Tag Archives: Sugar Bowl

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.

Catch Up: with Keely Kelleher


(Photo Credit: Marcus Caston)

By Lesley LeMasurier

Former World Cup Skier, National Champion, and Rahlves’ Banzai Stop Winner.

Only two athletes hold these multi-titles, one male and one female.  Funny thing is, the latter looked up to the former when she was a kid.

Montana Girl

For Keely Kelleher, skier Daron Rahlves is the man.  “I loved going off jumps pretending to be him when I was a kid,” she reflects.  “I tell all the kids I coach now, Just Daron It!

Just Daron It! is something Kelleher has been doing her entire career.  As a young ski racer, Kelleher was on the smaller side of the field.  “All my coaches called me birdlegs.  I could create these outrageous angles, but I was not fast. I developed so much later than most the girls I was racing against,” Kelleher reflects.

Her first year of FIS racing, Kelleher was a mere 95 lbs and pushing her birdlegs to compete against fully developed phenoms, like fellow 1984’s Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn. Kelleher’s road to the World Cup would require unmatched patience and persistence.

Fortunately for Kelleher, she grew up in Big Sky, Montana, where there was no daycare, but the great outdoors.  Her adventures in alternative babysitting took her down steep chutes, long groomers, and eventually, to the junior ski racing circuit. “I was not a J3 standout as far as speed; however, I had a really solid technique built up from freeskiing so much,” Kelleher recalls.

This freeskiing base—acquired on the open mountain, as well as on the Montana waters, where Kelleher excelled as a freestyle kayaker—shaped a solid and daring technique that would eventually take Kelleher to the top of her game.

Just Birdleg It!

In 2003, Kelleher pushed her small frame down foreign mountains, and hit her stride on the speed tracks of the Europa Cup Circuit.  She quickly earned her spot on the USST, proving her worth on some of the toughest, gnarliest speed tracks around, taking several top results across Austria and Italy.

During her first season with the US Ski Team, Kelleher broke one of her birdlegs.  A wing down, Kelleher was grounded for nearly two seasons, and took another few seasons to fully launch again.  In 2009, she scored her first World Cup points.  In 2010, she earned the US National SG Title.

Kelleher retired from the US Ski Team in 2010, unable to bear the chronic pain caused by the injury.  “I was honestly burnt out on managing the pain all the time on hard ice.  My last season I would take 2 runs while all the other girls were taking 10,” she recalls.

The competitive hunger struck during the first season of the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour in 2011.

“I wasn’t ready to be done with competing when ski racing ended so I continue to push myself in skiing. I want to ski terrain that is just as difficult or more difficult than a world cup downhill course,” she says.

Kelleher won her first entry in the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour, taking the Kirkwood stop in 2011.


Since retiring, Kelleher has set her sights on the Banzai Tour, school at Westminster College, and coaching.  In the summer of 2011, she founded ‘Keely’s Ski Camp for Girls’.  With a group of 22 junior girls ages 12 – 16 and a staff stacked with all-female former Olympians and World Cup athletes, the girls turned Government Camp into Girl’s Camp.

(Coaching Staff: Jess Kelley, Libby Ludlow, Keely Kelleher, Katie Hitchcock, and Tara Hines. Photo: Marcus Caston)

“The aim is to empower girls through ski racing and skiing. The camp motto is ‘Conquering the mountain one girl at a time.’ I see two meanings in it: I want the girls to come away from the camp feeling like they improved—or ‘conquered’—an aspect of their skiing. But the deeper meaning is ‘conquering’ the challenges that ski racing and life throw at them,” says Kelleher.

In addition to her Mt. Hood camp, this spring Kelleher will host a big mountain free ski camp for girls at Snowbird, Utah. The camp will be the first ever of its kind: all mountain, all girls, all time.

Be sure to catch up with Keely Kelleher when the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour kicks off in 2012 at Kirkwood Resort!

Build it Upside Down

Several years ago, a couple reps, company execs, and sponsored skiers were sitting around a dinner table celebrating the success of a new prototype that would revolutionize the way they made skis. The idea was born out of a frustration with rocker technology, which makes skis playful, but also instable and nervous. Ever the tinkering skier, Arne Backstrom proposed a solution that was simple, yet so profound, it should be written down in the ski book of Zen: Build the ski upside down.

