Tips for Skiing Fast in Your Championship Season

It’s that time of the race season when results REALLY start to matter — the championship season. For many racers in the U.S., the REALLY important races of the year—Divisionals, Regionals, and Nationals—are upon us and it’s REALLY important that they ski their best.

Yet, this is also the time of year when many racers aren’t skiing fast at all. In fact, in the last few weeks, I’ve been getting emails and calls from parents and coaches who are desperate for help in getting their racers back on track. Here’s the consistent message I’m getting: “My kid is skiing REALLY fast in training, but, in races, he/she is a totally different skier. He/she seems scared before race runs. On course, he/she skis REALLY cautiously.  And, in the finish, he/she kicks him/herself for skiing REALLY tentatively.”

So, what happens to racers as the big races approach that causes them to go from fast to slow in such a short time? And what can you do about it so you can set yourself up for success in the REALLY important races that are fast approaching? (Note: I have “REALLY” capitalized because that’s what it feels like for young racers this time of year.)

Why the Change?

Results matter. Let’s be realistic: results matter! You don’t get ahead in your ski racing because you’re a nice kid or because you try hard (though effort helps). Rather, you move up the competitive ladder because you get the results in the form of placings, points, and qualifying for bigger race series.

The problem is that when you focus on results, you are actually less likely to get those results for two reasons. First, if you are focusing on results, you’re not focusing on the process, namely, what you need to do between the start and finish to ski your fastest to get those results. Plus, this result focus can cause you to get really nervous before races which makes it nearly impossible for you to ski fast.

“Too” zone. With this emphasis on results, you enter the “too” zone in which you care too much about results and your results become too important to you. In other words, failure to get the results you want is perceived as a direct threat to your self-esteem and goals.

Expectations and pressure. You create expectations which leads to pressure that cause a threat reaction in which you are nervous and tight before races. If you are saying any of the following about your upcoming races, you know you have gone to the “dark side:” I must…, I have to…, I need to…, I should…, I better…, I gotta…. Each of these is always followed by an implicit threat: “…or else something bad will happen.”

Overthink. In response to this downward spiral, you start to overthink, try too hard, and attempt to control every aspect of your skiing. These reactions only cause you to dig yourself into a deeper mental and emotional hole.

This quadruple whammy pretty much ensures that you will ski scared, tight, and cautiously. The paradox here is that this shift almost guarantees that you don’t get the results you want.

How to Reverse the Spiral?

Think less, feel more. The first step in getting back on track involves realizing that thinking more about your skiing or putting more effort in won’t work. To the contrary, you actually need to do just the opposite, namely, less thinking, less trying, more feeling, and more letting go. Consider adopting the Costanza Effect.

It starts by recognizing that skiing fast is about feeling, not thinking. Two types of feelings are involved. First, the physical feelings you like to have before races. You want feel strong, comfortable, and at your ideal intensity. Second, the emotional feelings you like to have before races. Some racers like to feel happy and relaxed. Others like to feel inspired and excited.

Ski like a kid. One very consistent feeling racers often lose this time of year is why they ski race in the first place. Remember that feeling of freedom and joy you used to feel before ski racing started to REALLY matter. For example, one athlete I work with who raced at the recently completed World Junior Championships told me that he skis his best when he feels the way he felt when he was a kid. He just loved (and still loves) bombing around a mountain, “hucking” big air, and being a little crazy. My advice to him? Get back to that feeling and do a lot of bombing, hucking, and craziness in the coming time leading up to the big races!

Express yourself. You need to get out of “protective mode” in reaction to seeing the upcoming races as threats to avoid and get into “expressive mode” in response to seeing the upcoming races as challenges and opportunities to pursue your love of our sport. Ski racing is like creating a painting on a canvas. You don’t think through every stroke of paint you put on the canvas. Rather, you get in front of the canvas, see and feel the image you want to create, and then you simply turn off your mind and trust your creativity to express that internal image on the canvas. The same holds true for ski racing. You slide into the starting gate, see and feel how you want to ski, and then trust that your body will express itself on course the way you’ve trained it to.

Nothing to lose. You have to ski as if you have nothing to lose (because, in the big picture, you have nothing to lose). You will surely ski your worst if you feel as if every run is life or death. Now that is pressure! You ski your best when you let go of expectations, pressure, and fear of failure. You ski your best when you are totally focused on the process and the present. You ski your best when you turn off your mind and just let your body do what it knows how to do. You ski your best when you take risks and just go for it. And you ski your best when you are having fun and racing because of your deepest feelings for our sport.

