The Perplexities of Downhill

Today we trained for the first time at our new US training base in Copper Mtn. The training center is mostly based around creating early season speed training, which is a rarity and even more so if it’s good. This is where Copper steps in, since Copper is at around 10,000 feet they almost always have the mountain open in early November, just in time to prep for the first World Cup speed races. This year we have our own run and lift, complete with A-net, new snow making and the works. This should be a major boon for us for years to come.

Downhill has always been a little perplexing to me, especially gliding. Put me on a steep turny course and I can hang with the best of them but if it’s soft and flat, guys that would be lucky to break top 400 in the world in GS can crush me. (I’m not referring to the guys skiing today but past skiers.) It can be a little frustrating. Watching the best downhill gliders in the world I see that I have to unlearn everything I have worked on in my skiing, instead of being over the outside ski you need to lean in and rotate to start the turn, instead of taking the turns deep you need to take a shallower line. Sprinkle on a little magic and you’re a glider. All so counterintuitive and all things that wouldn’t allow you to buy a GS turn.

On to today, the new speed track here in Copper has a sizable amount of flats at the top and with that it’s snowed a bunch over the last couple days so it’s pretty soft, not exactly my specialty. For not being on downhill skis in a while and not being a glider I felt pretty good and consistent. I figured I’d be a little ways off the fastest guys but not seconds with an emphasis on the plurality of the word. (Austrians trained with us so there was a good gauge of fast.) When I finally saw the times a few hours after training the perplexity of downhill really set in; it was a 90 second course, I ranged between 2-4 seconds out with no rhyme or reason. Riddle me that. After watching Kroell and others I see that I still need to rotate and lean in more while going shallower. I’ve yet to hear a coach tangibly explain glide turns, for example they say less edge angle then you can’t make the radius/next gate. Gliders aren’t much better at explaining it either. A two second disparity between seemingly similar runs really makes me glad I’m not solely a speed skier. In tech being fast is so tangible, arc more, go straighter, take it deeper etc. I can watch GS and SL races and with phenomenal accuracy guess peoples times within tenths. When you’re slow the reasons are mostly obvious and the things to work on are easy to grasp. In speed two seemingly identical runs can be seconds apart which might as well be worlds.