Prepared on the purple. … Prepared on the blue. … Racer prepared … The doorways fly open and each racers explode onto the course. These phrases are the beginning cadence for skilled ski racing and it’s nice to see the World Professional Ski Tour again in motion. When my youngsters had been little I might typically name out that cadence on prime of the bunny slope.
I turned hooked on ski racing in center faculty after watching my first Professional Ski Race at Bristol Mountain within the Seventies. Days earlier than the race they constructed two professional jumps that had been fenced off, however I might fly down the Outer Orbit race path and sneak off the nook of these jumps and fake to be racing some man from the Alps. After school I raced in a quantity professional format “B” races with the barn door begin gates and professional jumps and it was plenty of enjoyable. I used to be not likely an expert racer, but when I skied effectively sufficient within the qualifying rounds, I used to be assured a minimal of 4 race runs for the day, so not a foul deal.
One of many issues I beloved in regards to the professional ski racing format isn’t any factors! Racers would present up at registration, then be positioned for 2 qualifying rounds, which meant two racers had been beginning on two separate programs, so seeding was not likely a difficulty. When you skied quick in qualifying you then had been paired with a racer who could have certified with a slower time — which meant I normally raced within the spherical of 32 towards the quicker qualifiers. Regardless, I beloved the professional format because it was plenty of enjoyable!
As a long-time coach I’ve by no means understood the obsession with USSA or FIS factors in our sport. In professional ski competitions the most effective racers are nonetheless on the course for as much as 12 runs in at some point. It requires not solely nice snowboarding however the capability to deal with very robust course circumstances with two jumps and many ruts across the gates. The road professional racers take within the first spherical is just about gone within the later rounds, because it requires an incredible agility, power, and endurance. Not surprisingly, we’re seeing the emergence of some racers like Robert Cone who has revitalized his ski racing profession profitable all 4 races on the 2021 COVID abbreviated World Professional Ski Tour.
Not an equal alternative sport
Getting again to factors, the No. 1 driver within the excessive price of alpine ski racing is chasing factors. The issue in the US is entry to FIS races for our most proficient ski racers. Some areas within the nation like northern New England and the Rocky Mountain Area host plenty of FIS races, the place many different areas solely have restricted FIS races or none in any respect. Moreover, many of those FIS races are held in the course of the weekdays, when membership racers are in class. In different SR articles it’s been said proximity to the mountains is a key part to success in ski racing. Nonetheless, ski racers don’t have to reside close to a big resort to achieve success in ski racing. For instance, I reside in Upstate New York the place we’ve about 50 ski areas, greater than some other state within the nation, with wonderful terrain and most have lights for night coaching after faculty. Nonetheless, apart from Whiteface or Gore within the Adirondack Mountains, our complete area is devoid of FIS races, although lots of our ski areas are massive sufficient to host these competitions.
One among my ideas is to make the most of a mix of USSA and FIS factors for rating ski racers in the US. In my prior SR article, I discussed growing a “membership monitor” for these athletes who can’t afford the ski academy possibility. For instance, when highschool college students apply for school admissions they’re ranked on a variety of completely different standards together with their grade transcript, SATs, ACTs, actions, sports activities, and so forth., as a result of all of them come from completely different demographics like earnings, race, rural, metropolis, and suburban areas. So why will we solely make the most of the FIS factors for rating U18 athletes (excessive school-aged racers) when the FIS level system is so geographically restricted? In the present day NCAA applications just about red-line any area with out FIS racing alternatives. Shouldn’t all our racers inside the U.S. Snowboarding pipeline be given equal alternative to qualify for state, regional, and nationwide competitions?
We could not have the ability to change how USSA and FIS factors are calculated; nevertheless, we are able to change our angle about factors, and sure, racers can ski quick from a later begin quantity. When TV commentators interview Mikaela Shiffrin after a World Cup race they by no means even point out her FIS level profile. For instance, when you have a look at Shiffrin’s FIS outcomes relationship again to the season of 2010-11, when her factors had been 999, in her first NorAm slalom race at Loveland, she began with bib No. 81 and completed 14th. The next day Shiffrin began bib 75 and completed tenth. Then, in a NorAm GS in Aspen she began bib 55 and completed in sixteenth. Much more spectacular, at a NorAm tremendous mixed in Panorama, Shiffrin began bib 70, which seems to be “lifeless final” and completed first! So why will we place a lot emphasis on some extent system and most popular seeding? The fact for U.S. ski racers if you wish to race on the Europa Cup or World Cup stage, then you’ll most probably be beginning in the back of the pack, no matter your home FIS level rating.
We presently make the most of a “flip-seed format” for many of our U12 and U14 competitions, which helps stage the taking part in subject for all rivals. Due to this fact, why not make the most of the flip-seed format for U16 and U18 regional and nationwide competitions in the event that they each certified for a similar competitors? Why ought to racers from Colorado with ample FIS races be given most popular seeding over athletes from Minnesota with very restricted FIS scoring alternatives? Whereas many coaches could disagree with my suggestion, the “subsequent Mikaela Shiffrin” wouldn’t have any drawback discovering the rostrum in a flip-seed competitors. This may additionally give the united states a greater understanding of athletes who can ski on the subsequent stage in tough course circumstances just like the Europa Cup. In Bryce Bennett’s 2020 Ski Racing article, he wrote “Quick snowboarding just isn’t quick snowboarding,” wherein he means the course units, snow floor, and stage of competitors is far more difficult than most races in the US. Due to this fact, why are we having our greatest U18 and U16 racers snowboarding within the first seed of a wonderfully groomed slope? What occurs to those self same racers once they arrive at a Europa Cup race beginning bib 79? Will they have the ability to deal with the tougher course circumstances? Using a flip-seed format for our U18 and U16 racers who’re solely of highschool age just isn’t precisely one thing new, as a result of they’ve all efficiently skied with that format in prior junior races. Increasing the usage of the flip-seed format would stage the taking part in subject for all our junior racers and discourage level chasing. The underside line is the united states doesn’t want extra youngsters with low factors, they want athletes who can ski quick whatever the course circumstances.
I bear in mind attending a coaches clinic years in the past and one of many instructors joked, “Depart it as much as the Europeans to give you an aristocratic FIS level system the place some nations nonetheless have a monarchy.” That’s why in the US we regularly do issues in a different way than different nations and ending first within the medal rely on the 2020 Summer season Olympic Video games was not by chance. So the subsequent time you step into the beginning gate, hearth out onto the race course with variable snow, ice, washboard, ruts, and possibly a unique line than you had anticipated throughout inspection. That’s what ski racing is all about.