Fast Track to the Course
Wade Cox says the majority of skiers that he coaches at 15 off, 30-32 mph are late on the gate. Often times the skier’s two-handed gate is slow and they end up riding flat. For many skiers, the one-handed gate is responsible for rapid progression in the course and often leads to elated fist pumps exiting the gates.
Your First Movement
Your approach into 1 ball has everything to do with your very first movement to pull out for the gates. “The reason why I do the one-handed gate is to get the intensity up pre-course,” says Karina Nowlan. “I begin my first movement on the balls of my feet and let my hips fall to the left, keeping my chest still and relaxing my arms.” This technique is no different for skiers who are left or right foot forward or use a traditional two-handed gate. “It’s important not to stay on edge too long,” explains Nowlan. “It should be short, intense and sweet.” Moore has a similar approach to his gate. “I think about turning away from the wake and being dynamic rather than tipping over into a static pullout. This allows the ski to get maximum angle away from the wake and creates an earlier apex and lighter turn-in.”
Let Your Hips Lead the Way
You’re not going to overpower a 3,000-pound boat, so don’t fight its pull with your shoulders. Moore says some skiers block with their left shoulder on the pullout for their gate as well as their approach into the toeside [offside] turn. This causes them to get stuck on edge, resulting in down-course direction and inhibiting the ski from being released into the turn. Let your hips move over the ski edge more smoothly while remaining square and balanced with the shoulders, and you can carry the ski out wider on the boat to apex sooner and have more time to turn. “As a left-foot-forward skier, I want my gate pullout to feel just like the backside of my 1, 3, 5 turn,” says T-Mo.
Many skiers have a tendency to pull too long and end up way down course. To avoid this delayed reaction, Nowlan simply taps on the rope of her students to remind them when to begin their movement outbound and start their turn on the buoy. “The key to the course is establishing good rhythm early and not waiting on the buoy,” says Nowlan. “The buoy is the finish of the turn and you need to get your ski going out and carving a lot sooner, instead of skiing at the buoy and then trying to turn it.”
One Long, Continuous Turn
A simple way of thinking about your slalom turns is dividing the course into two sides. From the centerline of the boat to the right of the wake (buoys 1, 3, 5) is one side, and to the left of the wake (buoys 2, 4, 6) is the second. Now imagine from the centerline (when you’re directly behind the boat) to the buoy and back to the centerline as one long, continuous turn. When Nowlan is at the apex of her turn, she uses her momentum to cast the ski out and carve all the way back to the centerline without being heavy on the rope. “Before the boat catches you, start turning in and meet the boat at the wake to give you a nice swing-out,” Nowlan says.