The best way to know and measure your improvement in slalom skiing is by competing in tournaments. It doesn't matter if you are a beginner or the best skier in your club. Once you can run the course consistently at any speed, you should participate in a tournament. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
• Start with a three-round tournament. This way, you will have more chances of succeeding.
• Choose a starting speed or rope length you're comfortable with. Slalom skiing measures where you finish, not where you start. So don't feel intimidated if you have to start very slow or with all the rope.
• Practice in any given condition. Get experience with wind, rollers, different boats and drivers and, if possible, different ski sites. You never know how it will be the day of the tournament.
• Aim to complete four or five passes. This way you can get used to the conditions, get your rhythm on the first two, and aim for your goal on the last ones.
• Walk around and get to know the tournament site. Find out where the course, starting dock, gates and pre-gates are located, as well as what the wind conditions are. This will help you understand what to expect.
• Get the starting order one day before the tournament. You should get to the starting dock five skiers before you, with all your equipment and handle measure ready.
• Visualize yourself achieving your goal during practice sessions. The day of the tournament, before you ski, do this visualization. When jumping in the water, think positive, and ski one buoy at a time.
• Don't worry if you don't succeed in your first tournament. Remember that tournament success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
Arturo Nelson is the head coach at AQA Training Center in Miami, Florida. For more information, visit arturonelson.com or call (786) 312-7520.