Much has been said about the importance of remaining light on the line. An efficient mode of skiing dictates maximum speed while maintaining minimum line tension. All of us, regardless of which particular doctrine of slalom technique we subscribe to – West Coast, new school, old school or even no particular school at all – have one thing in common: Our best runs left us almost bewildered by the ease in which we skied. Therefore, our unifying factor is our shared goal of skiing with the boat, as opposed to against it. So, no matter how you choose to ski, try experimenting with this unique mental approach and visualize a downhill grade to your next pass on the water.
Moving with the boat
There will always be an unbending forward component to your path through the course. Regardless of how much angle you can generate through a huge heelside turn, the boat will relentlessly ensure you are moving down course. Your only goal is to reach the opposite buoy line as early as possible inside these confines. Therefore, instead of viewing the boat as your opponent, allow the boat to simply be the factor contributing to the course's “downhill” nature.
Movement is movement
While this article can be seen as another testament to the effectiveness of the snow ski/water ski crossover, realize this same rationale can be applied to any form of cross-training or series of movements. For instance, imagine you are simply jogging down a hill and want to change directions to the left. What move would you make? Would you plant your left foot straight to the inside, perpendicular to your direction of travel? An aggressive inside plant of your foot would halt your downhill motion, causing an abrupt decrease in speed. To avoid a jarring halt, you would plant your next step forward and to the inside, leaving your forward momentum unaltered. The same theory can be applied to riding a bicycle. Imagine you are riding down the same hill. What effect would a sudden, sharp turn of the handlebars have? You would be forced to shift your weight aggressively backward just to keep from flying over the bars.
Take it to the lake
You can see the same move happening on the water. Too often, especially on a “good-side” turn, skiers over-rotate with their upper body and are forced to shift their weight away from the boat or, for this argument, “uphill.” This causes an abrupt decrease in speed, resulting in a huge hit from the boat and a subsequent loss of angle. Alternatively, if you can maintain your forward, or downhill, direction through the turn you will maintain your speed and have to deal with far less line tension as you swing back into the wakes.
The practical approach
If skiing with abstract theories floating around in your head is just not your style, here is the straight and narrow. Forward motion through your turns will result in faster, smoother lines back to the wakes. Your goal is to stay over your feet into and, most importantly, through the finish of your turn. To achieve this, avoid pre-turning your upper body and keep your inside hip leading you back to the handle. By staying square with your upper and lower body into the turn you will be able to counter-rotate, open to the boat, as you complete the turn. This will slide your center of mass in front of your feet, preserving your forward momentum. It is important to visualize where you are actually trying to go and make the appropriate movements to yield those results. By keeping this downhill approach in mind you will be less likely to fight the boat's forward momentum and begin to flow into and out of your turns.