Tag Archives: Summer Skiing

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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.

S7_1

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.

journal

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

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.

Biking

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.

Rollerblading
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!

Test

Race Ski Testing 101

Seasoned ski racers and ski professionals understand the importance of finding skis that bring out the best of their individual style while mitigating some of the potentially unproductive aspects of their skiing and racing.  Ski testing is necessary in order to identify which ski most enhances performance, and Mt. Hood, Oregon is a great place to figure out which race skis to purchase for next season.  Below are some key considerations to ensure a productive and accurate ski test.

When is the best time to test 2012 race skis?

In a perfect world, ski testing would be done on winter snow and in winter temperatures.  The reality is that next season’s race skis are not typically available to test until April or May.  As a result it is difficult for the Eastern and Midwestern skiers to test on home turf.  In the West you have greater opportunity to test.  For example, in California there is still very good snow at Squaw Valley and Mammoth Mountain.  For summer skiing, Mt. Hood and Whistler will be your best choices.

How do I get 2012 race skis for testing?

In the spring, some ski shops like the Start Haus has test skis available from suppliers like Atomic, Blizzard, Fischer, Head, Nordica, Rossignol, and Volkl, in stock so you can test them before the regular season ends.  If you are going to Mt. Hood during the summer for training, most of the equipment suppliers have “Test Centers” where you can go and try skis of interest while training on the snow field.

What is the best way to test 2012 race skis?

The best method for testing new race skis is to control the test environment so you can figure out which skis suit your style and technique the best.  I recommend that you use your existing skis as the comparison reference.  For this to work well it is important to have your current skis in good shape. Make sure that your edges are clean and sharp, and use appropriate wax for the conditions.  When you pick up the test skis, check the preparation before you get on the mountain.  You want to be able to compare the skis, not the tunes.  So be sure that the skis you are comparing are tuned to the same bevel.

How should I be skiing to test skis?

Freeskiing on the skis is one way to help decide which ski works best for you.  The best results will be achieved if you further control the test.  Testing in the race course is the ideal way to make the proper ski choice.  Whenever possible, test when the snow is the hardest.  This means making your test runs back to back with as little time in between runs as possible.  That way changes in the course conditions will not be as extreme.  It is also important for the test course to be challenging in terms of terrain and rhythm changes.   You will need to trust your instincts in terms of the feedback you are getting from the skis on the hill.  There are other elements that can be very helpful to determine which ski is working best for you.  Take video of your test runs, so you can go back and review what you are seeing against what you were feeling.  Video helps you to see where there may be some problems.  For example the video will show if the ski you are testing is allowing you to stay on the fastest line in all parts of the turn.  The other key to making a good choice is the use of timing during the test, the clock does not lie.  If you compare solid runs with no mistakes, and are consistently faster on one ski versus another, that is the best feedback you can get.

Are there summer camps that are designed to provide ski testing for 2012 race skis?

There are camps like the Start Haus/Danielle Nichols/Sugar Bowl Camp at Mt. Hood that have incorporated ski testing by having 2012 race skis from all the major suppliers on-site.  One of the goals of this camp is for athletes to successfully determine all of their equipment needs for next season by the time camp concludes.  This camp will have timing and video everyday for the best possible ski test.  In addition to the variety of skis, the condition and prep of those skis will be very tightly controlled.

Remember to bring your best attitude, motivation and effort out on the hill when ski testing.  You have to “bring it” every run to find the differential in the skis you are trying.

The following tips will help you end up with the best race skis for your style and ability as a ski racer:

 

  1. Select the proper size ski for your age, size, strength, skiing skills, FIS compliance, and price.  Use the resources available to make the best selection.  It is helpful to discuss with your coach the correct size ski to test.  Make sure that you understand the FIS rules for your age and where you will be competing.
  2. Use your current ski as the base-line or reference point and test the new skis against your existing ski.
  3. Use video whenever possible to help you make comparisons.  Being able to see differences in your line and turn shape will help you to see which skis are really helping your skiing.
  4. Use timing whenever possible.  For J3s and younger this is not as critical. For FIS level racers, it is strongly recommended that you use timing and video before you choose to switch skis.
  5. On salted glacier snow, new skis that are well prepared can give the impression of better performance because of the prep.  Make sure that your skis, as well as the test skis, are sharp and waxed.

Good luck with your camps, ski testing and races this summer!