Blizzard-Tecnica unveiled their upcoming 2012/2013 lineup for the first time in California and Nevada before an audience of Tahoe skiers and ski industry leaders at a launch party in Squaw Valley. Like last year’s line of Blizzard skis, next year’s models all embrace Flip Core technology, which was inspired by Backstrom and flips the ski’s wood core upside down so it naturally takes on a rocker shape. Incorporated in the Cochise to the Bodacious to an entire new line of woman’s big mountain skis and beyond — thirteen models in total for 2013 — the genius of Backstrom’s idea is that it can be applied to an entire line of skis, not just one pair. And on Tuesday night, there were many converts in the crowd who now believe in Flip Core.

“If I’m going to sell a product to a friend, I have to believe in it,” said Robb Gaffney, who first skied the Cochise prototype three years ago at Kirkwood, and now skis them nearly every time he goes out. “The first run, I believed it. The second run, I believed it more … He [Backstrom] knew what he was talking about.”

Ski writer Jackson Hogen noted that Blizzard isn’t just on the map, it’s leading the charge with its new technology. “They made it [Blizzard] the most important brand in skiing now, because it’s the reference brand,” Hogan said. “It’s all deserved because it’s product … These things aren’t pixie dust. There’s math involved.” Not just math, there was a curious person who was in tune with his equipment.

“A lot of it came down to this drive to understand how things worked,” said Ralph Backstrom, Arne’s younger brother.

Arne Backstrom was at the top of his skiing career when this idea came forward. And at that dinner table on that fortuitous night, the Blizzard-Tecnica crew was not only celebrating the success of the prototype, but also Backstrom’s skiing career. He had just won the first McConkey Cup and was filming with Matchstick and Warren Miller. It was that night that Stefano Mantegazza, Blizzard-Tecnica product director, proposed that the Bodacious become Backstrom’s signature pro model ski.

“It’s not a tribute,” said Clem Smith, sales rep for Blizzard-Tecnica, about the Bodacious. “This was always his deal. It wasn’t an afterthought.”

Backstrom passed away just as the first line of Flip Core skis went into production. Right before he left for Peru to ski the Cordillera Blanca, Backstrom signed his name five times — a true perfectionist — on a piece of paper that he left with Smith. That signature is now on every pair of Bodacious skis.

“Arne was a man of few words,” Smith said. “But when he spoke, everyone listened.”

New this year from Blizzard is a women’s big mountain line of Flip Core skis, including the aggressive Blizzard Dakota ski, which is the female version of the Cochise. Tecnica is also coming forward with another line of boots inspired by Backstrom’s infamous Frankenboot. The 2012/13 free mountain boots feature interchangeable soles, a walk mode, and can be skied aggressively in bounds or in the backcountry.

“It’s rare to see an athlete have this much inspiration in a global brand,” said Dana Greenwood, sales rep for Blizzard-Tecnica. “It’s got Squaw DNA … [Backstrom] knew it was a good idea, but he never would believe the impact worldwide that he would have.”

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

NASTC now an AIARE Avalanche Course Provider

Isn’t safety the #1 concern for all of us when it comes to skiing and riding in the slackcountry, sidecountry, or backcountry?  True to NASTC standards, our avalanche instructors are of the highest quality, professionalism, and experience level. This is a 3-day education and certification class in which you earn your AIARE Level I (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education). It’s the minimum amount of know-how if you want to travel, ski, or ride out of bounds safely. There is time spent in the classroom and on the snow daily. Each year more resorts are lifting their boundary lines, allowing us to get to fresh snow and exciting terrain even after the resort itself is “skied out.”

However, the risk has never been greater. You need to know what you’re doing if you are heading out there. A friend may say, “oh I know some avalanche safety stuff…” but really? Do you want to rely on them, or have the knowledge yourself? In this course, among other skills you learn how to plan a trip, what are the “red flags,” how to recognize different types of avalanche terrain and avalanches, how to perform certain observations and snow safety tests, route finding and terrain management, and how to use your beacon.

So often accidents occur not as the result of one bad decision, but several. These human decision-making errors can be avoided. The snow science around avalanche education is truly fascinating, and the Level I curriculum has come a long way. The risk has never been greater, everyone is pushing the envelope. Get certified. You’ll enjoy it and be safer.

