2019-2020 Pre-Season Check List for Athletes, Parents, and New Members
Welcome back all Glacier athletes, parents, and new members. I hope you had a good summer, played plenty of sports, and grew a lot. Hopefully you are all currently physically active and have been since the end of last season. 'Good' ski racing related activities include speed-power sports, balance and agility activities, thinking and reaction sports, stop-and-go sports, and aerobic endurance activities. I generally recommend activities that promote a lot of movement (lateral and vertical), balance and coordination (alternating leg/foot), and aerobic capacity (speed-power endurance). Running (figure 8's, distance, sprints), in-line skating, soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, dance, are excellent. Swimming (core) and racquet sports (stop-start) are also good. Focus on things that both strengthen AND stabilize the upper legs/hips, butt, and especially the overall core. Weight / resistance training should include balance and focus on engaging the core and large muscle groups (butt, hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings, abdominals, chest, shoulders). And don’t forget Glacier offers pre-season dryland training and on snow ski camps to get a jump on our short ski racing season.
Because our season is so short, please remember that NOW is the time to get your equipment in order and start preparing for the ski season. At the U12 age and older, all athletes should be using race skis. Racers moving up to U12 should be starting to look at both slalom (SL) and giant slalom (GS) race skis but a multi-purpose ski is acceptable (there are a few manufacturers (Rossignol) that still offer hybrid SL-GS models). Racers at U14 and above should definitely have both SL and GS skis. At U14 and older, athletes should be using race / performance boots. However, it is important to keep in mind that at all ages, it is absolutely critical that the athlete be able to flex the boot properly, i.e. able to bend the ankles and move the shins forward from a vertical upright position. This should be your foremost criteria when selecting boots. Nothing affects a young skier’s ability more than boot flex and fit. This is because good skiing requires proportionate use of all of the major leg joints (ankles, knees, hips, waist). Be aware that there is no standardized measure of boot flex (one manufacturer’s 90 flex is not necessarily the same as another manufacturer’s 90 flex). An athlete’s ability to flex a boot is a function of strength and weight (and to a lesser degree height or length of shins) as well as boot make model and flex. And remember, all boots are stiffer in outdoor temperatures than when being fitted indoors. A good boot-fitter with knowledge of ski racing requirements is your best source. For an excellent primer on good boot fitting please click on the following link: https://vimeo.com/73415950 . If in doubt go ‘softer’,
Since most of you probably grew over the summer, and therefore may not fit last year's equipment, the following are some helpful pointers:
- The time to get new boots is now. Ski shops stock a limited number of pairs of junior race boots each year and once gone they don't re-order / re-stock until the following season. New boots generally require several adjustments. Buying now and skiing in them in order to 'break them in' before pre-season camps and regular season training is critical as no one can ski properly in boots that hurt or don’t fit properly. Once a boot causes pain, it is difficult to continue skiing in until the foot heals (even if the boot has been properly fixed). Also, it takes time for feet and lower legs to adapt to hard shell boots after eight months of sandals and running shoes (i.e. "boot shock"). Also, ski shops often have a lengthy waiting list for boot adjustment since stretching requires a boot be placed on a mold overnight and most shops only have two or three molds available.
- Ski poles need to be checked for correct length. Have the skier put on boots and stand in skis to compensate for equipment height. Hold a ski pole upside down and grasp it just under the basket to compensate for the pole tip sinking into the snow when planted. The forearm should be more or less parallel to the ground in this position. If the forearm points down, the pole is too short, up, the pole is too long. Tip: poles are the one piece of equipment that breaks most often. Try and buy poles on sale and buy two pairs of the same pole. That way if one breaks you have a spare, if another breaks, you can form a third set, i.e. three pairs for the price of two.
- Early season is the time to get your skis tuned - wax, sharpen, and base grind. If you wait until season starts you will encounter a mad rush when everyone does the same. When getting skis tuned, the 'standard' edge sharpening for a race ski is 2 degrees side, 0.75 to 1 degree bevel (3 side and 0.5–0.75 bevel for stronger more aggressive racers). Your race shop should know these specs. Also, if getting the bases ground flat, ask for, or use a shop that provides, a 'stone grind as opposed to a belt grind. Stone grind makes for a truly flat base, belts can create ‘waves’ (high points or hollows which slow the ski and affect turning). Base bevel must be [re]set after a ski has been ground flat. Be aware that new skis need to be waxed and sharpened as new skis are very 'thirsty' for their first wax, and 'factory' edges are usually ‘wavy’, only approximate, and not necessarily set to an individual's preference. New skis should not need a base grind but you may wish to purchase a ‘true bar’ and check that they are indeed flat. No skier should ever show up for training or a race on untuned skis - it is not safe, and your training or race will be compromised (for those of you who did any hockey or figure skating think skating on dull blades). In past years Skiis & Bikes has offered two for one sale on tune-ups on until late October-November. Many shops such as Gates & Boards or Corbett’s will give a decent discount for multiple pairs or unlimited tunes for a fixed seasonal price. Go early, avoid the rush.
