March 19, 2009: Interesting Observations

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Canada – Another slalom day but this time at COP, a small resort and training facility for Calgary’s top athletes. It’s right in the city of Calgary where the temperatures were in the upper 40s during the day! While the warm weather was welcomed, the snow conditions were less than desirable. The snow was sugary and easily pushed around, and underneath was rock-hard ice. But the ice was grippy so it wasn’t too bad.

The runs at COP are short and flat so the difficult snow conditions weren’t very scary. It’s actually really good training to be in that type of snow in easy terrain to see where my balance points are on the board and how it tracks in the hard conditions. My ‘new’ board performed really well – held an edge and was easy to turn. My old board would’ve been extremely hard to turn and is not forgiving in these conditions.

Overall my runs were good. I was having difficulty generating speed right out of the start gate and into the flats, but I’d eventually get into a rhythm and let the board run. I’m thinking part of that is due to my inability to really pull out of the start because of the brace and weakness in my shoulder. Surprisingly my transitions into the steeper section were good. I took a good line coming into the pitch and treated it like a GS and went round and let the board run. A lot of people were having problems on the pitch where the snow was especially hard and rutted out, so I was happy.

My coach said the problem I was having in the flats was due to my heelside (no surprise there). I wasn’t patient enough coming out of the toeside and when I changed to my heelside edge I would slide out the tail. The problem is due to my line and not using my back foot enough to put pressure on the back of the board to hold it in line.  So in my freeriding over the next few days I’m really going to focus on setting my heelside edge and carving it out instead of sliding that turn. Easier said than done!

My teammate and I were watching World Cup footage of the winning runs and noticed that the Europeans, who are winning the races, aren’t carving each turn. Actually not carving a lot of turns like the North Americans are trained to do. The reason they’re able to go fast though is because they know how to slide their transitions to get the board into the correct position, and then they just let the board run and hang on. And their transition is where they get the board across the hill so their boards are almost always pointed down the hill. We noticed that North American riders really try to carve their turns with building up pressure and moving the boards move laterally across the hill with an emphasis on technical perfection. Controlled movement of the board, and not letting the board run. That would be faster than the slide technique if the courses were perfect and without ruts since pure carving builds up speed at each turn, but no one can carve an entire course and the bumps in the course throw off the perfect form causing more errors and time lost. So I need to just let the board run. Of course working on perfecting my technique is still very important, but letting the board run down the hill is something I haven’t been focusing on. When I had my fastest run I’ve ever had just a few days ago it was because I just let the board run and hung on.

So I have a few days of freeriding to work on this until I leave for France on Tuesday. But I’m really excited that I’m figuring things out off the snow – hopefully I can translate it onto the snow and that’ll be what clicks!

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