Back to Basics
WHY COACHES NEED TO FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS BY RON KIPP
The elbow drive can impart a rotary impulse to the hip and eventually the ski,
resulting in loss of edge.
Fundamentals, also known as basics, are the building blocks of technique. If this foun-
dation isn’t present, then technique tends to fall apart or not advance. Many athletes have
reached the end of their careers because they did not possess the required fundamentals
to go further. Game over — they will not progress appreciably without these essential ele-
Remember Gene Hackman as a basketball coach in “Hoosiers”? He measures the height
of the basket, assuring his team that just because they are in a big stadium the basketball
court dimensions have not changed. Not so in ski racing. Skiing is performed in an open
environment. This guarantees that no two runs, or turns, are ever exactly the same.
Technique that is adaptable in this open environment is the basis for the motor response
the ski racer ultimately makes. We all want textbook technique, but when the ski racer is going full gas, we don’t always see it. And flailing arms distract from the real fundamentals.
When we say a racer is “athletic,” what we really mean is that he or she has “fundamentals.”
And while we say that fundamentals make up technique, the real fundamentals of skiing go
one layer deeper:
1. Equilibrium (Latin for equal balance). Skiing is the balancing of two forces: an external
force — that force that feels like it is pulling you to the outside of the turn — balanced with
an internal force. The internal force produces body movements and muscular tension. The
resulting G’s of dropping off the Hausbergkante in Kitzbuehel need to be countered with
muscular tension. If not, ski racers will be picking themselves out of the A-net. Newton,
although not a ski racer, said it best: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Equilibrium, or balancing external forces with equal internal forces, is fundamental
for staying upright. You can’t get any more fundamental than the laws of physics. You learn
balance, or equilibrium, by getting out of balance. Skiing courses that are tight and courses
with high demand, along with freeskiing in varied terrain, will challenge and thereby improve
2. Efficiency of movement. The athlete appears to get a lot done without much effort.
Carlo Janka, the Iceman, appears to do less than any other athlete. During the Birds of Prey
races last year (his hat trick — three starts, three wins) Janka got it done with less move-