As promised previously I am going to take a look at tactics for the ski school race. This is the race which many ski schools (including ours) hold at the end of a week's lessons. The course (here at least) consists of around ten gates (poles) set at around 12 metre intervals as a slalom course. The poles are spring loaded so they will bounce back when you hit them.
The advice here is aimed at beginner and intermediate skiers based on the commonest mistakes I have observed. Seasoned ski racers will have a much more technical approach than this.
The key to getting a good time is starting well to gain speed, then maintaining that speed until the bottom of the course.
To get a good start, be ready for the signal. In a World Cup ski race, the racer has a ten second window during which they can leave the start gate at any time. In a typical ski school race the timing is not that sophisticated, and relies on stopwatches. When you get the signal to start, push once with you poles, then skate (push off one ski and glide on the other) to get up to speed.
To maintain your speed, the most important factor is the line you take. Make smooth curves as a sudden change of direction will cost you speed. Beginning with the first gate, take a high line so you are above the gate and can turn down towards it. Your aim is to be half-way through the turn when you reach the gate. The pink line in the diagram shows a skier heading straight for the first gate and beginning their turn when they reach it. They then have to fight to get to the next gate and are late for each turn all the way down. The green line shows a good line where the skier turns early and carries their speed down the course.
The final point where people often lose time is the finish. As you approach the finish line you can stop turning and go straight for the line. Often, as you approach the last gate before the finish it will be possible to see a straight line for the finish. If this is the case, point your skis that way and go.
Obviously there can be only one winner, but if you follow the advice here you have that much more chance of going home with the coveted medal.