Ski Camp = freakin' awesome

Imagine, if you will, some of the coolest kids from your school getting together and cruising the slopes with some bluebird conditions without a care in the world. Except maybe for school, but that's a week away so it's still not even close to what's on your minds. Personally it's been a rather enlightening experience because of the simple fact that I've never raced before. This is not to say I've never skied before, it's just that previous to camp the most I'd done was make kick turns between giant powder covered moguls, which hardly even resembles the quick transition turns between gates on ice. So I've decided to make this into a guide for all us new racers, and although it will be helpful just keep in mind that it is in no way complete because I haven't even had a chance to race yet. But this most certainly will get updated as the season progresses.

Gear:

Alright this is a very important aspect of skiing because with shoddy gear you're going to get shoddy race times. However, keep in mind that there's a difference between shitty gear and cheap gear, just make sure that if you do go with used equipment that it's going to hold up for at least the length of the ski season. Oh and the more aerodynamic the better.

  • Skis:

    Obviously you want to go with race skis of some kind, which are going to be much stiffer and heavier than those you would use for freeriding. If you are going from a set of all-mountains to racing you're going to feel a little disoriented at first, and you'll probably think that they are much less responsive, but once you get the rhythm down you can make some really smooth turns that just lock into the hill. When picking a specific ski you also have to have an idea of what specific type of racing you will be doing. The two that I've been exposed to are Giant Slalom (known in the ski world as GS) and Slalom. The difference between the two is inherent in the name, but if you're interested I'd suggest reading the respective nodes. Also a big aspect of picking skis is the size, and because I am no expert I would suggest asking a more experienced racer, a sales rep at your local shop, or ski coach.
  • Bindings:

    This is probably my weakest subject because I've never really had much experience, but again I would suggest getting someone with a bit more experience to help you out. From word of mouth I've been steered towards getting some Look brand bindings and they've done me extremely well, but it's a whole lot of personal preference. Just make sure that the DIN setting is adjusted for your specific style: basically if you are very aggressive keep it little lower (6-7) so that you're skis pop off if you fall hard while bombing the run, and higher (8-9) if you tend to be a bit more conservative. I've also heard it said that you should crank it up a bit for races to ensure that they stay on your feet even when you fall in order to allow yourself to hike a missed gate without being disqualified.
  • Poles:

    If you really want to get into racing it will become essential that you get poles with guards on them. What this means is you'll either have to get new poles or modify your old ones with a curved piece of plastic that will wrap around the handle to act as a knuckle guard when you "check" the gates.
  • Boots:

    Race boots are expensive, and unless you have a pro deal or the likes I would recommend going with a performance boot instead, I've tried both and have found that unless you are really hardcore about getting the best race time then you don't need to spend the extra cash. Oh, and be sure to provide time to break in any new boots before racing (take them up for a few test days); otherwise your feet will be in some serious pain. Also if going with new boots be sure to try out numerous brands and sizes, and don't necessarily go with the one that feels best, it should be very snug, just remember that the liners are meant to expand. If the sales representative is telling you that you are a perfect fit in the first boot you try on that's a bad sign, find someone new who will want to downsize.
  • Clothing:

    Again this is dependant on how much you want to get into it all, but if you want to be truly fast you'll want a race suit, and yes, it's that kind of suit. And although you may feel a little uncomfortable in your new tight 80's looking spandex suit, I must say they have improved a huge deal as far as style is concerned (sorry grampa, no more pink/purple/lime jumpsuit). These come in two styles, padded and non, and your decision will come back to what specific type of racing you'll be doing. A safe rule to follow is that if you're doing anything involving gates it's probably best to go with the padded type.
  • Armor:

    Speaking of padding, armor is also an essential when it comes to running gates, at least at a more experienced level. Checking gates is the act of getting the fastest possible turn by basically putting your body into a position which knocks the gate to the side allowing you to keep your turn while passing through it. What this entails is quite a beating on your body where in come into contact with the gate. So what you need as far as protection goes, in order of importance, is a helmet (complete with chinguard), poleguards, and shingaurds.

Hopefully this list will be comprehensive enough for all those of you just starting out in the race world, and as the season progresses I will be adding more to this, cause I'm still quite a newbie, and hopefully I'll be able to add some actual racing techniques as well.

Happy Trails!

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