Alpine Steps: Racer’s Edge

Racer's Edge

The inside track from the world's fastest riders.

Lines and speed.

In giant slalom and slalom it's best to go as straight as possible between gates. Take the line that allows you to constantly increase speed. Realistically, riders have to modify their lines to work with the slope and the course setting–going either straighter or rounder.

Try to reduce the length of your turns as much as you can because riding on the base rather than the edge of the board is definitely faster.

A good rider will continually adapt his technique to the situation in order to keep a perfect line from top to bottom, taking advantage of the slope's pitch between gates. The line you choose also establishes a rhythm; stick to it until the gates force you to adopt another line–what's called a rhythm change.

–Nicolas Conte

Looking ahead.

Looking ahead is one of the secrets of racing. Whether you're in a race course or freeriding on changing terrain, speed can be slowed down in your mind by looking farther ahead. Most people look at their feet or at the snow right in front of them, but focusing down the course allows you to anticipate the turns to come–your brain expects an obstacle in time for your body to react.

By lifting your head and looking two or three gates, trees, or moguls ahead you'll be able to charge with more confidence and speed.

–Lisa Kosglow

GS versus slalom.

In dual slalom my edge is only in contact, or engaged, for a short time. It's carve, a quick release, and then the next turn.

For slalom you need fast legs, good timing, and balance. I train by running a lot of gates; this helps for timing the edge change. You should also practice by freeriding with your slalom board to control the speed and radius of turns.

In GS everything is happening slower and more smoothly. I stand tall in the beginning of the turn, then get lower by bending my knees as the pressure increases. Then it's a progressive release of the pressure toward the changing of the edge.

Technically, GS turns are the most difficult–at least if the course is turny–because it's harder to build up progressive power during a long turn.

No risk, no fun!

–Ueli Kestenholz

Speed and tempo.

The main differences between long and short turns are speed and tempo. When making long turns your speed is faster, but the tempo is slower–you let the speed build–than in short turns. With longer turns balance is really important.

In short turns you have to speed up the tempo and movement. It sometimes seems like you're working more in short turns, but you're really just speeding up the tempo and squeezing more into a smaller place.

All the skills from racing cross over to freeriding: balance, feel for the fall-line, use of the fall-line, the timing and amount of pressure on the edge, and the movement of your mass in relation to the board.

When racing I stay really disciplined and look for speed. You have to keep a focused mind-set. Your mind-set is the big difference between racing and freeriding. When I'm just out freecarving, I relax and enjoy the feeling, flowing and mixing it up with all the skills you'd use racing.

–Mike Jacoby

Carving and skidding.

It's always a challenge to carve perfect turns on ice as you would on hero corduroy. Making confident, balanced moves and committing to stay forward over your board will definitely help. It may seem unnatural, but sometimes you have to go against your bodily reactions. Remember, the board's edge simply won't hold as well in hard-snow conditions, a lighter touch is needed.

The rider who wins a race is usually the onee who rails close to 100-percent of the course. Non-railed turns are a result of being off line: either too straight, too late, or both.

It takes a whole hell of a lot of practice to win any snowboard event these days. Repetition ingrains good technique. Once running a course becomes second nature and your reactions have been trained properly, you'll be a champion.

P.S. It's a long, focused road.

–Mark Fawcett