Dates for the NASTC AIARE Level I courses:
January 21-23 or February 11-13 $425  (includes instruction, AIARE fees, course manual and field notebook)

Transferring from Tahoe League to Far West or The first time Far West racer

You have spent a couple of seasons racing Tahoe League and are ready to make the transition to Far West/USSA races. Or, you are a first time Far West racer this season.
Here are six items to help you get started.

  1. 1.        You will need a USSA and Far West membership, required to participate in a Far West race.
    1. Go to the USSA website, www.ussa.org .
    2. Find the drop down menu on the right hand side of the screen, “membership tools” and then choose “become a member.” You can choose to do an online registration (the fastest way to complete a membership) or you can download an application, fill it out and mail it in.
    3. Please note that after October 15th any returning Far West and USSA membership is assessed a late fee. The first time you become a member there is no late involved.
    4. 2.        Far West Skiing website, www.fwskiing.org. This is our local division’s website and is where you will find all of the information you need regarding race schedules, scholarships, upcoming events and articles. Please become familiar with this location, and cruise the site for a bit. You will want to locate the ‘competition’ tab so that you can go to ‘schedules’ and then click on your age class schedules page. (You will see the age class breakdown below)

Junior Racing

Age Classification is based on your age as of December 31, 2010

            MID      20 and older (born 1991 and earlier) **                J3         13, 14 (born 1997-8)

            J1         17, 18, 19 (born 1992-94)                                   J4         11, 12 (born 1999-2000)

            J2         15, 16 (born 1995-96)                                         J5         10 & younger (born 2001 or later)


  1. 3.       Sign up for your Age Class Email Hotline! This is the best way to receive an email regarding information for your age class racing group. You can subscribe to this email by clicking on your age class on the homepage of the Far West website. The Far West Office throws out emails for upcoming deadlines, scholarships, important announcements, etc.
  2. 4.       Signing up for a race. This is different from Tahoe League as you will now sign yourself up for each race, unless otherwise noted by your program. You can do this through the online process or via a faxed in or mailed in entry. For a detail of how to sign up please see below.  There are late fees assessed for registering late, so please take a look at the race announcement early!
    Online registration via www.alpinereg.org
    1. Download the race announcement and waiver from the race schedules page on the Far West website. Read the announcement for date and registration details. The waiver must be faxed in and should be provided to your coach to take to the team captain’s meeting, too.
    2. Go to www.alpinereg.com
    3. Click on California Nevada
    4. Choose the host mountain or club from the drop down menu.
    5. Click on the “register now’ button.
    6. Enter your athletes USSA number, beginning with the F (which stands for Far West)
    7. If this is the correct athlete then please click ‘continue to register’, if not go back and retype
    in the number.
    8. Click on the state on the right hand side.
    9. Click on the club/mountain – if that club or mountain does not show up then they are not
    accepting online registration and you will need to follow the registration directions on the
    race announcement.
    10. Choose a race by adding it to the cart.
    11. Complete steps 7-10 until you have added all race days to your cart. Follow directions
    to check out.

Faxed/mailed in entries:

1. Download the race announcement and waiver from the race schedules page on the Far West website. Read the announcement for date and registration details. The waiver must be faxed in and should be provided to your coach to take to the team captain’s meeting, too.
2. Download an alpine entry card at the top of the schedules page.
3. Fill out the information on the alpine entry card.
4. To pay for the race you can either create your own credit card authorization form, or place
it on the ‘date paid’ line, or send in a check. Please write legibly.
5. Fill out the waiver for this event location.
6. Fax/mail in the waiver, payment and the alpine entry card to the race organizer.

  1. 5.       Confirm with the coaches! The most important thing that you as a parent and athlete can do is communicate with your coaches regarding your race and training schedules!
  2. 6.       The Far West Office is always available for help. Have any questions? Call Lucy Schram, Far West Divisional Manager,  in the Far West Office at 530.559.4130 or send an email to lucy@fwskiing.org

Enjoy and have a wonderful season!

Its baaaacccckkkkkk, the Rossignol S7!!!

It is safe to say that the Rossignol S7 has taken the world of powder skis by storm over the last two years.  This is the model that has been the highest in demand and shortest in supply during that time.  It is also safe to say that the S7 started out in the market a little slowly.  There was not much marketing behind the S7 at first, Rossi didn’t have a real high “cool factor” at the time, and it also looked very different than most of the other powder skis available at the time.  The current huge demand for the S7 came about slowly at first and it was mostly word of mouth.  Later, the S7 received a #1 ranking in a magazine review.  After that, it was the ski that everyone wanted but after early December (or so) nobody could get.  So, One might wonder……what is all that about?

