnny or Jackie; it means generate forward movement in your own way, to re-center over the ski in the transition, so that you can flex your ankle, bend the boot, and snap off a turn. Ted Ligety and Bode Miller have two different styles in the transition. You should, too.

Instead of lapping around, jumping back in the gate, and trying to do what you’re told in the blues and the reds, it’s time for the bro-ski in your head. Take the concept, and go make it unique to you. The best way to drive home an idea in ski racing is to master it in your free skiing.

Free skiing is the most underutilized tool in today’s ski racing environment. Programs pay a lot for training space, gates, and free skiing is, well, “free.” If you look to Europe, young ski racers are not allowed to touch a gate until they have mastered technique in their free skiing. These athletes are learning from the mountain; it is a natural course, using terrain as the turning pole, and mastering the arc without a pole.

If you’ve been slapping gates since you were 6, take a chance on free skiing. Opt for the free run over the training run (with the permission of your coach, of course). Put your hips on your tails for a few turns, move them so far forward you can’t initiate a turn, and find your own medium in the transition. You have to find the top of your own turn, your own way. It is, after all, your turn.

The Art of Working Out in the Sun

Exercise is the healthiest thing since broccoli.  With that in mind, don’t make a full plate of dryland training so hard to swallow.  A dryland training program is all about balance.  The aim isn’t to look like Hulk Hogan or strap rocks to your back like Bode Miller.  The goal is to maintain a healthy balance of strength, cardio, and power training, all while having fun in the California sun.

Since skiing is an alternative sport in this nation of football and baseball, use alternative ways to train.  Don’t think you need to jog and hit the gym every single day for a lift.  Not only will you be bored to death, you won’t be prepared for a season of ski racing.

Why not?

Skiing is unpredictable.  The elements are constantly shifting, throwing curve balls day in and day out.  When you’re carving out a pre-season fitness program, keep the inherent nature of the arc in mind.  Making a sweet turn is about strong instincts, quick thinking, and powerful moves.  The mountain is your playground; your pre-season fitness program should be as well.

Here are some alternatives to the jog/gym mentality.

Mountain biking
What a wonderful invention for ski racers.  Not only is hitting the hills on a bike one radical cardiovascular workout, tackling a single-track also works your core, tests your quickness, and keeps your eyes searching for the fastest line.  A mountain bike is a ski racers best friend during the off-season.

Paddle boarding
This new wave around Tahoe is also a fun way to get your blood pumping while keeping your balance in check.  Bend your knees, flex your core, and glide the paddle through the blue Tahoe water.  Go out when the water is glassy and work on your squat technique.  Or when the powerboats are pumping, grab your tuck and shift your weight from right to left as the wake comes in.  I’m pretty sure there’s even yoga on paddleboards.

My all-time favorite training tool: the rollerblade.  I don’t know how easy these little gems are to find anymore, but boy are they handy for a young ski racer.  Set up a straight line of cones in the parking lot and start testing your footwork.  Lacing up a pair of rollerblades is a good way to keep your footwork precise.

Pick-up Soccer
When I was an athlete at Burke Mountain Academy, soccer was a mandatory sport.  I still think it is, and there’s a good reason why: hand-eye coordination and footwork.  Plus, it’s fun, competitive, and an easy sell to those friends sitting around uploading pictures to facebook all day.  Grab a ball and get outside.  Practice your juggling skills and work on your tricks.

Extreme Hiking
Ah, this one is my best friend, just like the friend that introduced me to the art of extreme hiking: Katie Hitchcock.  The Sierra’s are packed with extreme hiking spots; rocks and dust make the best combo for a solid plyometrics routine.  There are many variations to this sport: the rocker, the duster, and the logger.  The rocker goes like this: try to take a step on every rock in the trail (if there are several rocks in one area, you’ll have to bust out a dance move to hit them all).  The duster is similar to the rocker, except you launch off the rocks and kick up a cloud of dust (be careful of your ankles).  And the logger navigates every downed tree in the Sierras like a slack line walker.  Put them all together in one hike and you’re a pro.

Of course, go to the gym and go for jogs.  But keep these alternatives in mind, and take the initiative to make your dryland program uniquely ski related.  Train hard, play hard, and when in doubt, get out!