As we all continue to cope with life amidst a global pandemic, we are continually being forced to come up with new ways to safely do the things that fuel our passions and make us smile. As we look to the ski season ahead, specifically the junior racing season, clearly it will be a moving target that will morph into a new way of training. With Covid rules and guidelines changing frequently, and every Ski Club trying to make the safest and best possible choices for their members, every part of skiing, training, racing, and related events are in flux and will not look anything like before. As coaches, parents and athletes, it requires us all to look at these trying times as an opportunity and a challenge. We have to figure out how to get more out of less.
So, how can racers get the most out of a season that will have less training off-snow, less training on-snow, less racing, and less time overall for productive work? The key is to take advantage of every single second. The question is… how do we do that?
We know that time on the hill will be hard to come by, so athletes must make a commitment to utilize every second to work on something. From prepping the night before, to riding the chairlift, to waiting in line at the top of the training course. There is not a second to waste this season!
Athletes who are motivated to get the most out of this season will need to find a new level of focus, dedication and commitment. Below are a 10 ways athletes can crank up the intensity this winter. But don’t forget, even the most serious athletes should make room for fun along the way!
How do we take advantage of every second?
PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE: A productive training day starts the night before with preparing all of your equipment and organizing it by the front door. It includes making your lunch/snacks for the hill and storing them in grab-n-go bags. It also includes writing down your training goals and taking time to visualize the next day’s free-skiing and training. And finally, it means going to sleep early so you’re rested and ready to take full advantage of your on-snow training. All of this ensures less stress and better focus in the morning.
Fun Factor: Sneak a couple of your favorite treats into your jacket pockets (energy bites, trail mix, whatever) and you’ll have a big smile on your face when you discover them on your 10th run and need a little boost of energy!
CAR RIDE: The ride up to the mountain is a great time to watch some video of skiing and ski races. Watch last weekend’s World Cups on Peacock, Youtube your favorite racers, or study some of your own training video. Do that and you’ll arrive with a strong visual in your head of great skiing!
Fun Factor: Place your bets! Go to Fantasyskiracer.com and make your predictions for next week’s races. Compare them to my picks at @BormioBronze!!!
FIRST ON THE LIFT: Gear up before you leave the house so you can walk from the car to the lift. If the lift isn’t open yet, utilize that time to warm-up and do some dynamic stretching- 25 jumping jacks and some leg swings, trunk twists, push-ups and sit-ups will get your muscles primed and your brain ready.
Fun Factor: If you’re with your buddies, grab all the ski poles and set a dryland SL in the snow. Race it a few times in your ski boots!
HAVE A FREE SKI PLAN: If possible, take a few free ski runs on your own before things get started. Have a plan for those runs and make those part of your focused warm-up. I always started with some big, slow, wide turns to feel the edge and find my timing, and then began to ramp up the speed and pressure. My second run was always Javelin turns – my “go-to” drill to get me firmly on my downhill ski. And my last free-ski run was always a top to bottom slalom “turn-party” to find my timing and get my body heated up!
Fun Factor: A one-ski skiing competition is a great way to up the ante on your third warm-up run as well!
USE THE CHAIRLIFT FOR LEARNING: Dedicate the first half of the lift ride to visualization… either your free-skiing, technical drills, or your training course. The more you can practice visualization of your movements, skiing and courses, the more confidence you will have in the start gate to push your limits. This skill of visualization is one that will become more and more important as you progress. If you put in the time now, it will be your golden ticket later!
Fun Factor: On the second half of the chairlift ride, straighten your legs and hold them out like that until you get off the lift – feel the burn!
WATCH OTHER RACERS: While on the lift or waiting in line, watch your teammates and competitors. Train your eye to see and understand great skiing as it will become part of your knowledge and your own technique. A lot of athletes learn by watching and if you watch great skiing, you have a better chance to incorporate it into your own skiing. Also watch any and all skiers under the lift with a Coach’s eye. Train your eye to look for both their technical mistakes and strengths. Being able to break down technique to identify common mistakes and strong skills will help your own skiing too. Having the ability to coach yourself is a huge bonus.
Fun Factor: A great drill to do is to mimic each other’s skiing style – including the Coach’s style. Train your body to interpret what you are seeing!
USE ALL AVAILABLE REAL ESTATE: Many racers waste the area from the lift down to the course, and from the finish to the chair lift. This is prime real estate to practice a drill. I used to work on my gliding whenever there was a section of flats we had to take to and from the course. If there’s a pitch, utilize it for some technical drills.
Fun Factor: Another fun drill is to lift up one ski, and glide on the other ski all the way to the lift after your run!
FOCUS IN THE START LINE: Instead of fooling around at the top of the training course, use that time to keep working. Treat that time as a pre-race warm-up and practice your race day routine including checking your equipment, visualizing the course, warming-up your body, and using cue words to get focused.
Fun Factor: Quiz each other at the start while you wait for your turn. How many gates are in the course? What’s the color is the first gate and is it a left or right ski turn? What is the tightest part of the course?
JOURNAL AFTER EVERY PRACTICE: Finally, take 10 minutes after your session to write down what you did, what you learned, and how you felt in your Journal. Don’t worry about spelling, sentences or anything, just think about the day and write it down. This Journal will become your road map and reference throughout the season to track your progress and help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t working.
Fun Factor: Draw one of your training courses in your Journal- include terrain, combinations, tight gates or straight gates.
The key to a productive mindset is to find something positive about every drill or every run in the training course. Before you think about what you can do better, find three things that you did well and use that to build on in your next runs. Also, don’t hold back!!! Although you may be getting less training overall, it’s still important to push your limits. It’s one of the best ways to learn. Ride that line and see where it takes you!
Fun Factor: No matter what, don’t forget to have fun. That’s why we ski! Think about how lucky you are to be ripping turns on snow!