Connection and Swing

AdamCordAdamCord Posts: 1,061 Open or Level 9 Skier
edited October 2019 in Technique & Theory

It’s fall! Time to geek out on ski technique. I've been wanting to do a video about this for a while, but thought it might be smart to start a thread and see what people find confusing about it, and what needs clarification.

There is a ton of coaching about how to turn, or how to achieve "stack", but I hear very little about how to get connected and stay connected with the rope, and how to use that connection to ride the swing around the boat. That to me is absolutely the most critical component for making the jump from longer lines to running short line. The 35/38 off wall that people hit is because they don't do this well. Every pro skier does this one way or another.

Specifically what I'm talking about is separating the idea of pulling against the rope, and pressure against the bottom of the ski in your mind. These are two separate forces, and should be treated as such. When we first learn to ski, we learn to pull against the rope and edge the ski to move left and right. Then we learn to “edge change” the ski and release with our outside hand to start to make a turn. What happens through this process is we learn to equate pulling against the rope and edging the ski as the same move. As people get better and start to shorten the rope, this concept sticks and people continue to ski this way. This is why many skiers will edge change and release the handle with their outside hand at the same time. This inevitably ends up holding people back from running shorter line lengths.

What we want to do is think of these two concepts as separate entities. Anytime you are edging right or left you are creating pressure against the bottom of the ski that will help accelerate you right or left. When that happens you will generate load in the rope, and you must be in a “stacked” position to handle that load. Those concepts are pretty well established and most people can grasp that idea pretty easily. But what we need to realize is that there can be very high load against the rope even when there is NO pressure on the bottom of the ski. How does this happen? Centrifugal force.

When we stop thinking about traveling in a straight line across the lake, and start thinking about traveling in an arc around the pylon, we can see how this works. Anytime you are moving left or right on a ski, you are traveling in a circular path relative to the pylon in the boat. This creates a centrifugal force down the rope. The faster you are going through the wakes, the higher this force. Also, as the rope gets shorter, this force increases. We need to recognize that this force is completely separate form the load on the bottom of the ski, and put ourselves in position to hold that force.

The video above shows one way to do that. If the skier is in good position, the ski only needs to be on a cutting edge with angle for a VERY SHORT amount of time and space. Once the sufficient tangential speed around the pylon is achieved, keeping the ski in angle and on a cutting edge does nothing beneficial, and actually makes it harder to hold position against the rope. In the video above I am actively trying to stand up out of angle and onto a flat ski by centerline, but my upper body stays strong against the line all the way up until I release the handle for the preturn. In fact, I NEED to keep my upper body strong against the line in order to handle the high centrifugal force. This is what allows me to “swing” around the pylon and reach the buoy line early.

Please note that I’m not doing anything special with front arm or back arm pressure. I’m not making some big effort to rotate my hips one way or the other. I’m just holding my position against the line, while letting the ski roll flat and point down the lake early. I’m also not making any big effort to stay ahead of the ski off the second wake. In other words – this does not need to be complicated.

Ok please fire off your questions or tell me why this doesn’t make sense ;)


  • mlangemlange Posts: 250 Baller
    THANKS for this post.

    This is, without a doubt, the biggest single problem with my skiing. As soon as I make my edge change I'm almost immediately taking my outside hand of the handle and lose connection. It's an incredibly frustrating muscle memory thing that I just can't shake no matter what I do.

    So keeping it uncomplicated... what tricks do people that have beat this used?
  • SkiWxChickSkiWxChick Posts: 2 New Baller
    "my upper body stays strong against the line all the way up until I release the handle for the preturn." Going to recite that over and over again. Great tip!
  • Steven_HainesSteven_Haines Posts: 1,079 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Great tip! I try to change edge at the wake but that doesn’t work very well until the turn radius is dialed in correctly to give you the initial speed needed to allow you to ride the arc of the handle out to the buoy. After A Lot of fiddling I think that I’m getting close.
    Thanks for the post, I have it saved for next season as a reminder.
    Keep them coming!
  • jimskijimski Posts: 622 Crazy Baller
    @AdamCord your skiing at 36 mph I’m guessing. Is the pull going to be longer at 34 I would think the edge change would be a little later at slower speed
  • drewski32drewski32 Posts: 218 Baller
    Been waiting for this explanation for a very long time
  • chris55chris55 Posts: 419 Crazy Baller
    Quick question @AdamCord are you skiing 34mph at 32 or 35off ?
  • StefanStefan Posts: 143 Baller
    edited October 2019
    @AdamCord Thanks for very interesting thoughts. Isn’t it so that one of Nate Smith’s charactaristics is the early edge change? Can you specify what exact setting change you make from 36 to 34mph to make the ski faster please?
  • GaryWilkinsonGaryWilkinson Posts: 356 Solid Baller
    @AdamCord for me it looks like your body position when you’ve set the edge and angle at zero ball and every other ball is perfect and on a very fast and quick to accelerate ski. (Great promotion for the Denali mark here).

    With the early speed and energy, you’re able to start the edge change early, directly behind the boat, continue through the wakes and your ski is neutral and just starting on the new inside edge at the crest of the 2nd wake. This is what gives you gags of time and space to “point the ski down the lake” HUH?!

    Something we’ve been taught not to do for many years now.
    Having a hard time getting my head around that one.

    Some other observations:
    Your timing with edge change and knees is perfect. We never see even the slightest pop off the wakes.
    You carry great speed through the turn at the buoys and line up the perfect amount of angle and lean immediately after the ball which enables you to get that early and quick angle cross course.

    What I don’t get is the comment to reduce angle and pressure with your ski and lower body at the 2nd wake.

    And yes, I’m hitting the wall at 35 off.

    Thanks for your thread and any comments
    I need to ski back to the handle obviously.
  • jimskijimski Posts: 622 Crazy Baller
    @AdamCord have you thought about doing any clinics this year in the PNW
  • BlueSkiBlueSki Posts: 964 Mega Baller
    edited October 2019
    @AdamCord, my wife read your first post and has a question. She is familiar with GUT and has skied with Caldwell, so this is not completely new. She asked “is centerline is always the ideal target? Does it differ by speed and line length.” I have some thoughts, but I am smart enough not to provide input, I’ll hang up and listen to your answer. She also questions whether the phrase “stand up” is appropriate in the next to last paragraph. She suggested that someone reading your thoughts on slalom for the first time may not interpret it as you would like, but let us know if you think otherwise. FYI, she is a 15 off 26-32 skier... and a hell of a boat driver.
  • AdamCordAdamCord Posts: 1,061 Open or Level 9 Skier
    edited October 2019
    @Stefan Yes for sure Nate gets off his pulling edge super early. I would argue that's because he generates speed so well into the wakes. He only needs to be on a pulling edge an extremely short amount of time. That's what allows him to start the transition so early.

    As far as ski speed it can depend on your setup, but in general I will run less wing and/or a forward/shallower fin at 34 compared to my setup at 36.

    @GaryWilkinson yes absolutely I am able to transition early because of the speed I generated before the wakes. That is what makes this possible. What always surprises me though is when a skier is good at creating that speed, but then they still try to ski to the bank, which forces separation form the handle.

    My turns look easy and seamless because I was able to generate so much space before the buoys, and therefore it's easy to stay in time with the boat and ski back into a tight line. Chicken, meet Egg.

    As far as reducing pressure and angle on the ski, I mean what I say. I'd suggest you do some free skiing and play around with that while not chasing buoys. You can build lots of load and speed into the wakes, but then work the ski out of that load and angle behind the boat. If you can stay strong against the rope, you will move up on the boat very quickly.

    @jimski I could possibly be persuaded to do a clinic or two in the spring when it starts warming up again. Too cold now!

    @BlueSki is centerline the target? Not necessarily. Where this transition takes place is 100% dependent on how much speed you have crossing the wakes. The faster you are going, the earlier it will happen. A pro could probably edge change before centerline at 15off 26mph, but that doesn't mean your wife could or should. At her level she needs to be working on getting stacked and learning how to get her hips and elbows to meet during the pull. While you can absolutely ski this way at 15off, I wouldn't expect someone to be doing that when that's their hardest pass.

    And about "standing up", yes that's what I mean but I'd like to hear what's confusing about that (seriously, I would like to know so I can clarify my message?). In my mind when I'm moving into the wakes that's what I feel like I'm doing, driving my sternum as far from my feet as possible to keep me in a stacked position while also forcing the ski to flatten and not stay on edge. I appreciate that feedback!
  • skibrainskibrain Posts: 269 Crazy Baller
    "maintain a strong load in the rope long after the ski is no longer loaded." this description right there. Thx.
  • I think of this coaching tip as "initiating the edge change without changing direction, AND not letting go of the handle." A snow slalom skier, before initiating the turn, first shifts all the weight onto the uphill ski, before changing direction. They call it lateral projection.
    In other words, to help me understand, is that your point too?
  • jimskijimski Posts: 622 Crazy Baller
    @AdamCord I'm in
  • BlueSkiBlueSki Posts: 964 Mega Baller
    @AdamCord, I think the potential for confusion that she noted was more in the “up” of standing up than the standing. To pull from your second post, “At the same time I am leaning away from the pylon with my upper body to keep myself in position to hold the centrifugal force. What it feels like from the skier perspective is that I am standing up very straight and tall through the wakes.” Up is relative. Is up relative to the surface of the water, toward the sky, or relative to your ski so that you can “drive your sternum as far from my feet as possible,” or even a combination of both in the way it feels as the skier? This is a minute detail, similar to the use of “hips up” vs. “hips forward,” but she highlighted it. This is great stuff, please keep sharing your thoughts.
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 7,054 Mega Baller
    @Ski4Life723 Actually, I've noticed that the tendency to "unweight the skis" is one thing that can hold back a good snow ski racer who is learning waterski slalom. In fact, that has the potential to be a bit dangerous -- in the most exaggerated form you can lift the ski out of the water and send the tip down and catch it. (I just saw this done last week by a very good snow skier!)

