A good ski race training program will address a few areas, to create well rounded racers:
Great technique is obviously the foundation for any racing success. The refinement of ski technique is not the only determinant of success, some may compensate with extraordinary athleticism and skill, but all in all, mastering a highly refined technique is a basic ingredient for success.
Technique is not generally trained in gates (courses), but free ski and specific environments like corridors, flushes etc. Dedicated technical free ski volume is paramount, in as many terrain and weather conditions as possible.
Defaulting to inferior ski technique whenever the going gets tough will not make for great success. For instance, resolving to just throw the feet sideways and pivot through this or that turn just because it's hard will not get you very far. A determination to put great technique in the course will go a long way towards better results, even though you won't ski as well in training so the absolute gate training volume is not as important as the quality of the gate training.
In coaching racers, I emphasize that when free-skiing they must never reduce speed by a skidding action of their skis. Every time they do this they reinforce muscular habits related to skidding turns. How The Racers Ski, Warren Witherrel
The best resource on technique is the Ski technique wiki and following the Effective Skier improvement pathway, up to expert. In the racing level, there is more on technique, especially as the technique elements relate to tactics and racing.
How do we approach a course? That's tactics: line selection, dealing with terrain, timing… everything goes in here, as tactics. Tactics are trained generally on course, but also certain terrain like moguls, glades etc will help develop decision making and other tactical skills like look ahead, line planning and execution, timing etc.
Decisions, plans and execution. Vary, rinse and repeat: tactics are in the "soft skills" category and must be trained by "playing like a snowboarder".
Although great technique enables good tactics, sometimes we fix the tactical approach to enable good technique. A classic example is athletes going too straight at the gate, on a risky line, while not being strong enough to be able to use good technique. In that case, a good coach would fix the tactics, using say brushes and markers to put them on the simple line so they have enough time to execute proper technique... while not making the course too easy that they're not challenged anymore.
Alpine skiing is one of the most demanding sports, from an athleticism perspective. The quickness of reaction is matched only by the power required to withstand the huge turning forces at speed and the endurance to put up with a week-long camp or a 2 minute downhill run.
The best technique in the world can't help the person who sits on a couch eating Doritos all year... HeluvaSkier
Being a strong athlete allows you to put up with long demanding courses and still have some great recoveries, get away with mistakes or "pushing it" far beyond what the average racer can afford to.
Here's a quick overview and inspirational video:
Athletes train all year long, via dryland and on snow, to be able to not only perform very well in top races, but also put up with the demands of season-long race training.
There are several areas of physical preparation:
Also under athleticism, we'll have to pay attention to nutrition and diet. Ski racing is very demanding and attention must be paid to this as well.
See some info under Nutrition chart.
At the higher levels, the difference between each athlete's technique and athleticism is not that big: this is where the mental skills come into the picture and start to differentiate between the top and bottom of the timing list, including focus, visualization, positive thinking etc.
Many kids leave the sport around U14-U16 and a part in that is a poor approach to psychology... not just specific alpine ski mental training, but affective involvement, coach-athlete relationship, club atmosphere etc.
A competent plan includes mental training throughout an athlete's evolution, from the lower age groups to WC.
Hi Razie, Great article. This is an area where CSCF may have a good framework. CSCF identifies 6 Key Success Factors for Ski Racing - T,T,P,P, E,E for Technique, Tactics, Physical, Psychological, Equipment, and Environment. One observation CSCF often made is that coaches tend to focus ordering of these on T,T,P,P,E,E when may be best to go the other way around. It seems coaches (and coach education) typically default to teaching technique or tactics. Whereas, a focus on equipment first may be time better spent. For example, without proper sized equipment, proper maintained equipment, and proper equipment for the discipline, training technique and tactics is wasted. It's like seeking out driving lessons from Mario Andretti and showing up in your 1970 Lada with worn out tires. Whatever Mr. Andretti has to offer as driving advice is wasted as one won't be able to even pretend to implement it as they've wasted everyone's time by showing up with inappropriate equipment.
Additionally, focusing on certain technique and tactics is wasted without having the physical capacity to manage the forces being created. So physical development may take precedence over technique.
These six key success factors all play a role in one's ski racing development. Determining what are reasonable benchmarks for each of these at each age level coupled with best practices for instilling/teaching these for each level is the basis of a sound, national ski racing system. Unfortunately, we just haven't come up with objective standards for these...
Fully agree - we should always start assessing performance with the EE, PP and only last focus on the TT. At least take those into consideration before passing a verdict on a correction.
It would be great to have a catalogue of these relationships, i.e. how does a boot that's too large impact the skiing... or viceversa, how do say "hip dumping" tie back into equipment - I am working on that, for instance www.effectiveskiing.com/Topic/Hip_dump and especially if you turn on the "Browsing mode" (at the bottom of the page, there's a "Browse" link and that will turn on browsing the relationships between concepts - a special table collecting the relationships (why and how to fix/refine).
As more details are added, this should turn into a complete map of alpine skiing...