Depth of grassroots participation

To give an idea of the 'grassroots' participation level here in USA

NASTAR - last year had about 91500 participants. Not huge on a percentage of population basis - but a decent sized base to draw from when you add in other forms of introductory racing.

Remember there are also schools, beer leagues, town races, masters, etc running all the time...
 

sly_karma

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And yet it's damn near dead here in interior BC. Haven't seen a NASTAR course in ages, and we used to set them all the time in the 80s/90s. All the kids are in the trauma parks or building a kicker somewhere. Hmmm, look at the medal counts and WC podiums of late... the US is onto something here!
 
Sly - yeah there is a need for grassroots level participation to give you a decent pool of athletes to select from... Even 'small' countries like a lot of the European countries have a good level of junior participation in ski racing.

Having said that I have heard of a bunch of places that no longer run NASTAR - and many of the resorts are far more into selling property or otherwise milking customers than promoting the sport. The place +1 ran race program at for years used to dominate the area in ski racing and had a large active race program that produced racers for academies, FIS, WC and OLympic racers, and a bunch of coaches as well. The resort then tried to 'make lots of money' from the program (instead of a reasonable amount) by incorporating it into the ski school system - and promptly killed the whole thing. One of his ex racers is now trying to get it all back together but it could be a struggle.

I wish someone with some smarts would work out how to 'standardise' a little better - there are some doozies with the handicapping of pacesetters around here this year. However we all now know which pacesetters these are and everyone we know is just ranking themselves as a percentage of the better standard racers who have a pretty consistent handicap normally but are all over the show with these pacesetters.
 

Angus_McCrory

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When was the last time a NASTAR course was set in Australia; probably back in the 1980's? I know that some Clubs (eg SCV at Buller, SAC at Thredbo) take their racing seriously and hold regular events for club members, but if you are not a member of the club, tough cheese. I love running gates, but to get my fill I travel to Buller each year for the Team Challenge (a long drive for 2 runs down LBS) or hope the standard race doesn't get cancelled when I'm at Charlottes.

IMO the ski schools should be pushing it and include running gates in most all lessons rather than just conga lining punters around the mountains. It would be good business practice; when people get a taste of running gates. they will come back for more lessons as they want to improve their technique and times. And surely a NASTAR style GS course is cheaper to set up than the parks and half pipes the jibbers get.

Do this and the grassroots level will build.
 
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Taxman said:
When was the last time a NASTAR course was set in Australia; probably back in the 1980's? I know that some Clubs (eg SCV at Buller, SAC at Thredbo) take their racing seriously and hold regular events for club members, but if you are not a member of the club, tough cheese. I love running gates, but to get my fill I travel to Buller each year for the Team Challenge (a long drive for 2 runs down LBS) or hope the standard race doesn't get cancelled when I'm at Charlottes.

IMO the ski schools should be pushing it and include running gates in most all lessons rather than just conga lining punters around the mountains. It would be good business practice; when people get a taste of running gates. they will come back for more lessons as they want to improve their technique and times. And surely a NASTAR style GS course is cheaper to set up than the parks and half pipes the jibbers get.

Do this and the grassroots level will build.
thumbsup.gif


It is easy to make fast turns where you want... a lot harder to make clean fast turns where you need to...

Getting some idea of how well they actually ski would give folks something to aim for with improvement, and you don't need a huge hill for it - Kissing Bridge has 550feet of vertical and has produced racers such as Erik Schlopy.

We've introduced people to NASTAR who would never have raced except we said 'Oh we just need to do one run down this course on the way past' One kid who was dead keen on jumping became totally addicted - we had to drag him away... and he was back the next day...

Setting up some sort of video +/or feedback at a bargain price would quickly get folks looking for more intensive training...
 
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Red_switch

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Maybe. Maybe things change.

A more exciting way to learn about putting clean turns in, in the right place, is ofcourse to ski big-mountain.
 
Tele - not bad... the handicapping system was based on the French system to allow instructors to be compared across the country...

