Written by Jon Ahlsen. I love watching the FIS World Cup. For those of us who have skied gates, we know how difficult it is to make fast turns where somebody else has decided that you have to turn. It seems to change everything. Most of us couldn’t make it down a World Cup course set, and yet they make it look “easy”.
It’s been a rather strange first half of the World Cup, with cancelled events and lots of injuries to main contenders. Anna Fenninger, Mikaela Schiffrin and Ted Ligety to name a few.
More and more, I prefer watching the women’s technical events over the men’s.
Why? Simply because the best women are able to carve their turns much more often than the best men.
So, if you want to watch a display of the most efficient and fluid movements in modern skiing, watch women’s GS. They are able to link turns and control their speed and line through turn shape while carving cleanly. In Maribor, which is a fairly flat GS, you could see the best women make almost flawless turns. They have the time and space to be able to roll the edges smoothly in transition between turns. They also have time to extend the new turning leg enough to get the hip forward enough to be on the shovel of the new turning ski early. Example: watch Victoria Rebensburg, Eva-Maria Brem and Lara Gut in Maribor.
If you think it looks easy, remember that the ladies went through the speed gun mid-course at about 75-80 km/h (45-50 mph).
Men’s slalom and GS, on the other hand, now seem to favor the skier who takes risks and is strong enough to recover from mistakes without losing too much speed. It appears that men’s skis don’t match the course sets on the steep pitches and so it’s impossible, even for the very best, to carve clean turns and still be fast. Marcel Hirscher, who risks more than anyone and recovers like no one else, has thrived the last few years. Most likely, the technique of these men matches the technique of the best women, but they can’t put in clean turns because of the off-set of the courses and steepness of the pistes. As a result, the men are forced to smear (have you noticed Mattias Hargin now and then actively smearing turns in slalom???) and rush between turns using awkward looking cross unders with all kinds of “bad habits” that we try to avoid as ski instructors. If you want to watch a display of some of the most athletic movements and incredible precision work under pressure in sports (probably around 2.5-3 G’s in many turns), watch men’s GS. Example: watch Marcel Hirscher win the Val D’Isère GS.
So, what’s my point? Simple: if you’re training to become a ski instructor and want inspiration for how to make clean long turns, skip Marcel Hirscher and watch the women of the World Cup!