I'd like to start by thanking both BOS and its members for the opportunity to contribute. The idea is to give BOS members the chance to ask me questions directly. The lucky winners will get a response from me on the BOS home page and will be sent some swag from my sponsors. For those questions that I do not choose as winners, I will do my best to answer in the forum under the category of "Ask Rossi". Here are the winners of the first go at "Ask Rossi":
Hi Chris. For us new ballers that are just starting to try running the course. What advise or most important steps should we follow in order to succeed in making our first pass through the course.
Thanks for your question @foxriverat. Learning to run the course can be a frustrating experience. I have three ideas to focus on that may help you:
Lets start with an important concept that holds most skiers back and that is their desire to run the course at all costs. For the most part, I see skiers at this early stage of course skiing putting maximum physical effort in an attempt to make all six buoys. I believe the natural thought progression running through this skiers head comes down to trying to pull harder with the thought that it will make them earlier to the next buoy and give them a chance to make it to the end of the course. If any of this rings true to you, I have a solution. Firstly, you need to let go of these thoughts. You are focusing on the wrong things. I like to start by telling skiers that running the course is easy. Don't take that statement the wrong way. It will be physically easy if you change your approach. Almost everything in this sport is counter intuitive. By pulling harder, you are taking away from good form. This would be equivalent to a new golfer trying to simply swing harder to hit the ball further. Instead, focus on completing your turn and getting into a lean that is not trying to pull the boat backward. No matter what your turn just looked like, when you feel the boats pull come through the handle, don't fight it, but rather accept it. Any bit of bent arms that may have come from a rushed turn should immediately be relaxed. Straight arms are key to running the course. By straightening your arms, you allow your body to lean more which rolls your ski on edge more. I try to think of myself hanging off the end of the handle with straight arms in a stacked position. I define a stacked position as having straight arms, handle low by our waist or upper thigh area, and having our feet, hips, and shoulders all in a line. For more on being stacked, check out my article "The Power Triangle" (http://slalomguru.com/articles.php?article=power). This concept will have a huge effect on your ability to run the course and will set your early course mechanics on the right path.
The next concerning thing I see beginning course skiers do is skiing at too fast of a boat speed. Don't be afraid to slow the boat down considerably. Over and over I see skiers trying to learn the course at 30mph or faster. I recommend adults learn the course at 22-25mph on a ski that is wider than a traditional high end ski. Now a days, there are a lot of choices in mid range skis that offer the support of increased surface area with the turn characteristics of higher end skis. By slowing the boat down, you increase your likelihood of successfully completing the course.
My third piece of advice is to miss the entry gates on the easy side. Almost all of the new course skiers I see drastically alter their first cut through the gates in an attempt to go through the gates (turn in, start a good cut, stand up and wait to go through the gates, then cut hard again to get out to the first buoy). If you look at all skiers who run the course on a regular basis, one thing they ALL have in common is a decisive cut for the gates. The moment you decide that it is time to cut for the gates, go for it! Even if you miss the gates by a large amount, it is better to develop strong habits at this stage of your skiing.
These three ideas should make learning the course a much faster and more enjoyable experience. Good luck and thanks again for the great question!
What is the best drill, exercise, and/or visualization to keep elbows/arms in through the wake and after the whitewater? In other words, how do I improve my ability to keep the handle for myself (in close) through the edge change and into the release?
This is a very hot topic right now @MISkier. I believe this is one of those things you have to set up in order to do. Most skiers are not "stacked" in a proper position from a proper width to be able to accomplish this last step. The goal is to complete your turn and ski into your stacked position as close to the back side of the buoy as possible. This gives the skier the maximum time in the acceleration zone (back side of buoy to the centerline of the course). Most skiers I see do not get in their stacked position until half way back to the wakes (if at all) and thus do not generate enough speed to be able to release the ski at the centerline. Pulling past centerline (directly behind boat) causes the rope to rapidly overload and ends by yanking the skier up out of their cut and sets them on a path inside of the optimal trajectory. To be able to control the handle in a positive way, work on getting into your stacked position closer to the buoy, holding an aggressive lean to the centerline, releasing your ski edge at centerline, and once your ski passes under you, focus on holding onto the handle much like you would do on a rope swing once you have passed the bottom. The key reason to control the handle after edge change is to stay connected to the boats pull so that it can pull you forward on your ski. With the way skis are shaped (fat in the belly and narrow in the tail), as your weight moves forward onto the belly of the ski, the tail loses its hold and starts to release. The more your ski is smeared or rotated before you get to the buoy, the closer to the back side of the buoy you can get in your stacked position and utilize the acceleration zone mentioned above. The goal is to have your ski smeared so the tip and tail of your ski are parallel to the buoy line when you cross the buoy line and release the outside hand. This concept is probably new to a lot of you as most skiers pull too long and thus release the outside hand before ever smearing. While it is possible to be early for the buoy using this approach, the ski will not be smearing and will require excessive rotation at the finish of the turn, delaying or shortening the next acceleration zone.
I look forward to continuing the discussion in the forum. Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute and thanks to my sponsors for making all this possible: