Q&A: Slalom ace Ted Ligety on ski design and key to his successTed Ligety is the best slalom skier in the country right now, and one of the best in the world. The 2004 Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year has been blazing the World Cup this season, keeping Giorgio Rocca and Benni Raich on their toes. Ski Racing’s senior editor Nathaniel Vinton caught up with Ligety this week to cut straight to the insider stuff that American junior and masters racers want to know about.
Ski Racing: What is the secret to your slalom success?
Ted Ligety: The key to being fast is having the most pressure in the fall line and the least out of the fall line, so that’s pretty much what I work on constantly — trying to eliminate all pressure out of the fall line. At the bottom of the turn you just want to have nothing there.
SR: Then what?
TL: As soon as I hit the gate, I’m off the downhill ski and onto the new ski. That’s what I do. On flats it’s super easy. I just kick my ski out right as I go by the gate and there’s nothing. It allows you to get that new pressure.
SR: Some of the pictures of you this season show you with huge edge angle.
TL: I ski with pretty low edge angle too. When you’re able to create that much pressure at the top of your turn, and minimize your edge angle coming into the gate, that way it’s just faster and it lets you run it out better. You definitely get more of a platform to push off. Of course there’s limitations to how far you can take that, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near what we can do. Skis are continually getting better. Constructions are getting better so there’s more and more grip. Course preparation is getting better as well. The better the course and the better skis that you have, the more you can push that.
SR: Speaking of constructions, you’re one of Volkl’s top dogs now.
TL:My skis right now. Volkls bend a lot right in front of the toe. That’s something I want to work with them more on, so it’s a more even flex. These grip on ice better than any company, for the most part. There’s not a lot to change there. You can just tinker with little stuff to make it better, for sure. Such small stuff makes a difference.
SR: How about tuning?
TL: I like my edge super thin. When the ski’s thinner it’s easier to roll up on the edge at the top of the turn. With the new skis I’m having them design it’s thinner the whole way down. It’s almost like an ice skate. On an ice skate it’s easy to roll your ankle. When you have a bigger platform it takes a lot more leverage to get it rolled back over. I’m talking about the exact same radius, but a skinnier ski the whole way. Then the sidecut flares out up here at the top a little bit. I want to eliminate that because when you’re crossing the fall line that’ll hook up and pull the ski across too. If you look at these, the edge is super thin. Just that small amount you can definitely feel it’s easier to come in. When the ski’s brand new, it’s really grabby, hard to slide the top cleanly.