They have thousands turn up for the NAtionals each year - drawn from the top 3 at each resort, and lots that make it never travel due to the cost.
I think they also have some local area races out east and mid-west to make something easier to get to for those folks.

The best thing is a 4-5 year old can snowplow down the course and still get his bronze/silver/gold because the other kids his age all snowplow as well... and there are plenty of 70 year olds that race at Breck - so I guess the older groups are still represented as well... It is so much fun to watch a tiny kid racing grandma down the course!

This is the huge advantage - anyone can do it! No need for special gear, joining a club, huge dollars etc. You can just run the course and race to get a better handicap each time you run. As it should be standardised changes in handicap should reflect how you are skiing the course. (Always ups and downs but over time this holds pretty well)
 

sly_karma

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Red_switch said:
Maybe. Maybe things change.

A more exciting way to learn about putting clean turns in, in the right place, is ofcourse to ski big-mountain.

What a jackass thing to say. How does this relates to most people's skiing reality?
 
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Flakey

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From the alpine racing funds thread:

Flakey said:
climberman said:
Little Tiger said:
I was simply supporting Dr Ducks comment that resorts restrict access because they want to hang onto the cash cow... and that they charge premium rates for that access...
This is a bit of it IMO. If kids could see how they like racing by throwing two bucks in a timing machine at the gates they could get a feel for it, race their mates, or a group could do it with lunch four times a year... like other grass roots sports.

Saying that it's all beer and skittles to have to join a race club, have exclusive access to race areas, have to have a coach.... drives exclusivity and narrows the pool of potential initial entrants.
And that is precisely why Hotham set up a public race course on the Summit this last season, for dual races - ie two at a time with their own individual sets of gates, one red, one blue. It was a SL type arrangement with GS gates (for safety reasons), and two jumps to add a bit of a skier-X feel to it. They had timing devices with a gate at the start, and a finish booth with display, and staff managing it on some days, on others it was free-racing without official timing. It was hugely popular and it was FREE for everyone.
 
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Yardsale

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About 6 or 7 years ago there was a NASTAR race course at Hotham and Falls. I think you paid $5 and got 2 runs and your times where SMSd to you. I don't know how many people took up the offer.

Flakey's post above illustrates that it can work. There was a constant queue for the race course, and it didn't require anything more than an area closed off.

In between towers and highway 83 at falls they just used to leave GS gates in. There was always a queue for that too. For some reason though, I have only seen publicly available race courses on the flatter sections of the hill. It probably has a bit to do with rut formation and how hard you could hit the gates. But when you think about it, the danger is probably about the same as some one smashing their head on the lip of a half pipe.
 

Hobber

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Is the course at Thredders off the side of Crackenback under Snowgums open to the public for free?
 

Hobber

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I was just reading up on it on wikipedia and came across this phrase...

Various allowances are then made for age group, gender, disability if any, snowboarders, etc

laugh.gif
 
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Angus_McCrory

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Hobber said:
Is the course at Thredders off the side of Crackenback under Snowgums open to the public for free?

No, for ski school, team and organised club races.
 
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Hobber

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I was second only to an instructor
tongue.gif


Unfortunately they were going for consistency not raw speed.
frown.gif
 
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Angus_McCrory

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Our group has 4 x 50yo + guys and a 30 something dude from the SAS. Needless to say the SAS guy won out due to athleticism.
 
Yardsale said:
About 6 or 7 years ago there was a NASTAR race course at Hotham and Falls. I think you paid $5 and got 2 runs and your times where SMSd to you. I don't know how many people took up the offer.

Flakey's post above illustrates that it can work. There was a constant queue for the race course, and it didn't require anything more than an area closed off.

In between towers and highway 83 at falls they just used to leave GS gates in. There was always a queue for that too. For some reason though, I have only seen publicly available race courses on the flatter sections of the hill. It probably has a bit to do with rut formation and how hard you could hit the gates. But when you think about it, the danger is probably about the same as some one smashing their head on the lip of a half pipe.

