How To Set A Consistent "Curve" On A Slalom Course

Cones and Placement

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Wesley Tucker
1961-2013 (RIP)
1961-2013 (RIP)
Posts: 3279
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2002 2:00 am

How To Set A Consistent "Curve" On A Slalom Course

Post by Wesley Tucker » Mon Oct 20, 2003 12:26 am

For anyone who wants to expand their course setting skills, there may be a couple of layouts that leave them wondering, "how do they do that?" Probably the most intriguing course element to lay out is a CURVE. Whether John Gilmour or Fred Schlitz sets the course, the idea is to install in the course a smooth, flowing yet challenging design element.

First, for anyone who's never seen a practiced course setter lay down a curve, here's a brief idea of how it's done: the course setter walks down the street with a stack of cones in his hands and as he walks around a curve sets down a cone periodically. Now, this sounds simple, until you get your board and ride the course. At that point you can distinguish the difference between someone who's been setting courses for a few years and someone who got some cones in the mail last week. The course feels uneven without any rhythm and almost impossible to find a line.

How can someone new to Slalom set a curve and be consistent with their courses? Furthermore, why is consistency important? To answer the second question first, consistency is necessary to achieve any sort of speed and precision when running a course. If your practices are helter skelter and without any rhyme or reason, you'll find yourself on race day scatterbrained and unable to adapt quickly to a new course set by someone else. Yes, practicing DIFFERENT courses consistently on a regular basis improves your ability to run a new course cold and get up to speed faster.

The appropriate analogy to this is MUSIC and SIGHTREADING. How do you prepare yourself to sight read a new piece of music without any practice or previous exposure to the notes? By practicing scales, triads and etudes til you collapse. Over and over and over. Then when you see a new phrase, a new measure or even a new complete song, you are able to perform the piece acceptably by playing the "parts" well. Play the parts well and the whole piece will fall into place. The same is true with slalom skateboarding: learn to play the different parts well and when you run a course cold it will "feel" familiar because you have experienced in practice every variable a course setter can imagine. Whether it's offset, curves, straights, diagonals, tight, loose, giant, hybrid or a shotgun course, you'll be comfortable with it because you've practiced all the possible variables. (What's a "shotgun"course? That's where a diagram of the course looks like someone hit a target with shotgun: scattered everywhere with no discernable pattern.)

So, how does a new (or experienced) slalom skater layout a consistent curve for practice? Here's the way I have found will produce a curve that is always the same and easily repeatable.

First, laydown your cones in a straight line. 7-foot spacing is a good way to start:


Once you have your cones in a straight line, you can see from the dashed lines the idea behind setting a good curve: take the cones away from the centerline of the course and place them in a curved path that leads away from the centerline and then back again:


Now, the one thing to remember is DO NOT simply set the cones away from the centerline with even distances. This will only give you a rather wide open and none-too challenging diagonal. These course elements have their place, but not here:


Now, here's the tricky part. How do you achieve the first course design above without ending up with the second diaganol no-no? And how can you repeat this design consistently for practice, or even for competition if you want to present your racing foes the same type of course you've been practicing? Here's a simple way to do it. Pick up an extra cone and keep it in hand. Then using the length of your feet, step off the centline as illustrated. Then use the cone as a measuring device. The way I do it is simply place the cone on the ground for one cone, turn the cone on its base for two cone widths, split the difference for a half cone. Simply, huh?


If you count the same number of steps and cone widths from the top to the center and then repeat the process from the center to the bottom, you'll find yourself at the bottom of the hill looking back up at a gorgeous curve.

Now, there are some in this sport who would consider this as unnecessary. Why would you ever want to repeat yourself from one day to the next? My answer is because repetition of a task is the best way to achieve any success in any endeaver. And don't forget, no course, no matter how monotonous or routine, necessarily has to be monotonous or routine. If you're riding this curve and say to yourself, "well, this is getting boring," then I have to ask you, "are you going as fast as you possibly can?" Any race course that is not challenging is made challenging by the participant by pushing speeds and accuracy.

Also, it's easy to adjust this type of curve in any way. Reduce or increase the spacing when you originally set down the straight cones on the centerline. Reduce or increase the spacing of the cones as they move away from the centerline. Just keep in mind that whatever adjustment you make to the top "half" of the curve you should make to the bottom half. That's the difference between a well-designed curve and a gaggle of cones shotgunned around in the road!

Brian Ellison
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Joined: Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:54 am
Location: Park Forest, IL

Post by Brian Ellison » Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:26 pm

thanks for fixing the picture links. i will surely be setting this up to help practice for st louis.

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