The Precision of Ski Racing

Ski racing is a sport of hundredths of a second in the Olympics, the World Cup and in Pennsylvania. It is a sport of speed, exhilaration and of course, fun. Ski racing like many individual sports rewards individual efforts. It rewards precision.

In a sport where the winner and second place are routinely separated by only a few hundredths of a second, precision is not only required, it’s rewarded. It’s a sport where making the State Team or going to the Junior Olympics can be determined by the difference between an eighth place and a ninth place in a single qualifier race three weeks before the end of the season.

Ask yourself, why do you enjoy skiing? Why do you enjoy ski racing? Speed? Blasting through gates? Challenging yourself or your friends? Because you like getting up early and going to practice when your friends are home sleeping? Because you love the feel of your skis arcing through the snow? Because it feels great to catch some big air?

Now ask yourself where do you want to take ski racing. Ski racing won’t take you anywhere. You are the pilot. It’s your choice and your decision. While will alone won’t put you on the US Ski Team, it can take you a long way. Your will and your determination affect the level of precision and the effort that you put forth. Those affect how fast you go and how much your abilities improve.

When you run drills, ski on one foot, etc, how hard are you going to try to do that drill correctly, precisely? The harder you try, and the more you master the seemingly small skills like edge feel and touch, the farther you will go. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about start practice drill, taking the right line through the gates or tuning your ski. There are varying levels of precision in all those tasks, but the more precise, the better the outcome. Take for example, tuning a ski. When you tune a ski, remember why you are doing it. To make the ski move fast with minimal friction in the snow and make it arc cleanly and predictably. It’s easy to just throw a quick edge on a ski and some wax that’s probably correct and say "good enough" or "better than nothing", but that’s not precise. That’s not what gives you those few hundredths of a second that can make the difference.

While it’s certainly not necessary to obsess over every tiny detail, because there will be things that are out of your control like the weather, your level of precision can make a big difference in the outcome of a single race and getting what you want out of ski racing. Knowing the day’s likely weather and bringing the appropriate clothing is worth a few hundredths; polishing that edge, using the right wax and base treatment gives you a few hundredths; going to bed early the night before and getting out of bed and being rested on race day gives you a few hundredths; getting a solid breakfast gives you a few hundredths; making sure you have your gear sorted so that you can be up the lift when it starts gives you a few hundredths; getting a really good course inspection and knowing the course gives you a few hundredths; and getting a couple of solid warm up runs gives you a few hundredths; and having a quick lunch and getting back out there gives you a few hundredths. These details go on and on, and in the end they can add up. They can add up a lot. A guy who doesn’t bring rain gear is late to race registration and does a so-so tuning job is giving away time to those that are precise in their preparations.

More important than any of the precision required by ski racing, remember that it should be fun. There will be days and races when you do nearly everything right and make one seemingly small mistake and crash, DNF, or DQ. Don’t worry about it. That’s the nature of skiing and it happens to every single ski racer, even Bode Miller. What you need to do is find a level of precision that works for you.

Remember why you want to be out there and find your own sense of precision and I guarantee you’ll get faster on the snow. If you’re not sure where your skiing needs precision ask your coach. They have been doing this a long time and will likely have some ideas.