The cold nights and warm days, the start of a new school
year, and fall foliage: winter is rapidly approaching.
Many racers haven’t been on snow for months — or
considered what it takes to bend up a ski at the top of
a turn — so find some old video from last year and start
getting fired up for the upcoming season.
It’s a good time to read through your Fat April epiphanies
to make sure everything is falling into place for this season.
Fat April (for those who forgot) is a month of giving your body
a break from the rigors of travel and competitive racing to
evaluate every aspect of your athletic life: fitness, strength,
equipment, mental preparation, program, training, racing,
coaching, supplements, etc.
But if you’ve been sidetracked this summer, it’s not time
to panic yet. You still have a few months to dial in your
missing links before you’re tested on snow. And frankly,
there’s nothing more refreshing than taking some time
off from skiing to get reenergized and excited for bashing
gates again. So let’s go through a few checkpoints:
1. Where is your fitness?
Beach muscles are no longer a factor for another nine
months, but hopefully you were extremely conscious of
your core during beach season, as it is your first line of defense against serious back issues throughout life. I spent
more time on my core this summer than ever before and I
hope it pays off with a strong, healthy season.
Let’s hope you put some work into strengthening your
quads and hammies, and increasing your aerobic
threshold, too. If you don’t have a well-planned workout
routine and regimen, find someone to make you one. It’s
definitely not too late to make big gains before the snow
falls. And it’s always easier and more efficient to follow a
workout plan than make up your own each day. It’s just too
easy to justify cutting corners and letting your fitness go.
It should also be known to all FIS athletes that strength is
a huge added bonus on the 35-meter GS skis. They pull
less radius than the old skis, so in order to make similar
arcs to the old skis — since course-sets haven’t drastically
changed — you must have a higher edge angle. Watching
Ted Ligety last season annihilate the competition, I couldn’t
help but notice how in most of his turns and almost all
of his pictures mid-turn, his hip was on the snow. OK,
you’re probably not going to be making nasty Ligety turns,
but there are a few things that will definitely help and
massive strength is one of them. To make the 35-meter
skis turn better, give yourself more toe lift, try moving your
mounting point forward on the ski, and ski with a narrower
stance. Everyone is different, but it takes time for even the
best skiers to make decent turns, so patience will be an
2. Where are you with equipment?
You should know exactly what equipment you’ll be on
for next season by now. It’s time to sit down with your
coach or someone you trust to talk about fit day, budget-
ing equipment expenses, and getting the highest quality
equipment available. Equipment is far too often one place
many athletes and parents like to cut costs, but don’t fall
victim to the low-hanging fruit. If you’re switching to a new
brand because it’s cheaper, you must be absolutely sure
your new set-up is faster or at the very least is just as
good. In the long run, results matter far more than telling
your friends: “Yeah. I’m kinda a big deal. I’m sponsored
by Kneissl.” (I don’t mean to pick on Kneissl, but you get
the idea). If athletes aren’t winning on your brand at vari-
ous levels including yours, it’s risky. Make sure you have
tenable reasons to be rocking your skis. Regardless of
what reps might tell you, there are a lot of different levels
of equipment. Make sure you’re skiing on the best equip-
ment you can — it matters.
3. Have you read any sports psychology books?
My favorite is “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” by Dr. Bob
Rotella. He has a number of fun, short stories that explain
how to plan and react to a number of different scenarios in golf that are very similar to ski racing. It’s all about
having confidence in your decisions and preparation that
set you up for success rather than failure. His main race-day principle is staying in the present, focusing on exactly
what you have to accomplish. Whenever your mind is going out of control; which inevitably happens from time to
time, read a sports psych book to help ground yourself. I
remember being at a Europa Cup in Levi, Finland, a few
years ago all by myself living with a bunch of really nice
Finns who spoke mainly Finnish and only seeing the sun
for a couple hours one day of two weeks. It was this book
that helped keep my sanity, as I was the only American
there. Don’t be scared of sports psychology books, they
can be quite helpful.
Ski racing is not a game of perfect, either. But preparing
the right way can get you closer.
FROM FAT APRIL to Lean and Mean September
ORE COWBELL with WARNER NICKERSON
32, is an independent
American ski racer
from Gilford, N.H.,
and Colby College
with 41 FIS victories,
three U.S. Nationals
podiums and two
titles, among other
awards; he was
also a member of
the 2011 U.S. World