In November, I went to Copper Mountain where I was working with the U.S. Ski Team women’s Europa Cup and D teams and the National Training Group — a great group of young women! A major goal they wanted to pursue was consistency in their skiing. This objective fit nicely into my own priorities for ski racers. I see so many racers who have big swings in their performances from great skiing one weekend to mediocre to even lousy skiing the next weekend, with those ups and downs continuing frustratingly throughout the winter.
Consistency is so important because it is one thing that separates the very best such as Mikaela Shiffrin, Marcel Hirscher, Lindsey Vonn, and Henrik Kristoffersen from the rest. I recently looked at Hirscher’s results over the last two years and in over 60 races, he only DNFed six times. Shiffrin’s consistency is even more amazing. Over the last 60 races, she’s only DNFed three times, and Anna Veith only failed to finish once in that same span.
But it’s not just consistency that matters; being consistently slow is not at all satisfying. What is most remarkable about the top World Cuppers is that they are consistent and fast. Competing against the very best in the world, where skiing on the edge of disaster is an absolute requirement for success, these skiers are able to take risks and leave it all out on the course and finish.
This notion of being consistently fast is so important to me that is a key part of my definition of Prime Ski Racing: Skiing consistently fast under the most challenging conditions. This is the goal toward which I believe all ski racers should aspire.
Of course, not every racer is going to become one of the superstars I just discussed, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be as consistently fast as they are capable. The question, of course, that all racers and coaches ask is: How does a racer ski as consistently fast as they can?
I have identified four keys to consistently fast skiing.
You must be consistent in all aspects of your training efforts. When you train, whether on or off the hill, you need to exert maximum and consistent effort. You must be in your best physical condition including strength, agility, and stamina. You have to be technically and tactically consistent in your skiing with no major flaws that can lead to inconsistency. Your equipment must be consistently well prepared. And, of course, your mental training must be consistently done.
Many athletes think that as long as they do what is necessary in their ski racing life that will be enough to achieve their goals. But I have found that often isn’t enough. Instead, what you do away from your ski racing, in your regular life, also has an impact on your ability to be consistently fast. In other words, to ski consistently fast, you must lead a consistent life.
Aspects of your broader life that can help or hurt your skiing include your nutrition. Because what you eat and drink is fuel for your body, if you aren’t eating and drinking in a consistently healthy way, your body will not be capable of consistently fast skiing. The consistency of your sleep also plays an important role. Consistent sleep will ensure that you are rested enough for consistently fast skiing. Being consistent in your school work also has an influence. If you are stressed out because you are behind in your homework or you aren’t prepared for a big exam coming up, you have little chance to ski consistently fast. Lastly, if your relationships, whether family or friends, are turbulent, you will not be in a place emotionally where you can ski consistently fast.
Though I am, of course, biased, I would say that a consistent mind is also essential to consistently fast skiing. A consistent mind begins with consistent attitudes toward your racing in which you see skiing as a challenge, not a threat; think about the process, not results; have a long-term perspective on your ski racing; and you’re willing to take the necessary risks to ski consistently fast. You also need your attitudes toward your ski racing to be free of over investment, perfectionism, fear of failure, expectations, and negativity.
Emotions play an immense role in the consistency of your skiing. Simply put, if your emotions aren’t consistent, that is, you have big swings in your emotions, particularly on race day, it’s difficult to ski consistently fast. Of course, it’s okay to get excited about a race and it’s normal to feel disappointment. But too much fear, frustration, anger, or disappointment will put you in a place mentally, emotionally, and physiologically that will make it very difficult to find consistency in your skiing.
From these healthy attitudes, you must have consistent confidence that isn’t significantly affected by frustrating days of training, disappointing results, who you’re racing against, or the importance of the race. Consistent intensity, focus, and mindset come only from training and racing with the same of each every time you get into the starting gate.
Finally, you need to have consistency in how you react emotionally to your races before and after. Emotions play an immense role in the consistency of your skiing. Simply put, if your emotions aren’t consistent, that is, you have big swings in your emotions, particularly on race day, it’s difficult to ski consistently fast. Of course, it’s okay to get excited about a race beforehand as long as it doesn’t hurt your confidence, intensity, focus, and mindset. It’s also natural to feel disappointment after a poor race result, but negative feelings that are very strong and that last for a long time will hurt your motivation and confidence and, as a result, your ongoing efforts.
By the way, mental imagery is perhaps the most powerful mental tool for creating consistency in your skiing. Consistent use of imagery, in which you see and feel yourself skiing consistently fast, ingrains the images and feelings associated with that goal, so everything you imagined comes out on race day and the result is much more likely to be consistently fast skiing.
Consistent preparation leading up to races is the final contributor to getting the consistently fast results you want. This consistent preparation begins in the days before the races in which you want to focus specifically on consistently fast skiing in your training. You also want to ensure that your life and mind stay consistent.
On race day, you can create consistency in your preparations by having a clearly defined and well-practiced race routine that maximizes every contributor to consistently fast skiing. What you do the night before, what you do first thing in the morning to your arrival at the race venue, your inspection and pre-race warm-up, and your final preparations in the start area all matter. Consistency throughout this process will be the final piece of the “consistently fast” puzzle you need to put into place that will result achieving your race-day goals.