June is still a week away, but the 2011 ski season is already lurking just around the corner, ready to pounce on any who spend too much time relaxing this spring. There are only 26 weeks (184 days) until the first SuperTour in West Yellowstone, and the season-opening Continental Cup races in Finland are even sooner – just 171 potential training days until these first FIS races.
As the name would suggest, the calendar is not final, and some changes could be made. The proposed eastern SuperTour is flagged with a question mark, and is not a sure thing. But overall the new schedule provides a comprehensive outline of the 2011 season.
The domestic racing scene kicks off in West Yellowstone as usual, though in a new twist, there will be four scored races. Last year, the sprint race was held as just a qualifier, allowing for two distance races. The concept is taken a step further, and the plan is now to have two qualifiers, one classic and one skate, on the 24th, before a 10/15km freestyle and a 5/10km classic on the 26th and 27th respectively.
In the past, the SuperTour then moved two hours north to Bozeman, but the calendar is blank for the December 4th and 5th dates. According to USSA Nordic Director, John Farra, there is currently no organizing committee willing to host the event. Farra notes that this is a challenging time of year to take on a major event because of snow concerns. Sun Valley did express interest, but ended up with the SuperTour Finals. Farra mentioned that there might be a Canadian option and that a US host is not completely out of the question.
Top racers will head to Canada for the first Nor-Am events in mid-December. In 2010, increased cooperation between the US and Canada led to coordinated scheduling for the early season races, meaning elite skiers from both countries could match up during the fall. This was deemed a success and the North American race scene shifts to Vernon, BC for two races, and then on to Rossland for a mini-tour.
Following the late December break, US Nationals crosses the country and returns to Rumford, Maine for the next two seasons, with the four race set to start on January 2nd. Nationals were last held in Rumford in 2004. The race schedule will again feature two sprints and two distance races as USSA tries to keep the National Championship events in-line with international formats.
The next SuperTour is tentatively scheduled for Lake Placid a week after the end of Nationals, but that is still up in the air. If the eastern event does not happen, the series could return to the Methow Valley. The advantage of the eastern event is the efficient travel.
From that point on the schedule is very similar to last year with the now traditional Midwest tour broken up by a weekend of racing, including the Owl Creek Chase, in Aspen, Colorado.
The spring shapes up in relatively standard fashion. Junior Olympics head to the midwest, NCAA Championships return to Stowe, Vermont, and long distance nationals and the SuperTour Finals take place in Sun Valley, the location of the original Spring Series.
The SuperTour Finals have been dubbed the “Tour of the Sawtooths.” The series features four events – a 2.5/3.5km freestyle prologue, a 7.5/10km classic mass start, and then after a day off, a classic sprint, and a 6km hill climb.
There is a new SuperTour location just prior to the Finals. A classic sprint in Truckee, CA is scheduled for two days before the annual California Gold Rush. The Gold Rush is not a SuperTour.
The other big addition to the schedule is the 7-week OPA trip that is a new priority for USSA. The trip does conflict with the second half of the SuperTour as it is listed from February 5th to March 20th.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.