Q+A with Alpine Race Coach Jo Ryding

Dry slope training

In my last post I looked at the benefits of using the UK-based snowsport facilities during the off-season. I used a video by Dave Ryding, showing from his perspective as an athlete the benefits from using snowdomes and dry slopes in the off-season.

In this post, expanding on Dave Ryding’s video, I have a Q+A session with Dave’s sister Jo Ryding. I wanted to look at things from a coaches perspective, exploring what trainee BASI ski instructors could potentially learn from her experiences as a full-time Alpine Race Coach. Jo in particular uses UK-based snowsport centres to continue the development (in-between mountain training camps) of many of the athletes that are involved in her program.

  1. How did you first get into skiing? One year on a family ski holiday to France, with my parents and brother.
  1. What do you do now? I am a full-time Ski Coach running JR Skiracing Academy, Head coach for the Royal Air Force and England Alpine Squad
  1. Briefly describe your snowsports journey? My father started coaching at the local dry ski slope at Pendle in Lancashire where both my brother and I started racing in the Summer race league. This grew until we were participating once a year in a snow camp whilst still regularly training twice a week on the dry ski slope. After a couple of seasons I was picked up by the England squad competing at the Youth Olympics and went on to be selected for the British Development Team where unfortunately I suffered a career ending injury.

    Jo Ryding

    Jo Rydings (left) on the slopes

  1. Favourite ski resort and why? It has to be Samoens in France where we grew up skiing with the family.
  1. Favourite indoor centre you have coached at and why? Landgraaf in Holland, due to the size of slope and the quality of snow they can prepare for you, as it’s a closed environment it provides perfect conditions to breakdown technique and learn movement patterns.
  1. Which UK indoor centre is your favourite and why? Manchester, the snow conditions and gradient have to be the best available in the country. Although the slope is not as big as Landgraaf, it still provides great conditions to reinforce basic movement patterns, which will help when it comes to skiing in the mountains.
  1. What are the benefits of training indoors? The benefits are huge! You can keep current with time on skis, breakdown technique and learn basic movement patterns in a controlled environment. You can also train almost the same as in the mountains, it’s just in shorter bursts.
  1. Any success stories from UK based training? My brother Dave Ryding is a prime example. He started off exactly as I have, spending lots of time at UK-based snowsport centres. Now he also uses the big indoor centres in Europe during the spring season, as the snow and weather conditions are consistent. When it comes to learning skills or reinforcing movement patterns, consistency is key. Being able to go up run after run, session after session and repeat the same movements and get the same feelings can really helps development.

    Chill Factore Race Training

    Checking out the snow conditions in Manchester’s Chill Factore

  1. What are the challenges training indoors for the coach and trainee? The challenge will always be to keep it interesting. There aren’t may variables on an indoor slope so for the younger guys keeping them motivated can be a struggle.
  1. How do you try to overcome this? Keeping the sessions fun is always key, not spending too long on each exercise. You can always come back to their weaker areas towards the end of the session.
  1. Do you alter the structure of how you run your training sessions for snowdomes? I would say that the sessions are slightly different but we try to keep it as close as possible to on-mountain training. It’s always important to do a full warm up to prevent injury so your warm up would be slightly more intense, but the length of the session is shorter. We tend to split sessions into 2 hour blocks and spend a little more time on each exercise, generally doubling it compared with mountain training. This gives the athlete a similar time to achieve their goal as the slope length is reduced. Remember, it’s all about consistency.
  1. Do you alter how you give feedback when coaching on a mountain compared to indoors? I keep this the same although I do try to allow for more runs before I give detailed feedback, I find because the runs are shorter that the athletes sometimes need the mileage under their feet before I interfere. We also use video feedback and timing during indoor sessions, just as we would on the mountain.

    Video feedback for the BASI level 4 team

    Video feedback sessions after training

  1. Do you focus more on specific areas in skiing when coaching indoors compared on on the mountain? When coaching on the mountain we are quite specific with the areas we work on as they are relevant to the athlete, which is the same as indoor. However during indoor sessions you are in a controlled environment, so sometimes it can be easier for the athlete to pick up and be successful at certain skills. As the slopes are generally less steep indoors, it is also a great opportunity to work on the basics of skiing technique: using parts of the central theme as a development tool or within a warm up, and then building things back up to high performance skiing.
  1. What advice would you give to a BASI trainee ski instructor planning on taking indoor training this summer? Have a clear goal that you know you want to achieve from your training and plan your sessions well before hand. Keep it fun!
  1. What ski equipment advice would you give for training indoors? The slope is shorter than abroad so don’t use a ski that is too long. I would also recommend an on-piste ski, as there are no variables or powder!
  1. What is your advice for instructors that are new to racing and are preparing for test technique (Slalom) or Euro Test (GS) races? There are indoor sessions that you can attend at Manchester. You can join in the race training sessions if you are looking to improve your technique and gain some experience through gates for your test Technique. GS is a little trickier as you need longer skis and space but you can definitely improve your technique for GS on indoor! If you want to enter a few races, there are club national races held by all of the indoor clubs. You may need to register with your Home Nation (Snowsport England etc) if you wish to do more than one.

You can find more about Jo and the program she runs here.

– Gareth Shelbourne