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Going fast in a race course, even a simple club course or NASTAR, is more a matter of mindset than technique. Every skier needs to develop a pre-race routine to get into the ideal mental frame, but certain rules apply to everyone.
Be sure to inspect the race course beforehand. When I was young, I was overly intense and memorized every course. Unfortunately, I didn’t memorize the terrain. I suggest you study the hill more than the gate pattern.
Then push the race out of your mind. Do 5 to 10 minutes of pre-race flexibility exercises. This is as much to avoid injury as to help you ski well.
Get to the start in plenty of time. Just before your bib number comes up, mentally review the terrain. Then turn your mind off so you can enter the start gate with a clear head and allow your body to do what it does instinctively. Never think about technique while on course-that will only slow you down. Let adrenaline kick in; it is the greatest speed enhancer.
Line is important, of course, but skiing the hill the way it’s meant to be skied is more important. This is where knowing the flats, the rolls, the pitches and the sidehills pays off. Look for speed in those places you can gain it (like when you’re coming off the steeps), and preserve speed where you stand to lose it (like on the flats and over the knolls). You can rarely win a race on a steep pitch, but you can certainly lose it there by making bad turns.
And remember-be loose. If you’re uptight before a race, the odds are against you.
A former top U.S. Ski Team member and pro racer, Felix now coaches the University of Vermont ski team.