Yardy - but all NASTAR races are logged in the NASTAR computer system. No need for SMSing times. By definition they need to have the handicaps calculated back to the NASTAR par times to be NASTAR(NAtional STAndard Race. ) The whole premise of NASTAR is the handicapping system to standardise results.(As well as they can - we have a problem this year with a pacesetter who had bad pacesetting trials and is costing everyone a lot of points)
 
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Taxman said:
Our group has 4 x 50yo + guys and a 30 something dude from the SAS. Needless to say the SAS guy won out due to athleticism.

That is why they have age groups. There are some great 70 year olds racing - but realistically most of them won't beat a 20-30 year old. If medals depended only on handicap only young folks would get them.
 
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Hobber

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Thanks LT - I was laughing at the placement of snowboarders after 'disability if any'... having both feet across the plank is a bit awkward, but disability....
smile.gif


I read some of the NASTAR site yesterday - it certainly sounds like a great program. My question is how much space mustbe dedicated to the run? I reckon you could do it on the Supertrail at Thredbo, not sure where else it could go on other mountains where you would be able to get good cover for the season and no impede traffic flow too much...
 
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I would think the setting and taking down of gates and fences plus staff for timing would be the biggest costs/issues... Most places are charging about $12-15 for all day and around $6-8 for a run... I'd say they take in $300-500 a day. They need a pacesetter and course-setter from race dept. Timing does not need the same level of expertise.

I think they could run it of they could get pacesetters standardised. Alternatively Oz/NZ resorts could run something similar of their own.
 

Flakey

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I realise your intentions in discussing the potential for NASTAR in Australia are good, LT, but I just want to point out the reality of what racing in Australia is facing.

I speak specifically about Hotham.

In 2010 the only races to proceed were:
1) Spring Cup which is a fun, easy, and very short GS race down under the lower half of the Road Runner chair beside Sun Run – run in sloppy late Spring slush – in fancy dress costume. It is open to the public with race entry form and payment;
2) MHRS club championships GS race on Snake – ie a short, non-FIS regulation course – run in Spring snow, early morning, so the course could be removed and the run opened ASAP for public – again in fancy dress costume;
3) a fun day of MHRS club races including a dual SL with stubbies and a dual GS gated SL with a 1.5m drop held on the Australia Drift for a short period in late Spring – this is designed for the children (aged 6 and up) to compete against their parents – emphasis is on "fun".

None of these is a "serious" race. The snow conditions – Spring soft-to-slush – do not allow for anything remotely serious. They are run at times when the number of skiers at the resort are at a minimum. They provide lots of fun for participants and team building. Also the Spring Cup offers the public the chance to participate in an easy, fun race.

What happened to the "serious" races in 2010?

1) Victorian Championships in late July, which include significant FIS races were cancelled
2) Australian Masters Championships, which includes the only Super G race in Victoria, in late August were cancelled
and most significantly
3) ANC (Australia New Zealand Cup) which are the most significant FIS races in the country in late August were cancelled

The only "serious" races to proceed were the Skier-X ANC races.

Then, when the ANC races were canceled, and the Austrian, Slovakian and USA teams had already arrived (other international teams chose to cancel), the replacement races were held mainly in NZ, with one at Thredbo. Buller tried to organise replacement races but was unable to assist. For the teams who were already here, plus the Australian FIS racers, Hotham offered them training space each morning from 6am - 9.30am. This was to ensure the runs were available for the public.

Throughout the season at times they had the Skier-X course open to the public and also set up a short dual SL course with GS gates (as mentioned in my and Yardsale's posts above) and on certain days also timing devices. Note the latter was in Spring and at the top of the Summit.

So quite seriously, if Hotham canceled it's 3 main races, which attract skiers from all over the country, and the ANC from all around the world, then how on earth do you seriously think they are going to introduce NASTAR? Nice idea, yes, but how on earth?
 

Yardsale

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Little Tiger said:
Yardy - but all NASTAR races are logged in the NASTAR computer system. No need for SMSing times.

