Time to Gear-Up For Racing!

Let me introduce myself. I am Ski Racer Chaser and I will be blogging about everything ski racing. From simple hints to make the season easier for parents just entering the ski race world, to sharing resources for athletes driven to excel at their chosen sport, this blog will try to cover it all. I will share the lessons learned by parents, athletes and coaches over the past two decades chasing ski racers from their first experience at the ski school fun race through their Buddy Werner, Junior, FIS, collegiate and U.S Ski Team years. You are invited to share your thoughts, perspectives, lessons learned, desires, hopes and dreams as parent, coach and athlete about this blog or the thoughts it inspires at the Stevens Pass Alpine Club (SPAC) website or Facebook page and group.

Ski Racer Chaser 101: Time to Gear-Up for Racing!

In October embers left dormant from the previous winter are ignited and a slow burn begins propelling us toward our favorite time of year, ski season. That hot glow signals it is time to prepare. It is time to prepare our bodies. It is time to layout our goals. It is time to focus our minds. It is time to get our equipment, RV’s, cabins and vehicles ready. Winter is close. It’s time to gear-up for racing!

Prepare your body. With just a few short weeks to the season, now is the time to refine and intensify your athletic training for maximum effect on your ski racing. What that looks like varies based on your age and goals. The full-time FIS athletes have been in the gym all summer following a regimented physical preparation plan to develop strength, build a cardio base and improve agility. Are you still a little young for that type of intensive training? Fall sports are a fun and effective way to cross-train and prepare for ski racing; so is the SPAC dryland training program. If you are not playing a fall sport and certainly once that sport has ended you should be hitting the gym with the team. Ultimately, you cannot reach your ski racing goals if you are not physically prepared. It’s that simple. While you may not recognize it at the time you enter the start gate, if you are not reaching the bottom as fast as you wish, it’s most likely because you are not fit enough to do so.

Prepare your equipment. So much of ski racing is out of your control. You cannot control the talent of your competitors. You cannot control the snow conditions or weather, size, shape or placement of a rut or even your start order. But you can control your EFFORT. Just like making an effort to be as physically fit as possible will affect your success, so will the fitness of your equipment. It’s time to clean, tune and wax your skis. It’s time to fit your boots for maximum performance. It’s time to make sure your speed suit, back protector, poles, shin and chin guards are in good repair and ready to keep you safe.

Prepare your mind. The distinguishing element between a talented athlete who does well and an athlete that excels is mental strength. Over the past 20 years I have seen this play out over and over again ; different athletes, same story.   The are two main characters to this story.  The first is the kid who “has it all” but doesn’t reach their potential because they just don’t understand the importance of the mental side of the sport. They do well when they are young and their early development or extra days on snow give them an advantage, but as racing gets harder and competition gets stiffer, they begin to slip behind.  Race day anxiety, an inability to finish, performing differently on race day than in training are a few telltale signs of this athlete’s struggle with mental strength. The other main character is the kid who seemly has less talent or potential initially but ultimately passes their peers in skill and performance. Because they understand key mental strategies (like visualization and goal setting) and have learned to work hard in the face of adversity, they don’t get in the their own way and seemingly “come out of nowhere” to dominate.

Mighty Mites, now is the time to review your video goal card from last season. Juniors, you should be knocking down the door of your head coach to get on the schedule for your goal-setting meeting. Everyone should be spending time each week watching the best, doing their best in SL, GS, SG and downhill.  The internet affords us unlimited access to video and images of great skiing, USSA has an extensive library of tools and your program director and coaches are great resources for making a mental plan that will help you succeed.

9 weeks and counting. Now is the time to target a successful season. Preparing your body, equipment and mind are first and crucial steps to stoking your ski racing fire. Determine now how your winter race calendar will play out. Will you be in the finish area knowing you did everything you could pre-season to be successful; feeling proud no matter what the outcome? Or will you be at the scoreboard formulating excuses about being tired, a bad set, poor conditions or equipment failure? It’s all up to you!  I say, why not plan for your success and gear-up for racing!