    I'm certainly interested to see how @AdamCord thinks of this. It may help me in coaching said snow skier to run more buoys and do fewer cartwheels.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,524 Administrator

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  • jimskijimski Posts: 622 Crazy Baller
    That picture of Freddie and Steven took almost identical
  • BlueSkiBlueSki Posts: 964 Mega Baller
    @Horton, good pics. Adam mention some top level skiers having their knees compressed when coming off of edge. These really illustrate well the load on the line without load on the ski. I think her point was that some may misinterpret standing up with giving up and a lack of load on the line... semantics. Pictures, even stills, can be very informative.
  • AdamCordAdamCord Posts: 1,061 Open or Level 9 Skier
    @Ski4Life723 I am not sure if there is a correlation there or not with snow skiing. In general I'd say people focus way too much on what they are doing with the ski through this transition, and not enough on what they are doing with their body to stay connected with the rope. Some people lift their knees and "unweight" like what @Than_Bogan mentions, some people are a lot more straight like Lucky Lowe. In my opinion those differences matter a lot less than the connection that allows you to swing around the pylon.

    Something else to consider - Through the back of the boat and off the 2nd wake is usually where the Zero Off is gassing the most. The rope load can actually be even higher at the 2nd wake with ski unloaded than it is at the first wake with the ski banked and loaded as a result, so you better be ready for it!

    @Horton good pics. I'd also like to submit this one as it does a good job of showing what I'm talking about when I say "Point your ski down the lake":

  • WishWish Posts: 8,547 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited October 2019
    This is something Cord and Caldwell were telling us at the Denali summits. It's such a departure from traditional thinking of slalom. But it's such an eye opener when you process skiing in this way. If I see a skier that has enough speed b4 centerline (correct gate is paramount) and they are still struggling/scrapping, even at longer lines and slower speeds, typically I can tell them to try to point their ski at the ball from center line while keeping the line loaded. I say nothing about arm pressure or elbows to vest or stand tall or any of the common suggestions we all hear. This is usually met with disbelief until they run the next pass smooth, with more space, no slack hits, way better timing with the boat and they comment; it's physically easier and feels slower. I hesitate every time I suggest it cause it is so simplistic and if it doesn't work, their disbelief becomes cemented. Fortunately so far it's just been the aha moments and rather dramatic advancement in their skiing. Adam, I was worried about Hortons pics as well cause they make it look like those skiers are pulling to the shore. A few frames later or a diff angle tells a way diff story.
    >>> 11.25..a different kettle of fish. <<<
  • mlangemlange Posts: 250 Baller
    Thinking through this...

    Is counter rotating one way of trying to load the line while you cast out?
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,524 Administrator
    @mlange 100% no

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  • WishWish Posts: 8,547 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited October 2019
    Before GUT was a thing, I always ..always.. thought TW vid was sort of mind bending skiing. Mostly because he was "doing" so much after CL and the line always looked sooo heavily loaded. Obviously this is the compreased style Adam referred to but it's such a great example of a loaded line and no load on the ski off the second wake while being pointed down course. Wish there had been an overhead vid of this as well. At 35 off going into 135 he's actually begun unloading the ski before CL.

    >>> 11.25..a different kettle of fish. <<<
  • bsmithbsmith Posts: 90 Baller
    @AdamCord This is probably obvious, but when you say strive to "point down the lake early" you are talking about after you have achieved sufficient width on the buoy, right?

    I am concerned that the wording of "point your ski down the lake" could be mistaken to mean that right after crossing the CL, it is perfectly fine to let your ski turn in completely downstream parallel to the boat. Of course, that would kill your cross course angle. In all the pictures @Horton posted, those guys are making major efforts to keep their knees pointed cross course which seems like what you want to do.

    In the picture you posted to illustrate "point the ski down the lake", that skier is already well past CL and much further up in the swing than the skiers in the photos that @Horton posted. Correct me if I am wrong, but what I am taking from from your advice is that if we can stay connected and get ideal width early, then we want to let the ski come around early so that it is pointing down the lake just before we round the buoy.
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