Three Years After Initial Run, Experimental Sprint Qualifier Sparks Debate

Audrey ManganFebruary 6, 201220
Athletes collide during sprint heats at U.S. Nationals in Rumford, Maine, 2012.
Athletes collide during sprint heats at U.S. Nationals in Rumford, Maine, 2012.

A sprint qualifier can be defined as the preliminary stage of a sprint race in nordic skiing. In a race against the clock, competitors leave the starting gate at intervals and go as hard as they can for anywhere between 1 and 1.8 kilometers. The top 30 in most internationally sanctioned competitions, and sometimes a lesser number in other events, move onto the quarterfinals to face off against five other athletes at a time for the right to advance to the next round.

Sprint races progress in this manner all over the world; on the World Cup, in Continental Cups, in the collegiate circuit, and sometimes at small-scale high school races.

In the winter of 2009, the term “sprint qualifier” took on another meaning. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) introduced a sprint race to the SuperTour that was truncated at the qualifying round; medals were awarded to skiers who clocked the fastest qualifying times, and the athletes’ entire day was done in a matter of two to four minutes. No longer just a prologue, the qualifier became a race all its own.

At the time, the trial run was met with mixed reviews. Athletes felt robbed of the chance to develop head-to-head sprint skills. Coaches acknowledged the challenges the organizers faced in putting on full heats, but agreed that the format was not ideal. Canadians who occasionally dabbled in the SuperTour simply didn’t understand it.

Qualifier-only sprints started with a trial run in West Yellowstone, Mont. that first winter, but have since spread to three other stops on the SuperTour in 2012. What began as confusion is now ranting fury — some still fail to understand why the experimental format was deemed a success and allowed to proliferate.

To begin to answer that question, we start with that first time qualifier-only sprints were held in the U.S.

When the format was first conceived of prior to the 2009-2010 season, then-USSA Nordic Director John Farra intended for it to do two things. First and foremost, the decision to leave out the heats from the West Yellowstone sprint was a philosophical one. Farra believed it to be the right move for U.S. skiing at the time, and today stands by his decision.

“We still don’t have enough Americans, in my personal opinion, who can qualify, period,” said Farra, who has since left USSA to become the High Performance Director for Paralympic skiing, in a phone interview in December. “That’s a problem. For me, at this point in our development, there’s an argument for getting athletes in more races where they’re just throwing down… I think it works on a gear all Americans need to keep working on.”

Secondly, it put an additional sprint race back on the calendar in the first period of the SuperTour where, at the time, there was only one in Bozeman, MT. It would not be the first time sprint races were held in West Yellowstone. Regular sprints, complete with heats, were held on the Rendezvous trails up until 2007, but according to Farra, coaches complained that the trails were too narrow and the altitude too punishing for a full sprint day.

One of the jobs of the Nordic Director is to select skiers at the end of the Period 1 to send to the World Cup. With an additional sprint thrown into the mix, Farra’s theory was that the overall points leader would have to be a decent sprinter and distance skier to earn those coveted European start rights.

Rankings of the best distance skiers and sprinters on the domestic circuit are often very similar, however. For example, at the end of Period 1 this winter, the women’s SuperTour sprint leader, distance leader, and overall leader were all one person: Jessie Diggins (CXC/USST).

On the men’s side, overall leader Mike Sinnott (SVSEF) had two top-5 distance results along with his two sprint wins and one second.

The sprint qualifier has also been accused of having another motive. It was introduced in the season leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and it’s been suggested that the qualifier, in squeezing another race into a short time frame, was a grab for better FIS points to boost the U.S. quota for the Games.

Farra said this was never the case. Points are always based off the qualifier, so heats would have no effect on FIS points either way. Additionally, as Farra pointed out, “you can only ‘boost’ the points if you have a quality field in the race.”

Jessie Diggins (CXC/USST) 2nd place skate
Jessie Diggins competing in the qualifier-only skate sprint in West Yellowstone, Mont., in November 2011.

With his idea for a modified sprint in mind, Farra went to the West Yellowstone Chief of Competition at the time, Sara Hoovler, with the proposal.

From the organizer’s perspective, the introduction of an additional race in West Yellowstone brought with it organizational and financial burdens, which became the main point of negotiation.

“As an organizing committee we were pretty maxed out,” said Hoovler, who is now a school teacher in the area. “We couldn’t put on another full-scale race.”

When Farra brought the proposal to the organizers, they agreed to try out the additional sprint as long as it didn’t come with a significant extra cost—specifically, as long as it didn’t require coming up with the additional prize money. At $3,900 per race, prize money is one of the single most expensive components of hosting a SuperTour.

