Are They Really Master Skiers?

FasterSkierFebruary 6, 2003

For years, I have been surprised when I have read articles in places like "Master
Skier" where National Team skiers from the US and Scandinavia have been
referred to as Masters Skiers just because they have just turned 30 years old.
Olympic Champions like Bjorn Daehlie and Vegard Ulvang of Norway and US National
Team members Justin Wadsworth, John Bauer and Patrick Weaver have all been categorized
as master skiers — in my opinion they are not.

Yes, in Masters racing the age group categories start at 30 years old and go
up in five year increments like 30-34 and 35-39 and so on. However, masters
skiers should not be confused and mixed with elite level racing!

Is Bjorn Daehlie a Master Skier?

My simple definition of a master skier is of someone that currently has a full
time job or held any kind of job for a long enough time that it made full time
professional training impossible. A master skier is, therefore, not a professional
skier that is getting paid by someone to ensure that they can train twice daily,
have a professional wax team, take naps in between workouts, be massaged after
a race and have all the benefits that real masters don’t have.

I’m very adamant about this because calling elite skiers “Masters” raises
the bar much too high for the real master. It’s interesting to see what
that Masters category skier does for training, and it is impressive to see how
fast they can ski. But it is quite impossible and unrealistic to copy or be
compared to professional racers when it comes to training and performance. I
don’t think skiers can be called Masters when they are still gunning for
Olympic spots!

Is Carl Swenson a Master Skier?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I fully support calling former National
team skiers “Master skiers” as long as they had an extended period where they
lived a normal life, without training/racing support and with real life obligations.
In this country John Engen, Audun Endestad and John Aalberg are examples of
skier that were on National teams but now are true master skiers.

Professional Teams.
Here is another idea for discussion: Should we have a separate category
in ski marathons for skiers that have support teams (ie. people who wax their
skis, hand them feed bottle every 5K) or is the current system OK?

World Masters
I was very surprised by a few things when I went to the
World Masters Championship in Lake Placid, NY several years ago. The first was
that they had two races for the same age group — skate and classic on the
same day! That meant that you only raced approximately 50% of the field in any
given race. Sure you get more World Masters Champions that way, but it’s
not my idea of a real World Master Championship competition. You need to compete
against everyone that is there!

If I decide to go to Norway and race World Masters in Lillehammer next year
I would like to race everyone that is there in my age category. I would look
forward to race legends like Oddvar Bra and Lars Erik Eriksen. I would be totally
bummed if I raced the 30K classic and found out that they had entered the 30K
skate or the other way around.

Gordon Lange and I often talk about racing those in our category that dominated
World Cup competitions when we were coaching and giving splits. We would be
proud if we could be close to them in a race — these guys were heroes and
trained full time for 30 years! Gordon and I drove the van, video taped and
coached skier when they were athletes. If we could beat them we could retire
in peace! Regardless, I’ll be more proud of a 10th place against everyone
than winning while beating half of the field — any day!

Another thing that surprised me was the seeding procedures at World Masters.
My age group in the Lake Placid World Masters had about 60 skiers in each race.
The races are all mass starts but since I had never competed in such competitions
I was seeded in the 5th and last row. I thought that placing top
10 in the first race would change my seeding for the next race – but no! You
have to start last again Torbjorn, that’s the way it is!

Let’s change that please. Skiers that are skiing fast should be moved
up regardless of Nationality or not having been to World Masters the previous

Well Dick Hunt, US World Masters chairman, you've heard my input . Now
lets hear from our readers!


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