If you are a racer, your coach must have reminded you time and again – “fundamentals first.” But sometimes you just prefer not hearing it. You are already the best skier on your home mountain and one of the best skiers on the race course. You enjoy lightning speed and the cheering sound while you pass one gate after another. Why bother doing the boring drills of BERP (balance, edging, rotation, and pressure)? Moreover, improving fundamentals for a racer is not easy. When you are used to a style or habit of skiing, change could make you perform worse, at least in the first few weeks or months. You cannot wait for that long, so you just keep going … until you hit the point of crashing more than stronger competitors and finding yourself farther away from the podium at a higher level.
Now let’s face the truth: World Cup racers typically start their day with drills and they may spend hours or days on drills to fix one minor problem. World Cuppers with strong fundamentals have more consistent results and fewer injuries. For example, Mikaela Shiffrin (“Mikki”) is one of the finest skiers; her record as well as her skiing tell the importance of fundamentals. Sometimes it appeared that she skied slowly but then you found she beat the runner-up by two seconds. When good fundamentals dial in, she simply doesn’t need unnecessarily aggressive moves to win.
That said, even for near-perfect skiers like Mikki, mistakes happen. See below for her DNF at Altenmarkt in January, 2020. Other than icy/bumpy snow, did you spot any problem in her fundamentals?
Another illustration is Reilly McGlashan’s “Mikaela Shiffrin vs Wendy Holdener” comparison. His astute comment on Wendy’s asymmetric turn problem shows what Wendy needs to be a stronger competitor of Mikki. Wendy probably has already known this, but why did she not change? The reason most likely is simple – it is hard and needs intensive fundamental exercises. Wendy may even perform worse once she is out of her comfort zone. This is a choice many aspiring racers must make. Short-term points or long-term dominance?