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.