By Jake Bright
I was lucky enough to join several of these groups on Day 1 of NASTAR’s Championship Week to hear feedback from several participants and Steamboat’s expert instructors, and here are the 5 key points I discovered.
1. Push Strongly out of the Start
“The most important part of the start is getting a good push off with your arms to propel your body out of the start gate,” explained Kris Hagenbuch, one of Steamboat’s expert instructors, with 38 race clinics under his belt. “Make sure you’re looking down course — not too far away or close to the start wand — then get your upper body ahead of your feet, and get a strong push with your arms and poles.”
2. Keep a Steady Hand Position and Stance
Hand position drives the entire body going down the hill. Hagenbuch added that racers need to have “enough forward pressure and weight over the outside ski” while “engaging both skis so the edge angles are matching and you are transitioning both skis from turn to for clean arcs.”
Participant Dallas Wicke found this point particularly useful. The alpine racer from Garden Grove California will compete in 75 to 79 Gold division and came out to the clinic “to become more competitive overall” in Nationals, he said. “The way Kris coached us through the technique and feeling of transitioning our edges from turn to turn,” said Wicke, “definitely helped.”
3. Look Down the Hill
“To execute your line and tactics, it’s important to keep your vision focused down the hill,” Hagenbuch said. He suggested always looking a couple of gates ahead.
4. Take a Higher Line
Focus on having a higher line and making more of the turn before the gate so that you have good direction for the next turn. Keep it high, wide and early.
5. Find Your Tuck Point
As you approach the bottom of the racecourse, find the spot at which you no longer need to turn and you can get into an aerodynamic tuck and run the skis straight through the finish line. “Look to find the finish,” said Hagenbuch. “Some people tuck too soon and compromise the ability to turn, but others will still be in a turn and will turn more than they need to at the bottom.” The extra unnecessary turn toward the last gate can cost speed.
NASTAR racer Mary Nelson from Austin, Minn., took away tips on course inspection in her clinic. “Our instructor also showed us on the snow how the course was built, demonstrating the offset and the distance between gates, which is good to know to choose your course line,” said Nelson, who will compete in the in 60 to 64 Platinum division.
Fourteen-year-old Claire Wilson said that maintaining good forward hand position was one of her most important clinic takeaways. The New York City native also found it helpful to remember to keep the fun in training and competition.
Steamboat will continue hosting race clinics through Wednesday, March 23. Participants may call 1-800-922-2722 to register in advance.
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