ATS Technique and Tactics - Phase 3

Phase 3 skiers are in the optimal window to hone their fundamental skiing skills. This may be the most important developmental phase of a ski racer.  The habits learned in this phase will tend to stick with the skier for years to come. Skiers that come out of this phase should be versatile, working on fundamentals in a variety of situations, terrain and snow conditions. Skiers in this phase should strive to be the queen or king of the mountain before they are queen or king of the race course. When they do run gates, it is often bringing the drills into the courses. Skiing exercises should emphasize agility, balance and coordination. For motor learning to take place, skiers must first demonstrate they can perform the skill and then continue to execute it as the task gets more difficult.  A skier in phase 3 is laying down their foundation for future ski racing success and enjoyment!

Phase 3 skiers should spend time working on:

  • Linking carved turns in a variety of terrain and snow conditions
  • Using proper gate clearing skills for slalom without disrupting carving or turn shape
  • Refining edging and carving skills
  • Pressuring the skis independently
  • Using both single and double pole plants consistently
  • Making a variety of turn shapes in freeskiing and drill courses

The SkillsQuest Skiing Assessment exercises for phase 3 skiers are:

Score sheets for Phase 3 exercises (print double-sided). With evaluation of these four exercises, skiers can identify strengths and weaknesses in their pressure, edging, rotary and balance skills. Skiers should strive for perfect execution of these tasks.

Key Competencies


  • Can ski challenging runs in a variety of conditions in balance.
  • Lower body movements are independent of upper body.
  • Can ski on one ski.
  • Experiments with fore/aft pressure.
  • Can move into and out of an aerodynamic position.
  • Has a consistent pole plant.


  • Pressure can be adjusted in the turn to alter turn shape.
  • Adjusts tactics for terrain changes and gate placement.
  • Turn shape is not disrupted by body position at the gate.

SkillsQuest Rewards

Here are some ideas for skiing goals phase 3 ski racers can set and earn rewards for achievement:

  • Pole plants – I am proficient at single and double pole plants
  • Gliding turns – I can make linked, carved long-radius turns moving in and out of a tuck position
  • Four edges – I can carve using all four of my edges (can turn on inside and outside ski)
  • One ski challenge – I can ski on one ski in a variety of terrain
  • Carver – I can carve super G, GS and slalom sized turns on moderate terrain
  • No poles – I can run a GS course at speed without poles, holding my hands in front, or crossed over my chest, or behind my back
  • Flight school – I have learned the fundamentals of approach, takeoff, flight and landing for jumping

There are many more, make your own!

Course Setting Recommendations

Course setting should progressively challenge the ski racer's technique. Variety is essential. For motor learning to take place, skiers must first demonstrate they can perform the skill and then continue to try to execute it as the task gets more difficult. Course sets are one way to make the technical task more difficult. Training course progressions can go from rhythmic to a-rhythmic, flat to steep, open to tight, or vice versa. Kombi is a great event for this phase because it requires versatility and a variety of turn shapes. Recommended disciplines include slalom, GS, Kombi, duals, obstacle courses, and an introduction to speed and terrain elements through children's super G.


Progress from brushes to stubbies, then incorporate children's flex poles (60" pole height and 27mm diameter). All three types of gates are used regularly in this phase throughout the season. Frequently set courses with stubbies or brushes next to courses with gates so athletes can move back and forth as they learn proper gate clearing technique. Poor habits must be addressed right away, but coaches also must not shy away from teaching clearing in this phase before the growth spurt. Short courses are helpful, rather than setting one 30-40 gate training course, split the hill into 2-4 shorter sections to focus on a specific task. Course sets are generally between 6-10m in open gate sections and 4-5.5m in combinations, though coaches should also expose skiers to sets outside this range in both directions on occasion. Variety in turn shapes and distances is encouraged, but transitions should be easy to see and remember at this phase. 

Giant Slalom

Typical course sets are between 17-24m between turns, using the full range. Variety should be used in a progressive manner, exposing skiers to a variety of turn shapes. Courses should challenge the technical skills of the skier but not the tactical skills at this phase. Make changes in rhythm clear, but make sure there are changes in rhythm!


Use Kombi frequently to improve the versatility and adaptability of your skiers. Courses should use the entire slope, with sections alternating between disciplines every 3-6 gates.

Super G

Children's super G should be focused on learning basic jumping and gliding skills and must be appropriate for skiers on GS skis. Sets are basic and control the skier's speed. Jumps are encouraged, but should go with the flow of the course and direction of the turns to that the skier can be in a balanced position at the lip of the jump. Flight is minimal. Recommended distances are between 22-35m.

Download this document for more detailed course setting recommendations.


Ligety Talks Skills

When did Ted Ligety start training a lot of gates? Check out this clip.


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