Aaron Larkin runs 10.25
Slalom legend Andy Mapple
Correcting your worst slalom habits
Most skiers have one or more bad habits that keep them from advancing. The good news is that these fairly common mistakes are easy to recognize — and not much harder to correct. Chances are, you can find elements of one or more of the following half-dozen technical mistakes in your slalom style. Not to worry. Simply follow Gordon's advice and you should begin to see improvement in the first few days.
Bending the Arms When Crossing the Wakes - This habit shows up when beginners first try to lean through the wakes. Bending the arms is a form of “security blanket” for beginners, and some skiers take this bad habit with them as they advance. Bent arms make it more difficult to lean away from the boat and establish leverage. Bent arms are also a sign that the skier might be trying to pull rather than lean. Your arms shouldn't start to bend until you let up on your lean. If your shoulders are back and your arms are held straight when you cross the wakes, you will find it much easier to initiate the edge change and pre-turn. Correct this bad habit by forcing yourself to straighten your arms as you lean away from the boat. You will feel immediate improvement, but don't stop there. Most skiers find it difficult to resist the urge to pull, and most also maintain some degree of arm bend – even when they know better.
Giving the Angle Back to the Boat in the Pre-Turn - A lot of skiers lose a lot of angle by letting their shoulders and torso get pulled toward the boat during the edge change and pre-turn. Correct this by keeping your direction going outward to the buoy with your shoulders and torso until you're ready to turn the ski. Don't let your outside shoulder get pulled toward the boat in the pre-turn.
Leaning Without Tucking in the Down (Back) Arm - A lot of skiers with otherwise good form will sacrifice angle by keeping their “down” (back) arm across their chest rather than holding it lower on the body. Leaving the down arm across the chest opens the skier to the boat and reduces leverage. Correct this tendency by consciously checking to make sure your elbows are touching your vest just before you get into your lean. In addition, you might want to accentuate the rotation to get your body into an even better position.
Not Edging Through Both Wakes - After establishing a great leveraged position behind the boat, a lot of skiers blow it by failing to stay on edge through both wakes. Coming off edge before the second wake will cause a tremendous loss of angle. The boat will drag you down course, and you will be narrow at the next buoy. To correct this habit, focus on forcing yourself to stay on edge longer. Having your body closed to the boat will also help you stay on edge through both wakes.
Too Much Weight on the Back Foot During the Turn - Shifting weight to the rear foot during the turn brings the nose of the ski out of the water and causes a loss of angle and turning ability. As a result, the turn will be lengthened and the skier will drift down course. To check for incorrect weight shift during a turn, watch where the water breaks on the ski as the skier is coming into the buoy. The ski will turn best when water breaks near or slightly in front of the front binding. A skier with too much weight on the rear leg usually has his or her butt back, which will cause water to break near the rear binding. If you are “tail heavy” during your turns, focus on your front leg and your hip position. Do this while skiing an easy pass, or move to open water to focus on this fundamental. On your off-side turns, work on extending your front leg and keeping weight on it as you come into the turn. Don't straighten your front leg, however. It should still have a slight bend, and the knee should be slightly forward and have weight on it as you come into the turn. On your good side, work on staying over the ski while keeping your hips forward as you come into the turn.
Too Much Weight on the Back Leg When Crossing the Wakes - Most skiers keep too much weight on their back leg. For most of us, this habit began when we first learned to slalom and made that first cut at the wake. Instinctively, we felt that the safest way to cross the wakes was by keeping weight on the back leg. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Maintaining equal weight distribution on both legs allows the ski to stay in the water and cross the wakes with much greater security and efficiency. When weight is left on the rear leg, several bad things happen. For starters, the front leg is often stiffened, causing the skier to lose leverage and balance. Even worse, a weight-back stance makes it almost impossible for the skier to get the hips to the handle – especially on the offside lean through the wakes. To correct this habit, you must make a conscious effort to balance your weight equally over both legs, bend at the ankles, and keep your knees forward. When your weight distribution and lower body posture are correct, you will find it much easier to get your shoulders back and create leverage against the boat. To remove the distractions and pressures of the slalom course, practice wake crossings in open water. Start at a speed slower than usual, then increase both speed and intensity as you gain confidence.