“F&%# it!” (apologies for the bad language). For you to ski your fastest, you have to get in the starting gate and just say “F&%# it!” This attitude, so well exemplified by Bode (in his autobiography, he said that all he ever cared about was skiing as fast as humanly possible) doesn’t mean not caring about your ski racing, but rather not caring about the consequences of your ski racing. It means being able to accept whatever happens as long as you take your shot and ski your fastest. When you adopt the “F&%# it!” attitude, you liberate yourself to ski without doubt, worry, or fear, and with confidence, commitment, and courage. So, as I noted in a previous post, you should “Risk it for the Biscuit!”

Three Goals on Race Day

When you are able to clear out the mental and emotional clutter from your mind that’s holding you back, you can then free your mind to focus on three simple goals on race day.

Getting Prepared. In the start area, you want to be able to say, “I’m as prepared as I can be to ski my fastest.” Ultimately, that’s all you can do. Being well prepared doesn’t guarantee success (because you can’t control everything in ski racing), but not being prepared certainly ensures failure.

Bring it! On course, your singular goal is to “bring it,” meaning being fully committed to and completely focused on skiing as fast as you can from start to finish. Bringing it doesn’t guarantee success (because S&%# happens in ski racing), but not bringing it certainly ensures failure.

No regrets. After the race, whether you had a great result, made a big mistake, or DNF’d, you want to look back and have no regrets because you left it all out on the course. Of course, if things don’t work out the way you had hoped, you’ll be disappointed. But knowing you accomplished these three goals will minimize the regrets and inspire you to pursue these three goals in the next race. And I truly believe that if you continue down this road, at some point, good things will happen.

Stefan Luitz Reclaims Beaver Creek Win

Back in December 2018, Germany’s Stefan Luitz won his first ever World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Luitz, whose career has been scattered with injuries and tough comebacks, upset the giant slalom 2019 crystal globe winner, Marcel Hirscher in the first giant slalom race of the season. But his win was stripped after a photo of the Luitz inhaling oxygen at the top of the course in between first and second runs was released.

Article 20.4 in the FIS’ Anti-Doping Rules prohibits the use of oxygen. Seeing as the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey track runs at the highest elevation on the World Cup circuit, supplemental oxygen could offer an advantage despite the seemingly small infraction.

Luitz’s legal team argued that WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency that oversees doping in international sport, does not deem oxygen as an illegal supplement/doping agent and therefore can overrule the FIS’ regulations, despite FIS having banned oxygen tanks at race venues. WADA’s rules that no longer ban supplemental oxygen went into effect on January 1st, 2018. The Germans originally argued they had thought the FIS would adopt WADA’s code.

As of Friday, March 15th, the Court for Arbitration of Sport granted Luitz’s appeal, reinstating his first World Cup win over Hirscher and regranting him the check that comes with said win. Most importantly, the ruling allows Luitz’s to own the success story that came with his first win. Prior to 2018, Luitz had been at the top of his game, raking in some the best finishes of his career prior to tearing his ACL just before Christmas 2017. He also suffered a torn ACL in 2013. To come back the second race of the season is remarkable, given the mental barriers and surround injury.

Unfortunately, Luitz is back on the recovery grind. A crash during the races in Adelboden left Luitz with a loose ball and socket joint after his shoulder dislocated in the fall. Luitz underwent surgery and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Hirscher is knocked by down to second place, but the loss of 20 FIS did not affect his season standings. Hirscher still won the giant slalom crystal globe by a landslide.

BREAKING: Clement Noel Finishes Strong in Soldeu Slalom

21-year-old Clement Noel finished a strong slalom season, winning the Soldeu race by 0.18 over Manuel Feller. Switzerland’s Daniel Yule finished third, 0.83 seconds back from Noel’s combined time of 1:48.96. Their collective finishes brought them to a draw in the slalom points, both finishing the season with 551 total World Cup points. Given Noel’s final win, the Frenchman finished second in the overall standings, Yule finished third.

Marcel Hirscher finished 14th overall, but had already clinched the slalom title prior to the final race of the season. He won the discipline title by 235 total points.

Stay tuned for full race coverage.

