By: Joel Hughes
First of all- why am I writing this and what business do I have doing so? I first ran the course in 2004 and did not run -28 at max speed (55K) until October of 2014, and not consistently until last summer. Over 10 years of skiing long lines and chasing my tail! In one summer I did more as far as getting to another level with my skiing than I had in all of those previous years combined. I did this not because of a focus on technique, but because of a focus on my mental game.
Couple of baseline rules to set baseline expectations before we begin:
Let’s get started.
First, let’s take a very hard look at your ego. Be blunt. Be honest. It’s time for a wake-up call this season, folks. You can thank me in September. Ask yourself the following questions:
Your ego can be very sneaky in that the more your brain takes the above pathways, the less apparent it can be that they are wrong. Repeated thought patterns become essentially “normal” and undetected thought patterns. You may be in such a bad ski-ego position that you’re reading those six points and thinking “meh, that’s not really me”. Guess what- if you’re not running -28, it is you. If you’ve been stuck at your top pass for years, it’s you to some degree. Do not even read further until you can accept that. Takes one to know one.
Here is an example of ego getting in the way of progress: Let’s say one of your big cues in learning -28 is to get really high on the boat in the move-out (as it should be if we were talking technique but we are not). You look at video from your last set where you dipped your shoulders into 1-ball, broke forward a bit, and got huge slack out of 2-ball, couldn’t hold it, then fell. If you are thinking something like “ugh I need to level my shoulders at 1 ball” or “I need to counter rotate at 1” or “I need better stack out of 1” or “I need neon yellow gloves” or “I need to hold the handle out to the buoy line to 2 because I’m skiing right to it” or “I need to get a half-loop between 22 and 28” ALL of those thoughts are your ego redefining the truth. What about your first cue? Move-out width? Did you execute that? No, you didn’t. Stop wasting time by chasing your tail as your ego tries to deny the facts.
Let’s say we’re working on -28 as many of you are (we will use this example for this whole section). Ask yourself the following: Are you a 28 off skier? Well, are you? Yes or no? Do not read further until you can say “yes” to that question. Better yet, say you are a 32 off skier.
Why is this important? Because when we define the type of skier we are, we assemble the playground upon which we will execute correct thoughts and cues the entire season. A 28 off skier does things in the course that a 15 and 22 off skier does not do. Period. The playground includes:
If you are mentally still a 15/22-off skier then you are probably blissfully happy where you’re at. Why? Because you are unfortunately still in your comfort zone. You are comfortable with with your narrow move-out width, and skiing right to the buoys. You are comfortable with softer hits from the boat from the elastic nature of the longer line. When you see yourself barely clearing the buoys at 22 off, you tell yourself “hey that was a nice pass”. You don’t realize how much extra rope you have or how being closer to the boat should affect your cues in the course. Physics is not even on the table at these lengths. When the rope shortens to 14M you’re confused as to why all of a sudden you can’t ski the course at that length.
If you are a 28 off and shorter skier mentally you have written your brain a one-way ticket to get out of your comfort zone. If you want to have different results you must be doing different things, remember? When you find yourself in your comfort zone, you will now notice it and you recognize this as a bad thing. It’s not good enough to run your 22 off passes cleanly- you want to run them clean and wide. You want to be as high on the boat at 22 as you can possibly be, knowing that you are running 22 like 28. And when you start getting 28, you remember that you are a 32 off skier. You’re going to get greedy and start running 28 wide! Why? Because there is a TON of rope left, still. You recognize and respect the physics of the game. You start realizing that the higher on the boat you are, the more rope you get at the ball. You realize the less time you spend accelerating, the more time you spend turning. You might re-define how you approach your turn-in timing. You do this because you are a next-level skier and this is your new playground.
Let’s talk about offensive vs. defensive skiing real quick. Look at a video of anyone running shortline and they are on the offense. They are “attacking” the course. What we talk about a lot here with correct technique starts with an offense mindset. A good shortline skier is a quarterback the course. They are making crisp movements with authority. They are making defined movements from the moment they come out of the water. A solid moveout. A defined glide. A solid turn-in for the gate. Wake-to-wake they are moving with authority and determination. They are “working” in the course to some degree. Visually we often identify stuff like this as stack, stance, handle control, etc. but this starts with the mindset that they are not being controlled by fear or being a victim to what the course gives them. They are being an active participant in the game and they want to win. Mental game. Working with the boat as a team.
When we look at a video of a skier who is struggling with 15, 22, or 28 what do we see? We see an athlete playing defense. Their movements are tainted with doubt and fear. We see what we would consider defensive, reactive positions and movements in any other sport.
Have you been playing defense? Have you felt like a victim in the course? Change your mindset. “Man I don’t know what happened at one ball but I just broke over”. A winner accepts the truth of what happened and has the fortitude to correct it.
Outside the course
There are plenty of things we can do outside the course to help our performance in the course mentally. These include:
So there you go. Let’s see what you can do this year by adjusting your ego and mindset and turning both of them to the next level. It’s important to do this ASAP because it only gets harder!
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