Just saying the way it was run here a couple of years back. I don't know whether it was even legit Nastar or what it was - but they had it named that way.

BTW, just having a bit of a dig around. It's not like we don't have enough racers already on the hill. Many of the race club websites I visited in the last 10 minutes who memberships of around 200 athletes... which is about the same as what we have here (and on a par with most decent healthy sporting clubs).
 
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Red_switch

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sly_karma said:
Red_switch said:
Maybe. Maybe things change.

A more exciting way to learn about putting clean turns in, in the right place, is ofcourse to ski big-mountain.

What a jackass thing to say. How does this relates to most people's skiing reality?

It was deliberately facetious.

How does racing equate to most peoples skiing reality? Ofcourse it varies by location, in NZ it hardly figures. Even in areas where race participation is high, is that because people are more interested in racing? Or because more people ski?
 
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sly_karma

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OK, I guess I didn't have my humour detector switched on. I get that a lot online, a risk of this medium I suppose.

Few people can go out and rip big mountains, but you can plug in gates almost anywhere. I do agree there's a lot more to skill development though.
 

Flakey

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sly_karma said:
... you can plug in gates almost anywhere...
Though that was one of the issues that stopped our athletes from training gates for considerable time at Hotham last year. The snow was there, but not deep enough for gates to be fully screwed in until well into the season.
 
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Yardsale

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Red_switch said:
How does racing equate to most peoples skiing reality?

I think this is a really good question. What is most people's skiing reality?
Is there an opening for higher level training for adults (for kids it is already there). What is the path to that and how is that path executed?

The only path a I can see promoted at the moment is private lessons, once you get good enough.
 
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Angus_McCrory

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Most skiers and boarders reach a level of competency often referred to as terminal intermediate. The progression past this point required time on snow and coaching rather than lessons (even private). At this point, they have the basic skills, but need the bad habits drilled out and the good habits instilled. The part that running gates or even racing plays in further development is that it is a technical focus that doesn’t lie about the outcomes i.e. get it right and you will make the run and improve your times. And it builds skills or takes them to a higher level (especially balance/centring, edge control, upper/lower body separation), that can be taken all over the mountain.

I’m sure most people who look at racing think that it is boring. But they should give it a try. It’s very addictive; and if they are honest with their appraisal of their performance, they will find that they have much to learn.
 
Taxman said:
Most skiers and boarders reach a level of competency often referred to as terminal intermediate. The progression past this point required time on snow and coaching rather than lessons (even private). At this point, they have the basic skills, but need the bad habits drilled out and the good habits instilled. The part that running gates or even racing plays in further development is that it is a technical focus that doesn’t lie about the outcomes i.e. get it right and you will make the run and improve your times. And it builds skills or takes them to a higher level (especially balance/centring, edge control, upper/lower body separation), that can be taken all over the mountain.

I’m sure most people who look at racing think that it is boring. But they should give it a try. It’s very addictive; and if they are honest with their appraisal of their performance, they will find that they have much to learn.
thumbsup.gif
Exactly!

but... if you take lessons to get to intermediate level then you can arrive with no bad habits to remove - just better habits to add... and skills to perfect to above basic level... and then some more and some more and some more...

and you're right - it is extremely addictive... because each small increment in technical skill shows up as a decent improvement in the course... My handicaps have only dropped slightly the last couple of years - but getting that handicap got much harder due to course sets, and now pace setter handicaps... I can see the change relative to other skiers handicaps just in case I'm not sure if it is in my head that it is harder...
 
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FastMan

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Racing can put a big reality sticker on the forehead of self deluded greatness quite quickly.
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Over here, NASTAR is a great venue for people to give racing a go, test their skills, and have a real time means of measuring improvement. Participation is huge, and some people really get hooked on it.
 
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Yardsale

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How do you arrive at being an intermediate without having bad habits to correct? By definition being an intermediate means you're not "there" yet.

