My Most Studied Racers – Part I

In all facets of life there are trends that seem to come and go almost as quickly as the change in seasons. For my generation I can’t but help think of AOL Instant Messenger, Giga Pets, and frosted tips. Then there are the tried-and-true testaments that weather the storm through time – the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF, a Phillips head screwdriver, and the espresso – just to name a few. When it really comes down to it, ski racing has remained the same sport for the last half century.


Yes, there was the massive evolution in ski technology with the adaptation of the parabolic ski nearly 30 years ago and course setting has been through multiple variations, but beyond that fundamental technique is still as relatable now as it was back then. To be a fast ski racer you must maximize your time down the fall line, optimize conservation of energy generated at the apex, maintain momentum, and minimize all forces of drag in aerodynamics and the coefficient of friction. It’s an equation of optimization dependent on given variables – discipline, snow surface, course set, terrain, etc. Whoever can best master these all together will be the victor time and time again. This is the foundation that I focus on when I spend time examining the best racers in the world.


I cannot say how many hours a year I spend analyzing ski video, but it must be well in the hundreds. Depending on which event I am studying there tends to be one or two key athletes that I spend the most time on. Usually, they are someone that is either dominant or shows an elite level of speed and ability relative to the rest of the world. The following is a composition of who my most watched fellow competitors are and the main reasons why I find them so interesting to watch. To make this more concise I have broken it down into two parts with this first article concentrating on tech skiers and then later, a secondary piece will zero in on my favorite speed skiers.


Before I get started, I should note that this catalog is composed only of male ski racers purely due to the physiological and equipment differences between men and women. For me, there are large enough disparities between genders to justify only personally focusing on the men as examples to best mirror my own skiing from. If you happen to be an aspiring skier then by all means take in as much high-quality skiing as you can, whether it be Mikaela Shiffrin or Marcel Hirscher, it will certainly still benefit you.




Clement Noel, France DOB 5/3/1997

There is no other slalom skier in my mind right now that has a top speed as fast as Clement Noel. This was notable in the first slalom race of the season in Val d’Isere, which he won by over a second, and again was only one gate away (one!) from the repeat domination win in Madonna. Taking away the unfortunate mistakes he has had of late, it is difficult to deny where his ability is this year.


To pick apart his technique from the couch that I will forever watch on, the first thing that stands out is how well he utilizes his length and stature. Noel stands tall and upright keeping his hips in line and driving forward always in the middle of his ski. Having such an athletic position allows for quick recoveries on the fly and in general more dynamic movements through the turn. Combining this hip position with his narrow stance allows him to arc into the top of the turn decisively, generate the power he needs at the apex and release into the next turn fluidly, all while keeping his center of mass moving down the fall line in an efficient manner. When everything clicks together for him, he can be a striking skier to watch and at times even makes it look a little too easy.



Giant Slalom

Marco Odermatt, Switzerland DOB 10/8/1997

Marco, so hot right now. Marco. Yes, that’s a Zoolander reference. To be honest, Marco Odermatt is my most favorite skier to watch right now (Kilde is a close second). At the time of this writing, he is leading the World Cup Overall standings by 390 points, the World Cup GS standings by 219, is sitting 2nd in SG, and 6th in DH. Not too shabby. Because he has emerged as a dominant force to be reckoned with across events – spoiler alert – he’ll also be getting a feature in my speed skier write up when that drops. For now, this will only be discussing what has made him the fastest Giant Slalom skier in the world.


In my eyes, Marco’s greatest skill as a GS skier is his ability to find the fall line every single turn and then use it to build power into the ski that when released projects him across his unweighted transition and into the new turn. No other skier in the world spends as much time in the fall line as Odermatt. His top of the turn is also efficient in that he doesn’t need to draw it out to get the ski to engage. He is always in a position with his relatively high hip stacked over his lower half, which allows him to drive forward through the turn. And finally, his release out of the turn is purposeful and direct into the next apex. When you put it all together you get a skier who can deliver fast and powerful performances seemingly in all conditions, rain, sunshine, sleet, or snow, just like the mailman.


To be continued…