- Every year I get asked about wax, typically the day before a race: Usually I suggest a warm (+2 to -5), intermediate (-5 to -10), or cold (< -10 degree) wax depending on the forecast temperature. However, temperatures change quickly so I wait until 24 or even 12 hours before deciding. If unsure, or between two choices I typically go for the harder wax (the colder choice). Hydrocarbon based waxes are cheaper, but not as fast. Fluoro waxes are faster but considerably more expensive and seem to wear off sooner. Fluoro waxes also ‘dry out’ the base of the ski. In general, hydrocarbon for training, fluoro for competition.
- ONLY A CERTIFIED SHOP TECHNICIAN SHOULD CHECK AND ADJUST BINDINGS, usually when your skis get tuned. Settings need to compensate for: changes in skier's weight and height, ANY change in ski boot, any change in ski (hand me down from an older skier), any changes in skier's ability / speed. This is not optional. Coaches are not trained or permitted to advise on this. Each season beginning there are skiers whose bindings were previously mounted for a smaller or larger / shorter or longer boot than the boots that the current skier is using, with DIN settings that are not appropriate for height weight and ability of the new user of the ski. This is dangerous, very. There are three settings that need to be adjusted and each is specific to the make and model of the binding and race mounting plate, generally in the following order: a) mounting dimension / location on the race plate as determined by boot sole length (millimeter not Mondo size) b) DIN setting (formula specific), and c) tension / forward pressure adjustment indicator.
- Check for damaged and ill-fitting equipment including: gloves too small (cold hands), broken clothing zippers / buckles, broken boot buckles, damaged / missing ski pole baskets (not allowed on the hill), bent poles, cracked / scratched / crazed goggles, unsharpened ski edges, anything hanging ‘loose’. Be sure to check race helmet sizing and to ensure that chin strap and its buckle work properly. AOA now mandates FIS approved helmets for U14 and higher competition (i.e. ‘no sticker no start’ at races).
- Don't forget the ancillaries: glove / mitt liners and face masks for colder days; shin guards, pole guards, chin bars and mouth guards for race gate protection. Like junior boots, much of this stuff also sells out early. Custom or 'shaped' foot-bed insoles are also a good idea as they improve performance and relieve pressure points. They come as either 'stock' inserts (Superfeet is a common brand for about $50) or can be custom made (not cheap $100 - $200).
- Dry run all your equipment before coming out for the first day of training. Check for sizing, pressure points, warmth and be sure to adjust all straps, buckles, zippers, etc. (boots, goggles, poles, helmet, clothing). This is not the stuff you want to be playing with during training and is not the responsibility of the coach.
- Affordability: Early season retailer sales (Gates & Boards runs a special and exclusive Glacier Racing discount night typically offering 10-20% off across the board for any ski equipment). Other Glacier parents. Glacier’s online buy and sell. Online e-tailers if you know what to look for and where. Two-for-one tune-ups, some shops offer season long flat rates for multiple tune-ups. More parents are doing next season's buying for 'hard' gear (non-clothing equipment which sometimes take longer to outgrow) right at season end as retailers do not want to carry stock over the summer. Caution on boots: It is impossible to ski well with sore feet. Do not buy boots online, or used boots, as you are unlikely to get a proper fit. Boot fitting is part art, foot shapes are unique, and posture and stance vary (pronation/supination) - ask around and find a good boot-fitter. I know a few. Paying up for boots properly fitted is money well spent.
- Helmets: FIS approved race helmets are now mandatory for all SOD and O-Cup athletes from U14 up. Make sure your child has the FIS sticker on their helmet – ‘no sticker, no race’ will be enforced at all competitions.
The sport has enough risks without adding faulty or poor condition equipment. While Coaches do their best to watch for equipment issues, it is the parents' responsibility, together with the vendor from whom they buy equipment, to ensure that equipment is appropriate and in working order and to make sure athletes are physically ready to ski race. Final comment on equipment. I have deep knowledge (and admittedly preferences) on certain race equipment brands based on extensive personal use, experience, research, and discussions with fellow racers coaches instructors and technicians. I am happy to share with any parent who asks, preferably in person or by phone rather than by email. And while my knowledge is more general on other brands, I know other coaches and industry professionals who have a better understanding and would be happy to share what they know.
Plan your schedules. Christmas Training Camp runs Dec 22-23 and Dec 27-28 this year. Attendance is highly advisable since our season is short. Coach assessments, team selections for race circuits and carpooling are other reasons to attend Christmas Camp (or even pre-season training whether formal or informal). Lastly, racers and parents are required to register and pay ACA race fees and sign the waiver, and of course, sign, pay, and register with Glacier which includes reviewing the following three documents:
- Alpine Skier's Code (online)
- Glacier Code of Conduct (registration package / club website)
- Glacier Risk Management and Conduct (club website)
PL Coach, ACA Coach Learning Facilitator, ACA Coach Evaluator, Officials 3, CSIA 2