As we all continue to cope with this crazy ski racing life amidst a global pandemic, and compounded in places by a lack of snow, we are continually being forced to come up with new ways to safely do the things that fuel our passions and happiness. As we look to the ski season ahead, specifically the junior racing season, clearly it will be a moving target that will morph into something new. With Covid rules changing daily 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 this disappointment as an opportunity. 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 overall less time for productive work? Take advantage of every second!
Take advantage of every second: We know that time on the hill will be hard to come by, so 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 start. There is not a second to waste this season!
Prepare the night before: A productive training day starts the night before with preparing all of your equipment and organizing it by the door. It includes making a big, healthy lunch for the hill so you never run out of energy. It also includes writing down your training goals the night before and taking time to visualize the next day’s free-skiing and training. And finally, getting to sleep early so you are rested and ready to take full advantage of your on-snow training.
Fun Factor: Make yourself some fun snacks and pack them in your pockets the night before. You may forget about them and discover them on the chair when a sweet chocolate chip cookie will boost your energy and outlook!
Take advantage of car rides: Car rides are usually a time to sleep or play games. This season, the travel time becomes training time! One option is to get ahead on your homework during the ride by reading and/or writing. Or, you can log into NBC’s Peacock and watch some World Cup skiing and arrive at the hill with the perfect visualization to emulate immediately. Or, forego the world’s best and review your own training video focusing on what you can work on as soon as you arrive at the hill.
Fun Factor: Fill out the FIS Predictor and your Fantasy Ski League picks for the weekend’s World Cup and compare your results with mine (@BormioBronze).
First on the lift: Dress and gear up before you leave the house so you can walk from the car to the lift. And if the lift is not open yet, utilize that time to physically warm-up and do some dynamic stretching. Jumping jacks and some leg swings, trunk twists, push-ups and situps will get your muscles primed and your brain ready. Oh, and don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you put on all of those layers!
Fun Factor: Another fun warm-up is to use your poles to set a “snowland” slalom and run through it, timing and all!
Have a free-ski plan: Hopefully you get 2-3 freeski runs on your own before your program begins. 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 a top to bottom slalom “turn-party” to find my timing and get my body heated up! If training with your Club is delayed for a few weeks, then contact your coach and plan out some drills you can work on by yourself.
Fun Factor: One-ski skiing is a great way to up the ante for a run, or maybe the entire day!
Use the chairlift for learning: Dedicate the first half of the lift ride to visualization… either of 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: The second half of the chairlift ride, how about some strength work? Straighten your legs and hold them like that until you get off – 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 technique. A lot of athletes learn by watching and if you know 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 and identify common mistakes and strong skills will help your own skiing, especially when you move up the ladder and leave your home coaches behind.
Fun Factor: It is a great exercise to try and mimic each other’s personal skiing style. It practices visualization and muscle control. Don’t forget to add in the Coaches’ Skiing style as well!
Use all available real estate: So many racers waste the area from the lift down to the course and from the finish to the lift. This is prime real estate to practice a drill. I used to work on my gliding whenever there was a flat or road we had to take to and from the course. If there’s a pitch, utilize it for some technical drills.
Fun Factor: Another favorite of mine was practicing your one-ski skiing all the way to the lift by picking up one ski for 10 turns and then alternate.
Focus in the start line: Instead of fooling around at the top of the training course, use that time to keep focused and 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: Ask your coach if you can practice distraction training at some point. Screaming and cheering LOUDLY at the racer in the gate or throwing snowballs at the racer in the gate’s feet will definitely test their focus drills!
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: Try and draw your training course in your Journal and be sure to include gate combinations and terrain (knolls, fall aways, compressions and ruts!).
Equipment: Solve all of your equipment issues NOW. Everything from skis to goggle lenses to ski passes to thermoses can be organized and prepped now. That way, when you do get the green light, you will be ready to rip. With less time on snow than other years it is important to not waste time on the hill figuring out equipment. Maybe this year is the year to not get new skis and use skis that you already know and have the confidence to push yourself on. You could be race ready on your skis day 1 instead of perhaps ending up racing on skis you don’t know as well and are not comfortable on. A great new tune and some fast wax is far easier and cheaper than learning how to turn new skis on limited terrain and time on snow.
Fun Factor: Time to make some “shorty” skis! Have an old beater pair of skis? Cut them to 3 feet, remount and you have some fun skis to play around with during any free time on snow!
Packing for your day on the hill: It’s looking more and more that racers will not be able to go into the Clubhouse or Lodge throughout the day. So this means a whole new way to take breaks, eat and warm up. This means that you will need everything accessible and ready throughout the day – potentially from one giant pack. Plan out what will go in there, what needs to be easily accessible, and what can stay buried. Lunches and snacks should be made the night before and ready to eat from your backpack or your pockets any time. Carry some tools in your bag as well so you have that screwdriver, stone or scraper at the ready.
Fun Factor: (I have done this before!) Bring up a 10 pound rock and secretly put it in your buddy’s bag during a break. Chances are they won’t know and carry it home with them!
Get ahead on your schoolwork: School is important, and like everything else, it has also changed and continues to evolve almost every week. Whatever your situation, it is important to think about ways to get ahead and stay ahead of coursework. By finding innovative ways to get schoolwork done, you will find yourself with more freedom to react to training opportunities. Take advantage of car rides to get reading done. If you have access to syllabi, look ahead and plan for the weeks ahead. Watch the weather and potentially skip terrible training days to dive deep into your work, so you can take advantage of an awesome training day!
Fun Factor: If you have any writing or science assignments, make them about ski racing. Need to write an essay? Make it about your love of skiing and racing. Have to figure out a geometry assignment? Figure out the different slope angles for the Cortina Women’s Downhill Course and the shortest possible line through the gates?
By bringing a few of these techniques and tips into your training, you’ll be able to squeeze a lot more out of every training day. All it takes is some planning and a commitment to your goal of becoming the best ski racer you can. Looking at this weird year as an opportunity to change the way you train and get more out of less will pay off not only this year, but when life gets back to normal and we have more time ripping the mountain with our friends and teammates.
Doug & Kelley Lewis run ELITEAM fitness programs that offer online Workout Memberships, Sports Educational Certificates and in person Camps and Clinics. Don’t miss out on the ELITEAM “My Ski Racing Journal” available now. It is a great resource for your Junior Racer and a season’s worth of Sports Psychology in one place! Go to www.ELITEAM.com for more info.