Wake up, Warm Up
Race day at Adelboden! I wake up before my teammate, Bridger Gile, and try to slip out of our hotel room without waking him. The breakfast buffet spread is incredible, with everything from smoked salmon to passion fruit. I never have a huge appetite before a race, so I keep it simple and make my usual breakfast- a bowl of yogurt and granola, a breakfast sandwich, some fruit slices, and a chocolate croissant (I couldn’t pass it up). I wash it all down with some apple juice and start my warmup.
My warmup takes about 40 minutes. I start with 20 minutes of spinning and mobility, then 15 minutes of active warm-up (dynamic stretching, sprint drills, jumping) and finish with 5 minutes of posterior chain activation. My body and mind feel awake and ready as we load up and drive to the race hill. My technician plays his music and starts with Taylor Swift… but we decide it’s not the right fit for race day, and switch to hard rap.
The conditions are phenomenal – clear skies, great race snow (dense, grippy ice), and a relatively straightforward course set. It’s always cool to finally get on a hill that you’ve studied for so long on video. One thing I’ve learned from this process is that the trail turns are always sharper than they look on camera.
During the inspection, the hill is actually a little flatter than I expected it to be, and the terrain a little sharper. A few gates over, the terrain, and a sharp trail turn are really the only areas that demand respect, otherwise, the rest of the course requires a very aggressive approach. I head over to the warm-up course which has a lot of traffic on it. I mostly freeski during my warmups but the warmup course is in good shape so I hop in for a few runs to feel some timing and tempo. After a few runs, I feel powerful, balanced, and prepared, so I head inside to Team Hospitality to watch the beginning of the race.
Watching the live stream, to no surprise, the direct and aggressive line appears to be fast. River and I scooch closer to the TV to watch Tommy Ford’s run. He skis well onto the last pitch, staying clean but then gets lazy in form, and tomahawks forward into the net just above the finish. He lays still and my stomach goes into my throat. Before long we hear the helicopter fly overhead to airlift him to a nearby hospital. Eventually, we get word that Tommy has regained consciousness and his neck and head don’t appear to have any serious trauma. It’s relieving to hear this but watching your teammate wreck still leaves you with a sick feeling in your gut. I pop in my earbuds, put on some music, and let those thoughts go as I proceed to get ready for my run.
3… 2… 1…
Going up the lift I do some breathing exercises to focus on the task at hand. I start locking into my racing mindset. Finally, the time has come. I thump my chest. Plant my poles. And hear the unmistakable beeps that indicate to every ski racer that it’s game time.
I skate out of the gate and ski passively down the first pitch. Coming onto the flats I shift into gear and start to ski more like myself, attacking and generating speed. I ski solidly until just before the trail turn at the end of the course. Here I get a little too greedy and try to cut off some line before a minor roll that comes into play more than I expect. I let my body position get a little passive and I’m punished by blowing out after getting bucked by the roll. In a split second my hopes of making a second run evaporate. I slide down the bottom of the course and reflect.
“I reflect, learn, and make a plan for how to improve because that’s all I can do.“
Obviously, it was aggravating to make such a costly mistake that I could have easily avoided. However, I always look for some positive takeaways as well. A few sections of turns that I linked up well, and some better overall skiing than I had put forward in the last few GS races. I reflect, learn, and make a plan for how to improve because that’s all I can do. I always try and let the positive takeaways fuel my confidence and process any negative outcomes as motivation moving forward.
Want to make turns like George? Stratton Mountain’s Seasonal Programs teach racers important fundamentals in alpine racing. From form and discipline to mindset and reading the course, Stratton’s Alpine Ski Coaches can take your turns to the next level… or next continent.