At the time the S7 came out, there were not very many innovative designs available in the world of powder skis.  For sure, there were a few groundbreaking designs already on the mainstream market and some interesting stuff in the independent ski world but there were not all that many readily available choices.  When Rossi quietly introduced the S7, it was a nearly unique blend of powder technologies at least from the major suppliers.  The S7 took rocker and reverse sidecut (the major components of powder ski design) and carefully blended them without taking any of those technologies to the extreme. The S7 starts with a section in the middle of the ski comprising roughly 50% of the skis length that has conventional sidecut and camber.  Moving fore and aft from that starting point, the tip and tail are substantially rockered and the tip and tail are also tapered.  This may or may not have been the very first iteration of this combo but it was certainly the first from a major supplier.

I got my first pair of S7s in the early winter of ’09 before it had really caught on.  I honestly bought it so that I could put some extended time on it to figure out if this was a good direction in ski design for my personal use.  I had previously owned a K2 Pontoon and while it was magical in deep snow it was really not my cuppa anywhere else.  At the time that I got the S7, my powder ski Du Jour was a 115mm twin tip ski with low, conventional camber.  For the early part of that season, I had gotten got out on the S7 maybe 5-6 times and found that I really liked the blend of characteristics.  When the snow was not very deep, the longer conventional section of the S7 felt grippier and more stable than my Pontoons had.  Another bonus was that the tip was nowhere near as big and bulky and so the S7 felt more nimble than either the old Pontoon or my current conventional powder skis.  I also noticed that in consolidated and or chopped up snow, the tips of the S7 deflected less than the Pontoon did.  I didn’t hit a major dump early on and so, while I really liked the S7 better than the Pontoon, I didn’t find it dramatically better than the conventional powder ski I had.

Then came “Big Wednesday”……………………….

On a cold, windy day in February, I hit the day the S7 was made for.  It had snowed pretty continuously since late Monday and by Wednesday there was over 3 feet of accumulation, not much skier traffic and some closed roads to boot.  I drove up to Sugar Bowl from Truckee that morning figuring there would be less traffic than going to Squaw or Alpine.  Sure enough, the factors contributed to deep snow and not many skiers. Skiing into the main area I noticed that Mt. Lincoln was not yet open so I bypassed it and headed for Disney.  Disney had been skied a bit but there was no problem finding untracked lines and that is where I discovered what the S7 was made for.  The S7 floated the deep snow with a fairly even fore-aft bias and the low resistance from the tapered tip and tail made the ski feel more nimble and turny than anything I had ever been on.  The S7 skis very short and for most average sized men the 188 is the minimum length to really consider.  Skiing down the nose of Disney, I dropped into a shallow gully where the snow was chest deep and the next four or five turns were nearly blind as the snow billowed past my head.  I skied up out of that gully thinking to myself……….SOLD!! The rest of the day was spent exploring all over the area as additional terrain became available and in the tighter spots like in the trees etc. the nimbleness of the S7 really shows up.  This type of design allows the skier to slide the skis practically sideways while submerged in the snow.  This maneuver can be adopted as a general technique if you choose to or saved as an emergency avoidance or “whoa down” maneuver.  Either way, the S7 can be skied in a conventional “powder carve” technique or in this newer “slarve” technique very well.  The S7 has decisively proven that a properly designed powder ski does not need to be enormously wide in order to be effective.

The payoff of the balanced design and nimbleness of the S7 is that these factors make it one of the most versatile of the powder specialty skis. Literally anyone from a solid intermediate skier and up can take advantage of the S7.  For all its popularity and versatility though, the S7 is not without its weaknesses.  The nimble feel of the high tip rise and its taper can cause the S7 to get knocked around a fair bit when the snow gets heavy or heavily tracked out.  The soft narrow tail can cause the ski to wheelie out from under the skier if he gets tossed into the back seat a little due to the terrain or conditions.  Finally, while the underfoot section of the S7 grips well on firmer snow, the tip and tail can display some significant flappage on firm or rough snow.  While these paybacks are valid enough questions for some skiers, the fact remains that most all powder specialty skis display the same things to one level or another and the S7 minimizes these perceived weaknesses better than most other similar skis.