Top 10

  1. Clement Noel (FRA): 1:48.96
  2. Manuel Feller (AUT): +0.18
  3. Daniel Yule (SUI): +0.83
  4. Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI): +0.86
  5. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR): +0.98
  6. Giuliano Razzoli (ITA): +1.07
  7. Felix Neureuther (GER): +1.10
  8. Alexi Pinturault (FRA): +1.12
  9. Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA): +1.19
  10. Istok Rodes (CRO): +1.28

For full FIS results, please click here.

BREAKING: Mikaela Shiffrin Wins Fourth and Final Globe

Mikaela Shiffrin skied her way to the giant slalom crystal globe on Sunday in the final races in Soldeu, Andorra, beating out unsuspecting challenger, New Zealand’s 17-year-old Alice Robinson, by 0.30 seconds. Petra Vlhova skied onto the podium in third, 0.41 seconds out from Shiffrin, as the only other woman who came within a second of her final combined time.

Shiffrin’s victory is her 17th of the season, awarding her 2,204 total FIS points in the race for the overall globe, which she clinched a few races prior to the giant slalom final in Soldeu. The newly minted 24-year-old now has four globes from the 2018-19 season, having been crowned champion in each discipline she chose to actively participate in.

Stay tuned for full race coverage.

Top 10

  1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): 2:23.17
  2. Alice Robinson (NZL): +0.30
  3. Petra Vlhova (SVK): +0.41
  4. Tessa Worley (FRA): +1.21
  5. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER): +2.03
  6. Wendy Holdener (SUI): +2.334
  7. Eva-Maria Brem (AUT): +2.82
  8. Katharina Liensberger (AUT): +2.89
  9. Sara Hector (SWE): +3.04
  10. Mina Fuerst Holtmann: +3.34

For full FIS results, please click here.

BREAKING: Mikaela Shiffrin Rakes in 16th Season Win

Mikaela Shiffrin closed out her slalom season with one last win after having clinched her sixth slalom crystal globe prior to her final race in Soldeu. The 24-year-old leads the overall standings with 2,104 total points and 16 total wins over the course of the season.

Wendy Holdener fought hard for the potential to win her first individual World Cup race but fell seven hundredths short after leading in the first run, settling for second. Holdener is ranked third in the slalom standings and will take home a bronze medal for the 2018/19 season.

Petra Vlhova finished 1.20 seconds off of Shiffrin’s winning time in third and will take home a silver for the season as runner-up to Shiffrin in the slalom standings.

Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter fought hard to finish in the top five in the last slalom race of her 15-year career on the World Cup tour. She was the only other woman to have won a slalom crystal globe, other than Shiffrin, in the past seven years.

Stay tuned for full race coverage.

Top 10

  1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): 1.48.15
  2. Wendy Holdener (SUI): +0.07
  3. Petra Vlhova (SVK): +1.20
  4. Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE): +1.58
  5. Frida Hansdotter (SWE): +1.89
  6. Bernadette Schild (AUT): +2.30
  7. Katharina Liensberger (AUT): +2.39
  8. Kristin Lysdahl (NOR): +2.43
  9. Katharina Truppe (AUT): +3.60
  10. Nastasia Noens (FRA): +4.05

For full FIS results, click here.

BREAKING: Alexis Pinturault wins Final Men’s Giant Slalom

France’s Alexis Pinturault won the final giant slalom race of the season, taking the win by 0.44 seconds over World Cup newbie, Marco Odermatt, who skied onto the podium for the second time in his career in second.

Odermatt’s finish over Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec, who finished 1.03 seconds back from Pinturault in third, gave the Frenchman just enough room to hang on to the third-place finish in the giant slalom standings.

Marcel Hirscher had already clinched the giant slalom globe for the sixth time in his career prior to the final race in Soldeu. He is trailed by Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen by 168 points.

On Saturday’s race, the best American finish was an eighth place for Ted Ligety. Tommy Ford finished 17th on race day but ended the season ranked 10th in the overall giant slalom standings.

Stay tuned for full race coverage.

Top 10

  1. Alexis Pinturault (FRA): 2:13.06
  2. Marco Odermatt (SUI): +0.44
  3. Zan Kranjec (SLO): +1.03
  4. Manuel Feller (AUT): +1.30
  5. Mathieu Faivre (FRA): +1.39
  6. Marcel Hirscher (AUT): +1.74
  7. Luca De Aliprandini (ITA): +1.97
  8. Ted Ligety (USA):+2.08
  9. Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA): +2.09
  10. Loic Meillard (SUI): +2.11

For full FIS results, please click here.

