be overwhelming. It’s at this level that professional new ski preparation can be the most beneficial to ensuring the athlete’s ability
to successfully maintain a fleet of skis with anything approaching
It’s also at this level that most athletes lose consistency, largely
due to time constraints and the introduction of the racer-trainer
concept of skis. Disregard this philosophy. Hard snow, near full-time training, and powerful skiing will conspire to wear bases and
base edge angles, and this will be a new challenge [read: more
variables] for your junior athlete. The net result is that a trainer’
ski will be worn out and round, and a ‘racer’ ski will be flat and
sharp, leading to likely increase in race event DNFs. At this stage,
the number of competitions is beginning to increase, and there is
little more mentally discouraging than a string of DNFs for a highly
Instead, the two pairs of identical event skis should be rotated,
allowing your son/daughter the time to properly keep them maintained (through daily tuning) and equalizing the wear. This way,
you’ll get through the entire season with the highest degree of
consistency. It’s not uncommon for the slalom skis to need a mid-season re-grind, or even two, to ensure their base flatness.
Ski maintenance at this level is handled mostly by the athlete,
with some help from coaches. It is always advisable to have skis
initially set up by a professional technician.
As before, consistency of delta angle is critical (by discipline),
necessitating identical binding/plate set-ups. It will be relatively
common for nearly all women, and many men, to have a different
delta angle for their slalom skis. The delta angle (fore-aft balance
& stance) should be worked out with the coach, a skilled bootfitter,
and the athlete all in unison.
During this time frame, the quality of discipline-specific training
increases, the number of competitions increases, and the volume
of training varies extensively throughout the season. It’s important
not to forget the single most important thing: the quality and quan-
tity of freeski time needs to be managed, too. With super-busy
schedules, this is unfortunately one of the first things to go — and
at an enormous price.
In the larger picture, a day (or half-day) of ripping up the moun-
tain will still be more important than another five runs in the gates
— just ask Julia Mancuso, Olympic double medalist, who finished
third in 2010 in the World FreeSki Finals without even trying.
Regarding specific boot and ski recommendations, the brands
have detailed charts that should be followed. They’re based on
the age, weight and level of competition. It’s extremely important
that each athlete’s boot and ski are approached on an individual
basis, however; close collaboration with the coaching staff and
brands will enable selection of products that will need to meet the
legality for intended competition (high school/USSA/FIS/NorAm)
skiing skill appropriateness
biological age appropriateness
Boot alignment (to include lateral as well as fore-aft) is critical, as
is proper foot support. Note that where athletes are lined up later-
ally post-correction will vary, largely based upon a combination of
the athlete’s balance of power and hip structure. As a very broad
generalization, men will line up closer to or on boot seam, while
women more inside of boot seam (post correction).
By this age, the feet have slowed or nearly stopped growth, and
also settled in to one of the three basic foot types: flat, semi-rigid,
rigid. It’s important that a footbed is matched to a foot and its me-
chanics — that foot bed may be anything from a quality drop-in
to a more substantial and supportive piece. The key ingredient is
that the footbed is in keeping with the foot type, and that it still al-
lows for the key loose articulation.
For purposes of time, consistency, and quality, it is highly advis-
able to have a professional prepare all skis from new. In this way,
the athlete will have the greatest chance of maintaining consis-
tency throughout the fleet of skis, and during the season.
Set up speed skis with a variable-degree base ( 1. 5 tip/tail, 1.0
mid-section) and 2-degree side. The strongest skiers on rock-hard
snow (such as NorAm men) can go to 3 degrees on the side.
GS skis should be 3 degrees side for everyone at this level. Base-
edge angles should be variable for all disciplines, but will vary
based on the pitch and athlete’s skill level. For example, a highly
skilled athlete — with perfectly dialed-in boots! — will generally be
faster with a little more base bevel on flatter terrain and less base
bevel on steeper terrain. For GS skis, I’d suggest starting with a
variable base bevel of 1. 5 (tip/tail), 1.0 (taper zone), and 0.5 (un-
For slalom skis, start with a variable base bevel of 1.0 (tip/tail),
0.5 (taper zone), and completely flat (under plate). SL side-edge
angles should be 3 degrees for men and women at USSA/entry-
level FIS events; top- 30 competitors at NorAm may want to go
out to 4 degrees side if the snow is truly rock hard (injected). Note
that 4 and 5-degree side edge angles require a side edge re-tune
between the first and second run, so you’ll need every duck in a
row before you go down this road.
Even at NorAm level, the winners are still the athletes who make
the fewest mistakes, but wax can play a role, most certainly for
speed events. So you should be using expensive waxes and over-
lays when necessary — emphasis on when necessary. I’ve seen
coaches and parents put overlays on slalom skis for JOs, yet I’ve
never seen anything other than basic hydrocarbon wax used at
a World Cup SL race. If in doubt, consult your coach and don’t
forget the mental image of the graphical chart of ski racing compe-
tencies (physical, mental, tactical and equipment/tuning skills).
Regarding wax, I advise that parents, athletes and coaches are
best served with one wax program — pick one of the three major
brands and stick with it. Everyone will learn and get better results
within your club this way.
In the next issue, we’ll discuss defining a consistently focused
and executable age-specific program.
David «Pez» Peszek welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article may be freely used within the ski racing community
with author credit, but may not be modified without the author’s
express written consent.