Five secrets to ski racing

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Ski racer Alice McKennis was aiming for the Sochi Olympics, but a leg injury proved too difficult to overcome. As she continues to rehab, she gives us an insider view about the sport.

The basic concept of ski racing is simple: the fastest person down the course wins. There are no judges and you don't get points for style or looks. Only the clock matters. To a casual observer, ski racing might seem as simple as that -- just go faster than everyone else -- but there is more to it than you might know. In order to go fast you need the right set of skills and equipment, and these things don't come easily. Here are the top five things an ski racer needs that you might not know about.

1. Inspection of the course is crucial

As racers inspect the course before the race they are looking at several key aspects with their coaches: set of the course, terrain of the hill and snow conditions. The racer will formulate a game plan with coaches on which line to ski. It can take over an hour for a racer to inspect a Downhill or Super-G course that they will ski down in less than two minutes. Every detail of the course can either "make time" or "lose time" and knowing these details is crucial to going fast.

2. Course reports

When a racer is preparing for his or her run at the start of the race they are in continual radio contact with their coaches on course. By watching other racers and forerunners the coaches can get a "read" of the course and update the racer in the start of any changing snow conditions, adjustments they might need to make on their race line and speeds of the course. Making these adjustments and being ready for changing snow conditions and speed in the start can be the difference between a win and a loss.

3. Each "set up" of the racers combination of ski and ski boot is unique

You might see a lot of racers on the same brand of skis and boots but what you don't know is that how the boots and skis are prepared is individual to each racer. It takes time and experience for each racer to find how they want their boots canted and angled and how they want their skis shaped and tuned. It can be the smallest degree of boot angle or edge angle and make huge difference so the right "set up" is key and no two athletes are the same in their set ups.

4. Massive amounts of equipment

A racer that competes in all four disciplines will have upwards of 35 pairs of skis and two to five pairs of ski boots that they travel with all season. Not to mention the skis and boots that were tested initially in the summer training season that didn't make the cut. By the time the race season starts the racer will have narrowed it down to a specific pair of skis that they will race on in each discipline. The rest of the skis will be used for training and as back up race skis.

5. Material of the racers suits

Even though the material of each racers suit must pass FIS regulation that allows a certain amount of air to pass through the suit, every nation uses a different material that they have developed. The material could be ribbed, smooth, feel like fish scales, even be mesh looking. These materials are close-kept secrets to each nation and every nation is in constant search of a new material that might give them an edge. Hundredths of a second matter in ski racing and a fast suit can make the difference to if a racer is going to be on the top or bottom step of the podium.