“Purses for these races can sink the entire event,” said Dan Cantrell, Hoovler’s successor as the West Yellowstone race director.

He estimates that between all the major costs involved with putting on the SuperTour every year—notably prize money and gas for grooming—the event runs the Yellowstone Ski Festival around $20,000. When the weather is especially uncooperative, the number goes up as tents and space heaters are brought in, or the Pisten Bully has go over the course multiple times.

With the introduction of homologation standards this year, any argument for heats became moot—the venue simply doesn’t have the terrain to meet the standards on a traditional sprint loop. For the race to count as a SuperTour complete with FIS points, there needed to be a certain amount of total climbing.

The only sprint course West Yellowstone could come up with that met the standards is a point-to-point 1.5 k, which ruled out the possibility for heats. For timing and officiating purposes, heats have to start and end in the same stadium.

“We were able to FIS homologate West for a sprint qualifier only. That’s a big deal, otherwise we don’t sprint there,” said Farra.

The other option would be to hold the fall SuperTours at locations that could homologate a sprint loop, but choices are limited by the reliability of snow anywhere else in the country in late November, and the number of venues willing to take on a SuperTour.

With the advent of homologation standards looming for 2011, Cantrell also had to account for the cost of the trail work necessary to get the courses up to standard. In addition to sitting on National Forest land, the Rendezvous Ski Trails occupy endangered grizzly bear habitat. Every time the ski trails are modified, the Forest Service requires an environmental impact assessment.

“To put it in perspective, the improvements from this year, with the connectors and homologation, was about a three year process,” said Cantrell. “We had a bulldozer out there two weeks before Thanksgiving.”

With these demands on the race organizers in mind, Farra was loath to push West Yellowstone to take on significant extra cost in adding a sprint qualifier to the schedule.

“We weren’t prepared to make the organizer come up with the prize money,” said Farra.

Since USSA strategically thought it was important to hold a sprint in Yellowstone, the organizers were excused from the obligation to hand out the prize money for sprint qualifiers. The exception is laid out in the USSA Rulebook—none of the sprint qualifiers on the SuperTour schedule this year award the usual purses to the top six finishers.

Since 2009, Yellowstone’s sprint qualifier has become two. In the second and third years of its existence, the opening day of the SuperTour was a double-header. The “SuperTour Sprint Showdown” starts with a skate sprint qualifier, and ends one hour later with a classic sprint. Each of the two races is an opportunity to earn points, but the single winner of the Showdown and recipient of the $250 purse is calculated from the combined times.

The first running of the Showdown at West Yellowstone, on the whole, was a success in the eyes of the organizers and USSA. There were a few kinks to work out—the flow of athletes from the finish back to the start was congested, and cold weather made the trek an uncomfortable one for athletes still just in spandex—but overall, organizers felt good about the trial run.

For her part, Hoovler thought the number of participants in the sprint qualifiers as reason to look positively at the outcome.

“We saw a lot of junior skiers, just getting some race experience, and also master skiers that weren’t competing for FIS points but challenging themselves,” she said. “I was very shocked at the amount of racers that participated.”

When West Yellowstone still had sprint heats in 2007, 42 women and 51 men participated. In 2009, 61 women and 67 competed in the qualifier-only version. In 2011, more athletes competed in the freestyle sprint than the classic, but the totals in the freestyle qualifier were 60 women and 92 men.

Amongst elite skiers, the sprint qualifier was met with some complaints about the absence of heats. Despite this feedback during the season, Farra said the format wasn’t a major issue at the spring USSA meetings, and he saw no reason not to keep experimenting with it.

“This is not a new topic,” Farra emphasized. “There’s been at least two springs for people to say, ‘Hey, this is ridiculous.’ I don’t remember there being significant discussion about that.”

The release of the 2011-2012 SuperTour calendar saw the addition of sprint qualifiers to three new venues: in Bozeman, Mont. one week after West Yellowstone; in night-sprint form at the Tour de Twin Cities, which took place just two weeks ago in Minneapolis, Minn.; and as a prologue to the upcoming 5/10 k classic on day one of the Owl Creek Chase in Aspen, Colo.

In the negotiating phase of calendar planning prior this season, Farra proposed the addition of sprint qualifiers to each of the new hosts. As with West Yellowstone, at each location, the investment that new homologation standards required already had organizers strapped for cash and volunteer power.

