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More cowbell: Variety is the spice of ski racing


Warner Nickerson in Val d'Isere (GEPA/Mathias Mandl)

Nickerson insists freeskiing helps his GS (GEPA/Mathias Mandl)

Many athletes forget how important it is to keep variety in their training. There’s no question that, generally speaking, the more you practice, the better you become. But it can be mind-blowing how switching things up can make a dramatic difference in your performance. Some younger athletes spend too much time training gates when they should be out ripping up the mountain with a grin from ear to ear.

“Freeskiing is the foundation of skiing,” says U.S. Ski Team member Tommy Ford (recovering from a broken leg right now). “Without it, no World Cup racer would be where they are.” Ford is right. Freeskiing, or skiing without gates, is the best way to connect uninterrupted arcs.

During a long season, it’s important to spend some time skiing off piste or on the groomers. This can enhance not only your racing but also your personal enjoyment of the sport. I’ve found my best performances have come after spending a couple days freeskiing.

There’s nothing like getting on a good surface and naturally linking GS turns from top to bottom. Without gates, you can completely focus on uninterrupted arcing. Giant slalom benefits the most from freeskiing, in my experience, but it works for all events. Six years ago, when I was coming back from a deep bone bruise to my tibial plateau, my body couldn’t handle training. So I just freeskied, trying to link only four turns together at a time. I would make four turns, stop and then do it again. And again.

This is only a preview. Read Nickerson’s complete article in Issue 6 of our digital magazine here

U.S. Freeskiing finalizes Olympic team for slopestyle, halfpipe, ski crossHendrickson returns to jumping five months post-op with eyes on Sochi

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