April is just days away, and like it or not, the 2008-2009 ski season is coming to an end. Depending on where you live, there may be skiing for at least another month, but the racing season is basically over in North America. I was recently in Scandinavia where the racing season will continue until the end of April – another full month. Some of these races will be lower key “touring” races, but there are some high-level competitions remaining. This raises the question of whether the US racing season should be extended.
At this time of year the response to this question depends on who you ask. Some will be fired up and ready for more, while others are exhausted and worn down from a long season. Elite skiers who have been on the road for much of the season, often traveling internationally, and racing a full and intense schedule, may be ready for the end. But many people hit their peak fitness at this time of year. Those who rely on the strategy of racing into shape, and those who tend to train more in the winter because they find skiing more appealing than any dryland activity may just be rounding into top form.
Advantages of a longer season include more opportunities for younger skiers to get good competitions under their belts, racing in the warm spring weather is festive and relaxed – a nice change after an intense season, and a longer season would allow for a greater variety of competitions – once the big events like US Nationals, Junior Nationals, and various high school championships are over, skiers could take part in longer races, weekend long events like the World Cup final, and other interesting variations.
But there are a number of barriers to extending the race season however, and the biggest may just be the only one that really matters – snow. While many parts of the US and Canada will have snow through April, it is often a crap-shoot in any given year. This makes it difficult to pland and organize significant events. Last season there was excellent snow in parts of New England until the end of April. This year, despite a decent winter, most Nordic areas have shut down. this just demonstrates the high variability from year to year.
Some may argue that more racing is not necessarily a good thing – especially for younger athletes. This may be true, and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But there would be no pressure for such skiers to extend the season – they could race if they wanted to, or hang up the boards and start preparing for the next phase. And if late season competitions were regional, travel would not need to be excessive. Spring Sereis, now replaced by US Distance Natoinals, has always been a great spring event, but for many skiers, a week long trip across the country it is not always possible – especially for those not at the elite level. Regional “Spring Series” type weekends could be a great way to finish up the season. Additionally, adding several spring marathons to the schedule would be another way to the end the season.
So what do youthink? Do you want to keep racing in April? Is it realistic to hold competitions at this time of year in the US and Canada or is the snow factor just too big?
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Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.
March 30, 2009 at 2:23 pm
I’m going to do some commentary here as the check-off system doesn’t work for me as you can’t mix apples and oranges—for the people who race themselves into shape, have fun in April chasing their “white circus”—I’m one of you—but I won’t be chasing—I’m changing muscle specificity to a movement I hope looks closer to a golf swing then an arm swing with a ski pole. Any extra $$$s will be used to get me closer to the warm climes where golf is well underway.
Now for the top dogs I think racing in April only has to do with how much money they’re paying you—period. I think racing during the period (April) that is now deemed as serious downtime for both the body, but more importantly the brain is directly related to seriously getting ready for the next year. This whole high level of international and even National racing has now projected its self forward a good month—the new fashion way— with racing in April being the old fashion way.
Not many years ago November was the largest month of training—trying to pile on the snow kilometers by the bucket full. Not now,the FIS calendar and World Cup calendar get started in early November (11/8-9) and before the next month has gone by you have 14 different events going on in 6 countries.
The World Cup calendar has grown way more intense, in adding the Tour de Ski in late Dec/early Jan and now the mini TDS in the finals and only having 2-11 day mini-breaks during the season. Also, this has all become way more professional when you start to look at the volumes of money that are being handed out on the WC circuit—-you have to be ready to race from the “git-go” if you want your share of the money pie.
I think what could help NA much more in the future in developing our racers to be internationally and nationally more ready to race is to start our race circuit from one end of NA to the other is by Thanksgiving everywhere. Three days of racing in 4 days, Thanksgiving being the kick-off day–everyone is out of school and with the advancement of ski training methods we’re way more ready then we were just a few years ago. Make these important race—hang points on them!! Snow making will be critical and using the early snow sites will also be important.
All associations have a 1st mandate of excellence in international competition—lets get in step.
Those April races are there and always will be, but in my mind not for the top guys—unless you want to be old fashion—that’s my take.