Chemmy Alcott  Chemmy Alcott   Dec 2020   4 min read   757 views

I am starting the in-depth cog detail mentioned in my first blog with the most obvious of pre-requisition to be a champion in sport - huge technical skill.

The number of times I have heard the following:

“It is a gravity sport, point your skis down and go. The heavier you are the faster you go, as simple as that!”

What absolute nonsense.

That is like saying to win as an F1 driver all you need is the power to push the accelerator!

Unlike the 100m race where the length (rather obviously) is always the same, the shape never waivers and the surface (although altered slightly by the temperature and rain) is always constant. In skiing, every piste we race on has a different character - different length, different gradient start, different terrain, different course set and the most complex, different snow.

Before we even consider the mind-boggling angles that our bodies have to bend into, lets first consider the surface we compete on.

The myth that Inuit’s have 100’s of ways of saying the word snow, is actually very true for ski racers. Every surface of the snow is a different temperature, durability and snow crystal. When each one of these differs, a different technical way of skiing is required. Heard of HERO snow? The snow that everyone feels amazing on; cold but dry hard-packed snow of North America where you roll onto your edge and can regularly carve up the hill. This is just one of the hundred types of snow we ski on.

Then there is the surface dreaded by holiday skiers but sometimes more welcome than its polar opposite soft snow to professional racers - Black Ice. Snow with so much humidity that with freezing overnight temperatures it is almost a mirror to look at.

Black ice takes a huge amount of pressure and confidence on the outside ski at the top of the turn to make speed. The former snow type is all about having an amazing technical feeling - rolling on almost delicately and being progressive with your actions. The latter requires a lot more force to bend the ski.

To excel on both types is rare and requires a huge amount of technical skill adaption.

That is without even mentioning the different weather systems we have to face and adapt to or the huge ruts that winners of first runs in technical events have to master.

What other sports do you have to separate your upper and lower body to such extreme angles most commonly seen in a very bendy banana?

I remember being at the British Olympic Ball and lining up next to Sir Steve Redgrave and him whispering that he had just signed up to The Jump and needed some tips. I decided to start right there and then, him in his tux and me in a dress and heels. I thought this would be easy, a world-class athlete, multi-Olympic medalist. An athlete of his caliber would surely be quick to manipulate his body into ski positions.

I stood a metre away from him - both of us facing forward and asked him to bend his ankles, knees, then hip and flex into me, leaving his shoulders and feet where they were (stupidly thinking I could take his weight). It quickly became apparent that a) I needed a bit more stability, so off came the stilettos, and b) his body only knew how to move in a before and after action - he had no lateral co-ordination at all. Which if you think about it is totally understandable!!

When we want to turn right as a ski racer, we have to have as much pressure on our left foot as possible. We need to create angles over the skis - our hip comes in to do so. If our upper body follows our hip in one alignment, we fall inside. So, our upper body has to counterweight the hip coming inside by bending as much over the outside ski as possible. Don’t look to where you are going!! That won’t end well….

So, it isn’t really as simple as “point and shoot” at all….

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