Austin Weiss, the Race Director for the Aspen SuperTour and Owl Creek Chase, agreed to add the sprint qualifier to the schedule on February 11 in order to make the entire weekend a more attractive package to racers. Weiss said the Aspen organizing committee was never asked if they could hold a full sprint with heats. He indicated that it would be a challenge, as heats require a separate day of racing, but didn’t rule it out as a possibility in the future.

“Logistically, everything is possible,” said Weiss. “It’s biting off a bit much—it’s not out of the question, but it’s something that the organizing committee would have to consider.

“The other benefit of a sprint qualifier is that it doesn’t require that much more work on the part of organizers.”

The race director in Minneapolis had a similar view.

John Munger, the director of the City of Lakes foundation, which hosted the first three races of the Tour de Twin Cities, pointed to the challenge of putting on a number of high-profile events within a short timeframe.

“It takes a long time to do sprints and lots of volunteer power,” Munger said in a phone interview. “We’re doing the Mayor’s Challenge, the IPC Paralympic World Cup, and the City of Lakes Loppet all within about two weeks.”

This is the compromise Farra sought to strike as he set about adding more sprints to the SuperTour last spring: give skiers more opportunity to develop their sprinting ability without pushing organizers to the point where they wouldn’t hold sprints at all. Just as in West Yellowstone, he saw qualifiers as the best solution.

“It’s a fine dance between what athletes and coaches want, and what we think organizers can do,” said Farra.

The financial burden of the additional race was also lessened at the new sprint venues. As with the two independent sprints in West Yellowstone, none of the three new sprint qualifiers come with the normal win payout, which adds up to $3,900 between both men and women (1st – $750, 2nd – $500, 3rd – $250, 4th – $200, 5th – $150, 6th – $100).

“Imagine if you push Bozeman, and we say, ‘Come up with four grand,’ and they say, ‘Sorry, can’t do it.’”

According to Dragan Danevski, director of the Bridger Ski Foundation, the additional prize money would have been more than they could afford, and was a point of negotiation when Farra asked them to hold a sprint qualifier in the spring.

“It would be nice if we could have $100,000 in prize money, but I said, ‘Look, in this economy, in this situation, we are lucky to have SuperTour races even with [some] money,’ sad Danevski in December.

“I had to make the decision that we would no be able to do three races and have prize money for three.”

The financial compromise has not gone unnoticed by the athletes, particularly those who have repeatedly placed in the top six in the SuperTour sprints thus far.

“I don’t understand it,” said Mike Sinnott (SVSEF), who was first and second in the two sprints in West Yellowstone and won the freestyle sprint the next week in Bozeman.

“It’s unprofessional in my opinion.”

In Sinnott’s view, the $250 check he won as the Sprint Showdown champion in West Yellowstone should have been a bonus.

“I think it’s pretty clear in the rules that you get $750 for a win,” he said.

Caitlin Gregg (CXC) has similarly excelled in sprinting this winter. She began with a fourth and first in West Yellowstone, a second-place in Bozeman, and a third in Minneapolis. Like Sinnott, she believes the sprint qualifiers should have prize money.

“If any race requires a registration fee and awards points…there needs to be prize money,” Gregg wrote in an email in December. While she understands that qualifier-only sprints, as a format, are easier on race volunteers than full heats, she believes that leaving out their prize money altogether undermines sprinting development in the U.S.

“It seems as though there was once a push to hold more sprints and team sprints on the circuit and suddenly (ironically coinciding with some of the best results ever for U.S. skiing, which came from sprints and team sprints internationally), the U.S. has decided to reduce the opportunities domestically for sprinters to develop,” said Gregg.

“Without prize money, sprint specialists or those who are competitive in both distance and sprint races would be loosing a large percentage of potential earnings that could allow them to continue competing on the SuperTour domestic circuit.”

As a solution, she proposed getting a title sponsor to help fund the SuperTour purses in the future.

If USSA is adamant about adding more sprints to the SuperTour, and has found race committees unable to produce the extra prize money, would USSA ever contribute their own cash to the pot to make up for it?

Given the state of its budget, “No way would USSA pay,” said Farra. “The SuperTour has never been funded by USSA… Given the state of the union at USSA, it’s highly doubtful that any prize money will come from them.”

Farra empathizes with the opinion of the athletes, but notes that contesting the sprints are still worth something.

“While I agree—I would be disappointed not to benefit from that prize money— World Cup qualifying is still up for grabs,” he said.

But for many athletes on the SuperTour, not even that is enough. Without heats, some don’t feel sprint qualifiers to be a valuable format.

Pat O’Brien (CGRP), who placed second in the night sprint qualifier two weeks ago in Minneapolis, believes the heats are critical to developing competitive sprinters.