My question is, what is there for the person that has arrived at the terminal intermediate stage? The terminal intermediate stage is not going to want to slide straight into a racing situation.

As Taxman has said, they require coaching or private lessons. If you look at every other sport on the planet you go from high attention, short duration lessons -> though to lower attention, long duration lessons.

You can see this in other past times:-
* Swimming: lessons of 5 early on to squads to squads of 50.
* Gym work: program starts 1 on 1 to guidance
* Music: one on one lessons to playing in a band

In each instance you get feedback.

But in skiing for some reason we go:-
* Lessons of 5 early on... to private lessons later? (Lets face it, if you go for a class one group lesson, you get a 1 hour private)

If you were a good skier, you'd be asking yourself... where can I go and join a group that wants to improve and train toegther like a team. To your average punter it seems not to be there.
 

Angus_McCrory

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Terminal intermediate = no further progression

From my own experience, the occasional private lesson is not of much value. This is where coaching works and it fits in the above model of "lower attention, longer duration" For example, you will be working on some sort of drill and the coach will make an observation that although small, has a significant outcome.

Unfortunately I think most ski school teaching is flawed once it gets past the intermediate level as the instructors are not used to closely looking at each student and providing feedback on the small things that make a big difference. That is where coaching comes in.

One of the best experiences I have had was an afternoon spent free-skiing with some members of the Squaw Valley race team and one of their coaches. The feedback that the coach was giving was very insightful. And where would you get that level of coaching on a regular basis, on the race course.
 

CarveMan

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Taxman said:
Unfortunately I think most ski school teaching is flawed once it gets past the intermediate level as the instructors are not used to closely looking at each student and providing feedback on the small things that make a big difference. That is where coaching comes in.

You just need to find the right instructor.
 
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Flakey

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Surely when we're talking grassroots participation in racing we're talking about children in race clubs and interschools in Australia. I don't consider adult ski racing to be grassroots, as Masters racing is an end to itself.

Regarding Yardsale's question. I feel the pathway to take an adult skier from intermediate/advanced (or a very young skier from intermediate) is through private lessons. This is coincidentally the path that is promoted (as per Yardy's question) by the resorts' ski schools.

At a certain point however, if a skier (young or older) is demonstrating a desire for accelerated development then race training appears to be the suggestion. This alternative is quite different to regular ski instruction. The skills and goals are very much in tune with the task of navigating the course at the maximum speed. This is gained through specific efficient technique and skill development. It's not about elegantly and effectively skiing piste or off-piste snow as per a regular ski instructor's focus.

An instructor with a racing background, or with coaching experience may be able to impart racing technique and skills to a private student or private group booking, though they will be unlikely to have access to gates in Australia for this. So there is only so much that can be achieved this way.

The solution is to join a racing club at a mountain. This way the skier has a dedicated coach for the duration of the season, week-in-week-out, and a carefully planned framework of skill development and gate training is formulated to match that need. It is group-based training.

It's a framework that is catered for in dual stages at MHRS. An adult who wishes to develop skills at a high level and is curious about racing is encouraged to enrol in Mountain Masters. This is a program run on Saturday mornings for approx 1/3 the season. The groups free ski, work on technique and also experience a small amount of gate training to get a feel for it. Regular ski equipment is used for Mountain Masters. It is a hugely popular program.

If the skier is motivated and has the skills to take this to the next level of dedicated race training then the Race Masters program is available. Training is all day Saturday and Sunday for most of the season, plus additional weekdays. The expectation is that you will participate in races. There are drills and free skiing sessions for skills development, and frequent gate training. This includes both SL and GS, and these require dedicated equipment (FIS length skis for both, and for SL you require shin guards, wrist guards, chin guard, etc). It is a serious financial and time commitment.

I agree with the above posters that placing someone in gates is a sure way to test their true skill – and it is a great pathway to humility. However, I do not think the pathway for improvement is simply to tackle race courses. If anything, SL courses are pretty much a guaranteed pathway to injury! This is why interschools, NASTAR, etc, are GS based events. But for a racer SL is the greatest focus for skills development as it's the most technical of all alpine events. At this level of skill development two things are critical to move to the next level – a great coach (ie race coach) and hours on snow (hours and hours and hours).
 

