FIS Gives Go-Ahead to New World Tour Championships

Nathaniel HerzJune 8, 20102
The Czech Republic's Lukas Bauer--pictured here at the 2010 Olympic Games--took the victory in this year's edition of the Tour de Ski.

With no World Championships or Olympics scheduled for the winter of 2011-2012, some ski fans may be planning on going into hibernation for the year. But they better not buy their sleeping pills just yet.

During its meetings in Turkey last week, the International Ski Federation (FIS) approved a proposal for a new kind of World Championships: one modeled on the Tour de Ski—the bicycle-style stage race that has taken hold and garnered big TV ratings in Europe since its inception in 2007.

The championships will inject some excitement into the one “dead” season that comes every four years, in which neither an Olympics or World Championships is scheduled.

The next dead winter is in 2012, and there’s a chance that FIS could sort out the logistics in time to hold the event then, although U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Nordic Director John Farra said that it’s unlikely. But fans should expect to see a tour championship on the calendar by 2016.

The details of the format haven’t been settled on yet, but according to Farra, the proposed event will be separate from the existing Tour de Ski—meaning two big stage races in a single season.

It’s clear that tours are the future: in Turkey, FIS also approved a trial run of another short stage race to open this coming season in Kuusamo, Finland—and that’s on top of the mini-tour that’s taken place at the World Cup finals for the last two years.

“In the grand scheme of things, this is the direction that we’re going to go,” Farra said.

Whether it happens in 2012 or 2016, the new tour event will be a boon for the Americans, Farra said, since USSA places a premium on successes at major races like World Championships and the Olympics. A tour championship would be another opportunity for Farra’s skiers to shine.

While the U.S. team would be hard pressed to find contenders for an overall tour title, Farra said that he plans to push FIS to recognize athletes “that do something impressive in particular events,” when the federation sorts out the details of the tour championships in subsequent meetings. That could mean awarding world titles to winners of individual stages, like Andy Newell or Kikkan Randall in a sprint, or Kris Freeman in a distance race. That concept, Farra said, should appeal to everyone.

“I can’t imagine one nation arguing against that, given that they’ll all have more opportunities,” he said.

According to Canadian officials, the Tour of the Rockies—a North American stage race proposed by FIS for the spring of 2012—was being considered as a test run of the tour championships. However, citing financial risks, Cross Country Canada announced last month that it had declined to host the event.

Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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  • Martin Hall

    June 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

    CCC stands for chicken, chicken, chicken—all the hard work that the skiers have put in the past 10 years hauling this program to international respectability and these guys just missed the hosting podium by a few kilometers. Like I’ve been saying for a long time there is no international intelligence or real international experience at the administrative or board level at CCC.
    Jurg Capol, FIS’s Race Director for Cross Country, chided CCC for not taking up the challenge and indicated they may have closed the doors for consideration to be WC hosts for a while.
    As he said, everything has risks—I think it was very doable–both the Alberta and BC provincial governments would have been supportive—there are the legacy committees–CODA for Calgary and a like agency for Vancouver that both have hosting money—there is a way higher interest for TV as Vancouver XC coverage had it’s best ratings ever both in the US and Canada—there is a very close connectivity to the Olympics—and there was a 2 year period to find sponsors. Another home run I’m sure they never considered is finding sponsors in Europe and Scandinavia—schedule your races for prime time Europe and there would be Euro sponsors stepping up. In 1995 Thunder Bay hosted the FIS World Championships and their two main sponsors were Stimerol gum and Intersport and others I can’t remember. With Capol having his say they could put the hammer on FIS, Capol and Sara Fisher to get some Euro and Scando corporate doors opened.
    These politicos ask the skiers to perform or they are gone—maybe it is time to hold the politicos noses to the same grindstone.
    This was doable and I’m not the only one thinking this way!

  • kamikaze

    June 9, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Just did the Killington Stage Race on Memorial weekend- having a circuit race, TT and road race definitely made the trip worthwhile. Multi-day racing smooths out ‘bumps’ like a qualifier crash, crazy weather and bonking- may the best overall skier win! This should also be a huge step in getting skiing televised. Look at how much time the TV networks invested in the Tour De France. You could barely watch the skiers in Vancouver for five minutes straight without hijacking some foreign video feed.

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