“While I agree that it is important for US skiers to be able to qualify well (and make the heats), the real test to me is how well an athlete skis rounds,” said O’Brien. “It doesn’t matter how fast you are in the qualifier if you can’t move out of the quarters. Skiing well in a group is a skill that you only can develop through practice.”

“Cutting full sprints out of the schedule and replacing them with just qualifiers undermines this development.”

His teammate Tim Reynolds (CGRP) suggested an alternative format for heats that would be less demanding on organizers, and in cases like Minneapolis where there were fewer numbers, make more sense.

“You don’t have to take 30 onto the heats… I think you can adapt the format to the field size,” said Reynolds, pointing to the Madison, Wisconsin SuperTour as an example. In the past, the Madison event has taken on eight skiers from the qualifier on to the heats, which reduces the number of rounds to two semis and one final.

“Heats are a valuable experience,” said Reynolds.

If dissatisfaction with sprint qualifiers is as widespread as the vocal skiers would make it seem, then Farra agrees that USSA should go back to the drawing board.

“It’s part of being progressive,” said Farra. “How we’ll be a better ski nation is being open-minded to trying different things.”

“My memory is that we are still testing this concept. Until coaches come back in the spring and say, ‘This doesn’t work, we need to stop’—until that happens, we’re still testing it.”

If athletes really want to see qualifiers scaled back next year, Farra encourages them to go to the USSA spring meetings, or make sure their views will be represented at them.

“The USSA Congress really does work,” he said. “It’s amazing how many coaches go out of their way in the spring and engage in dialogue when they don’t want to be thinking about skiing.

“Athletes need to be able to remind their coaches, ‘This is what we’d like to see; this is how the SuperTour could be improved… Everybody is working their butts off, but it’s only going to get better if people bring their ideas forward.”

Audrey Mangan

Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.

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  • Tim Kelley

    February 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Yeah sprint qualifiers don’t give skiers experience in heat racing. But how does US heat racing get skiers prepared for battling Euros when judges in the US so easily DQ skiers, like with Koos at Nationals?

    Off topic, but regarding money and title sponsors: A rather strange turn of events is that the all residents of Anchorage, AK will soon be indirectly providing financial support to the Canadian National Ski Team. A title sponsor of the Canadians is Altagas. And it was announced recently that Enstar, the sole provider of natural gas to heat homes in Anchorage and surrounding communities, is being sold to Altagas. Next winter all Anchorageite home owners will be writing checks to Altagas and some of that money will likely go to Canadian xc skiers. Good deal for the Canadians, but too bad the USST didn’t have a US energy company sponsor that bought Enstar instead.

  • kjnordic

    February 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I agree with Mikey on this one. If it’s a Super Tour race, with an entry fee, and USSA/FIS points associated with it, the prize money should be at the same level as any other Super Tour race. I totally understand and respect that it is expensive for organizers to put-on races, but I think there has to be a better solution. Maybe less money could be paid to the distance races that are being hosted by the same venue? Just an idea…

  • markiverson

    February 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    One thing this article overlooks is how the qualifier only format has evolved into something different all together. The back to back qualifiers of different techniques in West is a format not seen anywhere else. They are scored as separate races on the Super Tour, USSA, and FIS ranking lists, yet the qualifying bonus and the podium places are awarded on the combined time of both races.

    The Qualifiers in Bozeman and Aspen are followed up by distance races an hour or two later. You don’t see this format on the World Cup or at US Nationals.

    Here is the break down of Super Tour race counts (I didn’t double check this):
    Full Sprint-5
    Sp. Qualifier- 5
    That makes 10 less full Super Tour payouts for sprint races during the season. Athletes all have to travel just as far, wax sprints as they do for distance. Maybe there is a way to even out the pot.

  • markiverson

    February 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    **to finish my sentence above. Athletes all have to travel just as far, wax just as many skis, race prep just the same, and pay an entry fee for sprints just as they do for distance.

  • caldxski

    February 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    There is no simple solution to this sprint dilemma. Of course it would be nice to have lots of prize money. This would help to encourage skiers to take sprinting more seriously. Of course we need more venues with good courses since this would make it easier to find more organizers.

    But, it’s a long day for the racers who reach the finals and a very, very taxing day for the officials. Watching all those races, both sexes, couple hundred entries, in one day, is a bit like watching paint dry, for my money. But we have to have the races and we need to improve and get more, better, faster skiers who are willing to mix it up on the courses, despite the anal attitude of some officlals who are looking for disq’s. On this score, a few talks or articles from competitors who have seen it all in Europe would be instructive, for racers and officials alike.

