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Helping Hands

By Gary Dranow
Originally posted on the Nastar Forum, October 2003

Not too long ago I was viewing overlaid Video's of Harold Deblanc, one of PC's fastest Masters and winner of the 40 - 44 Expert National Division. We were watching his run overlaid against the winner of the Master's National Championship held in Park City this last March. We watched both the GS runs and Slalom runs. Harold was only out by tenth's of a second on each run and for most of each run they were exactly superimposed over each other. Where the winner got his advantage, as slight as it was, at any gate, there was only one thing the was obvious. The difference between Harold’s hands and the winner's hands.

Harold had a tendency to momentarily allow his outside hand in the turn to drop down and back after he cleared the gate. It was slight, not an obvious motion, but when he did he was fractionally slower off his skis to the new turn, especially in slalom in hairpins.

We also watched Bode and Mike von Grünigen. Though there is more going on with the stance or body position between those two, and not at issue in this article, both racers had near flawless hand movement with von Grünigen actually having superior hand and arm movement discipline. Where he would move ahead of Bode in the montage, his hands were more symmetrical in the motion, higher and reaching forward earlier in the turn, but a definite purposefulness in the motion and an economy of motion that enhanced his balance.

Think of your hands with your poles as extensions like the pole the high wire walker uses to maintain balance. The slightest movement up or down will affect your laterally balance, any movement back by either wing will throw you back to hour heels.

If you ever get the chance to watch the overlaid videos (runs) of the world cup masters or pay to get this for your self if available at races you go to, it is well worth the viewing.

Disciplined hands are the key to exiting your turns in balance, keeping your momentum going forward and downhill as well as getting off your skis early, which is the key to high lines and fast times.

With the advent of two carving skis your balance is so much more critical than in the old days of the outside ski turn that your hands play a much bigger role in your success in making a clean turn.

Disciplined hands by no means are static hands. Disciplined hands are an integral part of your total fluid motion from the start through the finish and to the beginning of every turn. If you aren't going to make an actual pole plant keep in mind a "Phantom" pole plant will serve a very similar purpose (timing, balance and projecting the CMG where you want it to).

If you do not have a coach to help you with hand movement and positioning, watch the world cup races and especially the slo-mo replays of the men and the women. You'll see it and soon be become aware of your hands in the context of your own racing.

Good Luck - Go fast - Go for the Gold