Angus_McCrory

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I've got a far better chance of finding a good instructor, but most skiers have no idea that they nee and get served up crap. So is it no wonder that once they get to intermediate level they give up on lessons?

But getting back on topic; this is where I believe that racing and race training helps as it gives both the skier and the instructor focus.
 

Angus_McCrory

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Flakey, a 2 edged sword. You will not get children interested in racing (your definition of grassroots) unless the parents are interested. So a broader pathway for adult skier also need to be found eg NASTAR, not just the highly focused race clubs.
 

Flakey

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CarveMan said:
Taxman said:
Unfortunately I think most ski school teaching is flawed once it gets past the intermediate level as the instructors are not used to closely looking at each student and providing feedback on the small things that make a big difference. That is where coaching comes in.
You just need to find the right instructor.
I find myself agreeing with both of you. For the most part I feel instructors lack the teaching skill at that point (perhaps as their clientele are few and far between?); however the uber instructors are quite a different case. My race coach also spends time as an instructor, both at Hotham and Vermont ... and he is the greatest coach I have ever had. As an instructor he would be brilliant ... he has the ability to address each person in a group individually to convey an identical technique as he is a great 'teacher'. He also trains instructors for their level 3 ... he 'teaches the teacher'.
 
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Flakey

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Taxman said:
Flakey, a 2 edged sword. You will not get children interested in racing (your definition of grassroots) unless the parents are interested. So a broader pathway for adult skier also need to be found eg NASTAR, not just the highly focused race clubs.
I was answering Yardsale's question:

"Is there an opening for higher level training for adults (for kids it is already there). What is the path to that and how is that path executed? The only path a I can see promoted at the moment is private lessons, once you get good enough. "

NASTAR, from my understanding is a GS course that the public can race down, and get timed. Now that's great - I would welcome these courses here if we had the infrastructure (ie read this as 'available runs at resorts in addition to race training courses' which are considerably more complex and longer). But I do not see them as a skill development program ... for that you go to a coach.

BTW I beg to differ on the 'only kids with parents interested in ski racing go on to race' argument. There are definite exceptions to that rule. One of the young FIS racers from MHRS has parents who do not even remotely share his interest in skiing or the snow, however they support his desire to race. His passion began with a state school trip to the snow.
 
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CarveMan said:
Taxman said:
Unfortunately I think most ski school teaching is flawed once it gets past the intermediate level as the instructors are not used to closely looking at each student and providing feedback on the small things that make a big difference. That is where coaching comes in.

You just need to find the right instructor.

thumbsup.gif


I lucked it somehow - got Franno at Falls Creek... did very well at Thredbo too...

Although there was that joke about me having the instructors who trashed the pacesetters in ski instructor certification races but kept just failing the final exams... Race dept can be cruel!
wink.gif
 
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Taxman said:
Flakey, a 2 edged sword. You will not get children interested in racing (your definition of grassroots) unless the parents are interested. So a broader pathway for adult skier also need to be found eg NASTAR, not just the highly focused race clubs.

Does happen - but less common... (+1 is an example - I don't think his Dad ever skied)

There are families here where the family all top NASTAR (and often Masters and Junior) rankings... Very very common to find the whole family racing and training all the time... Like I said - nothing like seeing Grandma/Grandpa racing the grandkids! Generations of racers are
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Oh and Taxman - as you know Thredbo almost always has the Ski School Race course set... If you wish to have a racing lesson just get the girls to put it in the lesson computer when you book... at least when I was there that was all you needed to do... You can use the course in any lesson - but requesting racing lesson will get them to look at the request... I guess you know how to get the race coach guys! Failing that I've found most of the Staatliche pretty good - because they need to be to get into the Staatliche course to start with - Eurotest requirements keep most euroblock folks honest too
 
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