Stefano Gross, Best Slalom Run of the Year! A true thing of beauty!
Two seasons ago I featured Stefano Gross in this blog (you can go back and look) as a possible Slalom Globe winner. Why? Because he evolved slalom skiing to the new level. It's not Henrik Kristoffersen, not even Hirscher. Earlier Gross Post!
Why did "Gross" get the nod from me as the guy to watch even 2 years ago? Because his technique is the future for slalom winners. I don't mean slalom skiers, there are many of those, I mean slalom winners.
First and most obvious: Gross has one of the 2 narrowest stances on the World Cup. What does this do for him?
It allows him to be closer to the gate, have less distance to travel, and keep more pressure on the outside ski.
This makes for a much quicker, explosive transition, change of edges, from foot to foot, turn to turn; however, it has its risks. He explodes out of the arc like no one else, which means he must be able to control that energy and momentum. Most of Gross's inconsistency comes from his explosiveness, which he has not always been able to control.
The narrow stance also gives him higher inside ski angles relative to anyone else at certain points of the turn. This allows him to tip the skis faster and earlier because the skis are not so far away from each other. It also keeps his core stronger because he doesn't bend his torso over his skis to set up the arc. This is a stronger, more ergonomic/skeletal body alignment. His narrow stance requires earlier counter balance, so he doesn't fall inside the turn. You will notice Gross rarely steps or lurches to his inside ski before the outside ski is ready to release.
Tactics:Gross has two types of turns: one is for bigger off set and distance between gates where he has time to use and develop early hip-to-the- ground angles. This isn't necessarily hip closer to ground, it's a more acute angle of the inside leg and ski. A wider stance doesn't allow this because the legs stay more bent. With a skier whose feet are farther apart, the transitions require bigger movements, therefore making him later. This leaves little or no time to develop early angles above the gate.
His second technical tactic, is the shorter and quicker round arc. Here he doesn't stretch out his body above the gate, and he doesn't drop inside as far with his hips (because he has less time). Instead he stays more bent with his legs from one side to the other. This is what I call retracting, or flexing out of the arc and staying flexed while tipping the skis and feet to create a new arc. Bend to release and bend to increase your lower body angles.
Gross is also a master counter-actor! He develops more CA into the apex, and holds his hips countered through the release while building pressure through tipping and angle development with his feet and skis.
In this run he is able to pull his feet back to allow his CG to move down the hill before he needed pressure on the skis. This is his biggest problem in his regular races through the season. He gets caught back. This is a matter of timing , and in this run, his timing was perfect. His pressure-loading and feet pull-back with his retraction were perfect.
This run at Kranjska Gora is complete skiing genus! No one skis exactly like this. This is the future of slalom winning, not slalom skiing perhaps.