Everyone who has skied close to the limit of their comfort zone has enjoyed that unique feeling of freedom, when the wind rushes by your face and skis slide effortlessly underfoot. For most, the opportunity to grasp that feeling is usually found when the pistes are empty, the visibility and conditions are perfect, and there is the chance to let the speed build to that fine line between what feels comfortable, and what feels exciting.
For the athletes on the Delancey British Alpine Ski Team, many of whom are based in Austria with the Team Evolution Racing Academy, the pursuit of this feeling is a daily occurrence. From little rippers under the age of 10 through to full-time athletes chasing World Cup glory, Great Britain has plenty of skiers who chase snow around the world, honing their skills to allow themselves to push the limits and find that little extra bit of speed every time they step into the start gate.
But how do you go from being a skier to becoming a racer? Paul Telling, Performance Director at Team Evolution and Team GB Coach for the last two Youth Olympic Games tells us what it is that makes a speed demon out on the slopes.
1.The best skiers make the best racers.
It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people miss this out! A lot of children start ski racing very young, and often it’s at the expense of learning to ski properly. Without a doubt, the first step towards becoming a great racer is being a great skier. If you want to fly down slopes at your absolute limit, you need to be supremely confident that you can control your skis. Diversify – Ski bumps, park, powder, everything helps you learn about what your body is capable of with planks strapped to your feet, and you never know when you’ll need those skills later in your career!
2. You only get better by practicing.
The best way to achieve this is to get away from the gates and concentrate on getting the miles in on your skis. Obviously this is easier the younger you start, but anyone can rack up the miles, and we’re lucky that in the UK there are so many opportunities to do so– it doesn’t matter if it’s a dry slope, a snow centre or the Scottish mountains – it all counts. Get out there and get skiing. When you’re taking the first steps towards racing it’s crucial to get your fundamental technique nailed down, so speak to your local slope and get a couple of advanced lessons to make sure everything you’re practicing is correct.
3. Get involved with a club.
There are so many different pathways available for wannabe racers now that it’s kind of confusing. Luckily there are people there to help make things easier. Get in touch with your local ski club or the National Governing Body – Snowsport England – and ask them what the first step for you is. The Snow Centre hosts a whole range of UK based race camps and training options throughout the year, so there is always something to get involved with at grass roots level.
4. Make sure you’re physically fit.
Ski racing puts a great deal of strain through your whole body, so physical fitness is key. Gone are the days of the heaviest skier being the fastest down the mountain and into the bar – now its about how much power you can generate and how dynamic you can be. By focusing on your core muscle group, your balance and your repetitive power output you’re going to give yourself a much greater chance of being able to utilise your newly developed skills.
5. Sort your gear out.
Once you’ve got yourself settled into doing a regular amount of training with a club or at a local snow centre you’ll find that you start to progress quite quickly. But being on the right equipment can make all the difference, so you’ll need to visit a specialist – someone like Ski Bartlett, who are known as staunch supporters of British Ski Racing. Slalom skis for those with quick feet, Downhill skis for those who love the speed, being on a race ski rather than a recreational ski will mean more control and crucially, faster times against the clock!
6. Work hard.
This is undoubtedly the most important message we aim to convey to every ski racer we work with. You’ve got to be willing to work hard. Ski racing is one of the toughest sports – physically, mentally and technically. Every training session and every race is full of ups and downs, and with so much to learn it requires a huge amount of hard work both on and off the slopes to make the steps from amateur racer to the one on the top step of the podium.
7. Have fun.
At the end of the day, ski racing is an extension of skiing. And skiing is all about having fun. Regardless of how fast you’re going or how hard you’re working, if you’re not having fun then you’ll struggle to get the results. Make sure you set yourself targets and enjoy the process towards achieving them. The result of a race can change in a hundredth or a second, but if you enjoy your skiing then you’ll keep coming back for more!
Find out more about Team Evolution Camps here.