Skills to Slay the Hills
TOP PERFORMANCE DEPENDS ON PROPER
SKILL DEVELOPMENT By Dave Peszek
Whether you’re the youngest junior or a 90-plus, Class
14 masters racer, your base begins with skill development.
Your skills add up to form your technique; your tactics at
any given time are how you apply your technique; and
your line (whether racing or just skiing around) is how you
apply your technique and tactics on the hill.
So if you’re willing to buy into a pyramid example, then
naturally the stronger and more developed your base of
skills, the greater your eventual potential performance will
be. Want to rise to the top of the pyramid? Look to your
base of skills for help.
It stands to reason that if there’s a hitch in your technique,
or something you want to do is not executable (such as
your line), then spending more time mastering basic skills
might be in your best interest.
Of course, that’s the easy, conceptual part. For most
of us, we sometimes just want to go out and do it. Who
wouldn’t want to simply push out the gate and experience,
for example, the fabulously cool and terrain-filled speed
venue at Rosa Khutor?
In recent years, the athlete-coach feedback cycle has
evolved. Athletes still review their performances immedi-
ately on the small screens of coaches’ video cameras (im-
mediate visual feedback after the performance offers the
greatest opportunity for athlete adaptation), but we’re now
able to easily review our skiing cumulatively over time,
thanks to great offerings from Dartfish, Sprongo and other
services. This allows athletes, parents, and coaches to
truly review progress, which of course is never linear.
Skill development has always been critical to establishing
a great technique. Recently, we’ve seen that importance
come to the forefront — last season, top athletes received
invites to try out for the U.S. D Team based on their results,
but were accepted in large part based upon their ability to
perform certain drills that highlighted their personal skill
development. “We’re looking for guys who can problem
solve and adapt to different terrain, snow conditions and
turn shape,” says Randy Pelkey. “It’s the skill behind the
drill and how to apply it that’s important.”
This season, we’ll see that at the development level, and
we’ll also see it extended down to the J3 National Assess-
ment Project during the first week of April in Park City,
where scored drills will be a large component of results.
And look for the further implementation of skill develop-
ment and mastery in junior competitions next season, with
the full roll-out of the SkillsQuest program from USSA.
Let’s take a look at some examples of technique in action,
and try to relate it to your skill development. These are just
examples, and there are many ways to skin a cat, just as
there are near infinite ways to coach and practice skill de-
velopment. “This is about teaching athletes how to learn
and master a skill,” says USSA coach Seth McAdam.
Here’ I’ve elected to highlight men’s slalom for it’s athleti-
cism and power; I also believe it relates directly to high-
end all-mountain freeskiing.
Skill: Ankle Flexion
Strengthening the anterior tibialis is critical, as are properly fitted ski
boots with just the right amount of flex for you. Master drills such
as the straight run, traverse, and J-turn with a strong parallel body
position ( youtu.be/fCnXieQ9Vdw) and your toes pulled up in your
boots to maintain good ankle flexion, along with tension to pull your
inside leg back — this will lead to a quicker transition.
Check out the superb ankle flexion
that Will Brandenburg is showing,
especially his right ankle inside.