Unsolicited Pointers for Big Mountain Competitions


Play by play of a good comp run

I’ve seen a lot of skiers come and go from the competition scene. It’s not for lack of talent, either. A lot of skiers get turned off because they don’t really understand all the nuances of competing- it’s a bit more complicated than just pointing it off something. I get a fair amount of emails this time of year regarding pointers for contests, so I thought I’d compile the ones I’d emailed out over the years in one place.

For me, competition is still one of the best parts of the sport. Sure, I get nervous to all hell before every event, but there’s nothing like the feeling of nailing a competition run. Conversely, if you’re into it, there’s nothing worse than blowing a competition run. There’s a start gate and a finish gate, and it’s all about going out and doing the best you can with the conditions you’re given. People often forget how special it is- you get an entire mountain to yourself to show off what you got, sometimes in front of thousands of people. Pretty cool.

So, if you’re thinking about going for it this season, here’s what I’d consider.

You have to assume about 1/3 to 1/2 of the fields is going to fall each run. So in a three run comp it’s likely that 2/3 of the field will eventually fall.

Nobody is really that gnarly. Guys may be talking about some crazy shit in inspection but they’ll either not do it or crash trying.

The comp isn’t won on the first run, but it sure is lost. So don’t try to blow everybody out of the water day 1, run 1.

In a qualifier, with three runs particularly, play the numbers game a bit. I’d ski a little conservatively, making sure you get through each round, and let the other people eliminate themselves. If, before the third run you’re in fifth, then you know to maybe go for it a bit more.

A not so good comp run. You’re probably doing it wrong if you’ve inspired a judge to come up to you and ask “what the hell were you thinking (thanks Jon!)”

The judges like fast, in control skiing (think GS turns through the crud). A lot of guys struggle with this I think.

Don’t crash on the extra credit (last small feature).

Don’t let any French people beat you, I can’t emphasize this enough.

Different angle of the same run. You’re also probably doing it wrong if someone you  don’t know posts a video of your crash on the internet.

When you inspect, look for landmarks that you can pick out from above your features. This way, you can ski right up to them smoothly. Also, if any of your airs are blind, pick out fixed positions in the distance (i.e. mountains, lifts) and align your direction when skiing up with them. This way, you can take off without hesitation- it shows you know what you’re doing and you’re confident.

Look at your line from the judge’s perspective. Can they see you? Does that big feature look as big from this angle? Does your line look fluid? Perspective can change a lot from place to place, so be sure to check out the judges perspective.

Above all the judges like safe and strong skiing- you don’t have to go out there and do the gnarliest thing on the venue. This is a great way to get hurt and/or lose the respect of the judges if you get sketchy. Maybe tone it down and just ski it stronger than anybody.

It’s hard to rate your own skiing. Although it may have felt like the run of your life, it may not have looked like that to everybody else. Take into consideration the crowd’s reaction before claiming the run of your life.

And remember, it’s a subjective sport, sometimes you get hooked up, and sometimes you get burned…so get to know the judges.

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One response to “Unsolicited Pointers for Big Mountain Competitions

  1. Patrick McIntosh November 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Killer, solid tips. Good on ya. It tell ya, most pros would keep these tips to themselves in hopes of them just taking these to the bank. thanks for sharing. the one that most stuck with me was ” Nobody is really that gnarly. Guys may be talking about some crazy shit in inspection but they’ll either not do it or crash trying.”

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