Lindsey Vonn Foundation to Host Third Annual Fundraiser

On March 29th, 2019, the Lindsey Vonn Foundation (LVF) will host its fourth annual fundraiser at the Four Seasons Resort in Vail, Colorado.

All proceeds from “Big Hair Prom Affair” – an 80s themed costume party and online auction – will benefit the scholarships and programming offered through LVF, an organization that supports girls in educational and athletic development.

In 2018, the Lindsey Vonn Foundation awarded more than $83,000 to 30 girls across the United States to support their pursuit of passion, whatever that passion might be. In 2019, LVF aims to fund more girls camps, inspire developing youth through speaker and mentorship series, and offer more scholarships to girls in need.

The party itself, emceed by Jonny Moseley, will feature hors d’oeuvres, live music from the Jordan Kahn Orchestra band, an After Party, and more. Auction items include works of art, exclusive getaways, and one-of-a-kind keepsakes.

Tickets to the event can be purchased here.

BREAKING: Switzerland Wins Final Team Event

In a tight battle between Switzerland and Norway in the Big Final, that came down to a tie-breaking time, Switzerland held on to earn a team event gold for the second time in the  2018/19 season. Switzerland has now won a record number of four team events at World Cup Finals, more than any other country.

Norway came close to the win but had to settle for silver. Germany defeated Canada in the small final to take the bronze medal.

Much like World Championships in Are, the United States did not field a team for the event in Soldeu.

Stay tuned for full race coverage.

Top Four

1. Switzerland
2. Norway
3. Germany
4. Canada

BREAKING: Dominik Paris Wins Final Super-G

Dominik Paris wins the final super-G of the season, officially securing his grasp on the super-G crystal globe for the first time in his career.

Mauro Caviezel trailed Paris by 0.15 hundredths in second, followed by Vincent Kriechmayr in third. Kriechmayr had been trailing Paris in the super-G standings by 44 points going into the final race. While he was unable to surpass the Italian to take the win, Kriechmayr held on to claim second in the final super-G standings.

Kjetil Jansrud finished fourth in Thursday’s race, allowing him to overcome the single point difference between him and his teammate, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, and secure third in the overall standings.

Americans Travis Ganong, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, and River Radamus finished 13th, 16th, and 19th.

Stay tuned for full race coverage.

Top 10

  1. Dominik Paris (ITA): 1:20.42
  2. Mauro Caviezel (SUI): +0.15
  3. Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT): +0.44
  4. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR): + 0.58
  5. Christof Innerhofer (ITA): +0.70
  6. Matthais Mayer (AUT): +1.14
  7. Adrian Smiseth Sejersted (NOR): +1.14
  8. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR): +1.23
  9. Beat Feuz (SUI): +1.25
  10. Christian Walder (AUT): +1.27

For full FIS results, click here. 

BREAKING: Mikaela Shiffrin Claims Super-G Globe

Prior to Thursday, Shiffrin led the super-G standings by 32 points over Tina Weirather, and 47 points over Nicole Schmidhofer, meaning in order to win the super-G globe, she had to ski better than either of those racers in order to claim the title.

For the first time in the 2018/19 season, Shiffrin finished off the super-G podium in fourth, tying Nicole Schmidhofer 0.44 seconds off of back Viktoria Rebensburg’s total time of 1:23.91. Despite her finish, Shiffrin skied just fast enough to claim her first super-G title and walk away with her third crystal globe of the season, a day after celebrating her 24th birthday.

Tamara Tippler finished second in Thursday’s super-G, 0.15 seconds back from Rebensburg, followed by Federica Brignone in third, 0.34 seconds back.

Weirather and Ramona Siebenhofer did not finish their runs.

Stay tuned for full race coverage.

Top 10

1. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER): 1:23.91
2. Tamara Tippler (AUT): +0.15
3. Federica Brignone (ITA): +0.34
4. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): +0.44
4. Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT): +0.44
6. Jasmine Flury (SUI): +0.52
7. Sofia Goggia (ITA): +0.56
8. Kajsa Vickhoff Lie (NOR): +0.68
9. Nadia Fanchini (ITA): +0.82
10. Corinne Suter (SUI): +0.85

For full FIS results, click here.

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