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Ten Slalom Essentials

Improve your slalom abilities with these 10 tips.

April 6, 2007
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1. Grip: The strongest way to grip the handle for slalom skiing is with the baseball bat grip. Which hand goes up or down is dependent on which foot you have forward. If you’re right foot forward, then you want your left palm up and right palm down. The opposite grip applies if you are left foot forward. When you are cutting cross-legged, or toeside out of your offside, you want your grip open. Conversely, when you are cutting open-legged, or heelside out of your good side, you want your grip closed. This will make the wake crossings more balanced and you’ll be less likely to get pulled out of position.

2. Skiing Position: The best basic pullout skiing position requires you to start from a relatively tall, neutral stance with your weight centered over your feet. You’ll also want your elbows slightly bent and low against your vest. Then, when it’s time to pull out, you simply have to sit into that pullout and you will be in a strong position.

3. Acceleration Position: The goal of the acceleration position is twofold. First, you’ll want to build speed, and second, you’ll want to maintain the angle generated from the turn. The desired result is a low, relatively squatted position with your arms tight against your vest. When you lower your body mass, it puts the ski slightly out in front of you and allows the angle you have generated out of the turn to whip you out to the other side. With your elbows locked against your vest, it lowers the point of connection to the boat, which allows you to maintain your angle once you’re on the other side of the wakes.

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4. Shoulders: I recommend that your shoulders remain open, or facing the boat, through the acceleration phase. However, you’ll want them level and facing away from the boat during the turning phase. If your shoulders are closed through the whip from side to side it will cause a load-and-unload effect. This will force you to lose your angle at the end of the swing off the second side of the wake crossing.

5. Reach: The reach should be smooth and toward the ball. If your reach goes toward the boat too much it stops you from carrying your outward direction and position on the side of the boat. The outward direction is what dictates line tension, so the longer you can go out the tighter your rope will be through the turn.

6. Turning Position: In the turn, you want to be tall with your weight neutral over both feet. This tall, neutral position will allow you to completely finish the turn before you start to accelerate. Any movement forward, back or to the inside of the turn will hinder the turn and ultimately cost you angle.

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7. Eyes (Where to Look): Your focus should be in the direction you are going. If you are coming into the turn, use your vision for timing and also to stay level. The same rule applies coming into the wakes. If your head, and therefore vision, is not level, everything will feel as if it is happening faster than it is.

8. Rhythm: Slalom skiing is all about rhythm and timing. Start with a consistent width and try to go back and forth across the wakes as many times as you can with a fast pace, attempting to reach the same width on both sides. After you are comfortable with the width you are at, keep moving your turns up wider and wider on the side of the boat.

9. Instruction: It is important to get some professional instruction. This will help you to understand your next steps and you will progress at a much faster pace.

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10. Equipment: Have your local pro shop help outfit you with the right equipment. No matter what your level of skiing, there are several choices of skis and many different setups that will help you progress faster. Having the right equipment is the safest and best way to enjoy your time on the water.

To ski with Matt Rini, contact www.mattrini.com or call 407-832-3674.

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