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 Conventional Skiing Wisdoms (CSW's) 

by Bill Jones, Ski Instructor
Certified Professional Ski Instructor (Registration #110478), Level III
private ski lessons at Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, other areas

 CSW #26: "Carved turns are best."

A ski that is tilted high so that its edge engages the snow more deeply while turning is a carving ski. In many ways carved turns are the best: they are often the most efficient and most pleasurable. However, there are many times when speed control must be obtained long before a turn can be completed in a carved turn. Then, letting the ski skid will cause the friction needed to slow up. Quick skidding stops are also frequently useful as are descending sideslips.

Moguls can effectively be skiied without carving, too, the skidding ski helping to maintain the desired speed.

Lower-level skiers sometimes get into carved turns they cannot get out of and suddenly the skis are in control instead of them. Often this is due to leaning the body uphill, which causes the skis to tilt more so the will not skid but then carve and soon the skier may be going faster than desired.

Here is an article from Ski Racing for January 30, 2008, pp 42-43: [start of quote]

"Skid with finesse to be fast

World's Best Take Different Approaches to Hitting the Brakes on Course
by Ron LeMaster

Sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.

Depending on the set of the course, the pitch of the slope, the hardness of the snow and where your line happens to take you, your best tactic at the next gate may be to exercise some speed control so you can come out on the line that will get you to bottom faster. Giant slalom, in particular, has gotten faster and faster in recent years, leading the best athletes to often trade off perfectly carved arcs for a direct line that gets them quickly from one gate to the next, but requires some braking to come out of the turn in the right spot.

This basic tactic is nothing new. But a variation on it has been appearing more and more over the past few years that has the potential to squeeze a little more time out of a run. We can see it and its more conventional cousin in these photomontages of Ted Ligety and Benni Raich from the second run of this yearís GS in Alta Badia, generally considered to be the toughest giant slalom hill on the World Cup circuit. Ligety won the run.

In these pictures, both skiers are heading for the red gate on a line and at a speed that wonít allow them to hold an arc that will bring them out of the turn on the line they want. Rather than try to adjust their line, they pivot their skis sideways to slow to a speed that they can hold in a carving arc that brings them out on their desired line.

There is a difference in their tactics, however. Raich executes a classic steering pivot, or ďstivot.Ē He brakes by skidding at the same time as he is turning, then gets his skis carving while they are directed across the fall line.

Ligety has a little different approach: He takes a straighter, steeper line at the red panel. Then, by pivoting his skis almost completely across his direction of travel, he brakes in a straight line. He then straightens his skis back out so they are in the fall line, and carves the rest of his turn from there.

 Is Ligetyís approach faster? It conforms to a long-held dictum in automobile and motorcycle racing: If you have to brake for a turn, always do it before you enter the turn, while youíre traveling in a straight line. Braking while youíre turning reduces your grip, meaning you canít hold as much speed in the turn and are more likely to skid. The same is true in skiing: Dumping speed while youíre turning makes it more difficult to finish the turn by carving. This approach also affords him a tighter line than Raich, as evidenced by his position relative to the red panel in the fourth frame. And finally, it allows him to carve down the fall line where Raich is skidding, sending Ligety out of the turn faster.

Figure 1 represents a more conventional tactic for these gates. Figure 2 represents the approach taken by Ligety, and figure3, Raichís. In all cases the skier exits the turn around the red gate in the same place with the same direction.

The conventional line sets up for the red gate so that the arc will be the tightest the skier can hold at the speed at which he comes out of the turn around the blue gate. The other two lines take the skier to a point above the red gate that requires a tighter arc than the conventional line in order to make the desired exit to the turn. But the skier wonít be able to hold this tight an arc because heíd be going even faster than the skier on the conventional line. So in the second and third cases the skier must reduce his speed to the point that he can hold the tighter arc. In Ligetyís case, the line out of the blue gate is steeper than Benniís, and the carving starts in the fall line, while Raichís skis are across the fall line when he starts to carve.

U.S. menís slalom and GS coach Greg Needell points out that there is more technical subtlety to the maneuver in figure 2 than simply pitching your skis sideways: The skierís weight must be on the new outside ski before the skid starts. Otherwise, the he wonít be able to redirect the skis on the desired carving line with the correct timing. Needell also points out that by adjusting the skiís angle of attack the athlete can focus pressure on optimum spot of the skiís forebody to get it flexed and arcing in the fall line.

Not everyone uses the same tactic as Ligety, and the frequency of its use varies among those who do. Of the 14 turns on this particular pitch at Alta Badia, he used it twice. Notably, one of them was on a turn that he and Needell both said was one of the key turns on the course: a turn where virtually everyone who was fast exercised deliberate, proactive speed control in order to be fast in the gates that followed.

Ligety believes that people have been doing this since the widespread adoption of shaped skis by racers. Marjan Cernigoj, head coach of the Canadian womenís program, said that he first saw it performed by Michael Von Gruenigen in a gold medal-winning performance at the 2001 FIS World Championship GS in St. Anton. If you consider that this was about the time that full-blown shaped skis came into widespread use, their opinions jibe.

So consider this: Now that skis have put carving within the reach of virtually everyone, itís the skier who can also skid with finesse that has the edge on the competition.

Benni Raich

Ron LeMaster is a technical advisor to the U.S. Ski Team and the Vail/Beaver Creek Ski School. Prints of these and other racing photomontages are available at www.ronlemaster.com."   [end of quote]

main CSW contents
prior CSW #25: "Bend low to ski like the racers sometimes do"
next CSW  #27: "I use the snowplow for control"

"SKIING IS A SLIDING SPORT"--a skiing web manual:   Skiing Web Manual Contents   Why Read This Skiing Web Manual That First Skiing Lesson  A Little Skiing History  Motion in Skiing  CONVENTIONAL SKIING WISDOMS  Skier Excuses   Fear in Skiing  Conditioning for Skiing   Equipment and Technique  Skiing Equipment  How Skis Work   How to Develop Balance on Skis  A Skiing Turn Simplified  The Final Skiing Skill: pressure management  Tactics for Terrains and Snow Textures and Racing  Skiing Tips and Tales--a potpourri    Exercises for Developing Skiing Skills  Children and Skiing  Age and Skiing  Gender & Skiing  Culture & Skiing Skiing Ethics and Survival  Slope Safety      Skiing Environment  Glossary Acknowledgements SkiMyBest Website Contents  
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