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Race Improvement Tables Introduction

  • In the high school tables, the best racers do not necessarily improve the most or improve at all.
  • When I first started to use these improvement tables, the data disappointed a few of my best racers. One thing that I heard was "It's harder for me to improve because I'm better." However, The data shows no evidence for a diminishing returns notion that it is harder to improve the better you are. The actual data showed that only some of the best skiers in the high school tables lacked improvement. Some of the best racers showed significant improvement and some showed consistent improvement. I believe that the diminishing returns belief is generally just an excuse. If this notion were true, we would see it born out in the World Cup data: the best in the world would tend to show less improvement over those lower down. However, we see the actual data does not support a diminishing returns hypothesis. In fact, we see something very different.
  • On the World Cup level, the best of the best racers continue to improve to stay on top. 
  • An informal look at the World Cup tables shows a general pattern of the bottom level of results having very little improvement (if any). Then we see a smaller middle layer of results that have relatively random patterns of improvement. Next, we see a smaller layer again that have a more consistent trend toward improvement. Finally, we see a very small top tier that show consistent improvement at a very high level.
  • In elite classes, the best are not defined by some static notion of “quality.” At this level everyone is good. What seems to distinguish the top 5-10 racers is their ability to constantly adapt and improve. Within this level of results, everyone is improving. The question is can you stay ahead of the pack? In Robert Grober’s analysis of PGA golf, he found that Tiger Woods did not just win the years that were looked at, he was running away from everyone else in the pack at an incredible rate. What seemed to define his elite status was not being good, but an attitude and ability to improve, no matter how good he was. Similarly, when we examine the World Cup skiing data, Marcel Hirscher improved at a rate almost every race that was not seen by anyone else. This pattern was common within a layer of the top results and absolutely absent from the bottom layer of results. For me this suggests that the real difference is in the attitude, resources, team coordination, and work that emphasizes how to improve. Those that don’t do this are quickly not relevant in the sport.


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