    I’ve posed a sprint race format here in New England for a couple of years, with absolutely no success, but here it is anyway: Have four sprint qualifiers in one day. Let’s say two classic in the AM, and then two free after lunch. The organizers could start the second race in the AM and the second in the PM immediately after the first race was finished. Use the same bibs all day. Make it easy for the organizers. Let the racers all see what it’s like to ski four sprints in a day. The racers might feel better about getting their money’s worth too. Let the volunteers figure out the scoring system.

    Then, and this is a new twist, take the top 30 from both sexes with the best combined times from the day and run them the next day, in the usual heats. The second day’s races could be held on what would normally be a day off in a series of races at one location. So, the non-qualifiers get the day off, per usual, and the qualifiers go to it again.

    Sure it’s tough, but I think we need a bit of that.

    John Caldwell

  • T.Eastman

    February 6, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    I hurt just from reading about sprinting…

  • rweston

    February 7, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Farra and Caldwell each address it, “we need more and faster skiers.” “With no simple solutution,” and we “need to be progressive and toupher.”
    “It seems as though there was once a push to hold more sprints and team sprints on the circuit and suddenly (ironically coinciding with some of the best results ever for U.S. skiing, which came from sprints and team sprints internationally), the U.S. has decided to reduce the opportunities domestically for sprinters to develop,” said Catlin Gregg.
    The USSA “Regional Competition” Committee Members along with US Ski Team Coaches, from Maine to Alaska spent many hundreds of hours in regional meetings and Spring and Fall National meetings years ago, to work out the “plan” for an approach our Country wanted to take to achive success in sprinting Internationally. That is where the “push” Ms. Gregg referred to came from. Good things happened quickly because all regions of the country had active well run programs and coaches.(In large part thanks to USSA and US Ski Team.) Alaska, Sun Valley, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Colorado, Central and others. This was the time of our development that the greatest number of camps for all levels of skiers esp BKSL and Juniors in all regions took place and the word got to them almost “overnite.” Plus, the economy was great. More coaches at all levels were getting International Experience than ever before bringing home valuable information and insite and understanding. We also hosted a “Great Winter Olympics.”
    It’s easy when one improves so much so quick to stop reaching for the stars. Look at our Nordic Combined Team. Billy Demong won Americas first Gold after 20+ years of training and maintaining his passion for what he truly loved to do and now has just again gotten back close to that level again. Well done Billy.
    All of us together along with the next generation of coaches that need to learn as much as they can from the likes of John Caldwell, Marty Hall, John Estle, Rick Kappala, Sverre Caldwell, Mike Gallagher , Ruff Paterson, Nancy Fidler, Cami Thompson Graves and so many others so this country can keep moving forward and not keep “reinventing the wheel.”
    High School programs need to be encouraged to include sprints in their programs. BKSL programs and parents need to be reminded to keep race distance’s short so kids learn how to ski fast and have fun doing it. It’s really an easy concept for any age, don’t expect to ski 5 or 10kms fast until you can ski 1km FAST! ! ! As Farra noted, “you’ve got to be able to throw it down.”
    Lets get this sprinters schedule back on track with more sprints, team sprints, in every part of the country and see if maybe we can find a sponsor for a National Sprint Series .
    Sprinters deserve to be rewarded ($) just like any other
    racer and they are sure fun to watch. I think we just might see some really good sprinters re-emerge if we can get this money thing right.
    Lets KEEP MOVING FORWARD. Coaches and Athletes are doing a great job. No one ever said it would be easy. YA Gotta to love it!
    There may be a few that did’nt like what Farra did but he took a stand and it was the right one. Well done John, good luck as HPDPS.


  • Mike Trecker

    February 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

    In Aspen we are faced with a double dilemma, we only have a handful of skiers traveling here anyway. We have a premier 5k FIS standardized loop that is awesome for a classic race and the featured event, 21km freestyle point to point race. We can only afford prize money and effort for 2 days and 2 races, especially given the dismal turnout from the traveling contingent that often sees huge turnout at West Y. in the fall. The 3rd event in Aspen, the Sprint Q. IS a bonus, and the $250 that goes with it, because it’s either that or nothing. I’m pretty confident we would never sacrifice the distance race on Saturday to hold a full sprint race instead, especially given the fact that many years the events are part of the RMISA college circuit, which doesn’t do sprint races. I lament, like Dragen, the fact that we can’t afford to award big prizes, 20 deep! However, reality is just that. We have made an effort to strengthen the purse and do award the top 3 in our sprint qualifier, in addition to the full purse for the Saturday afternoon distance race and the 21k Owl Creek on Sunday. It doesn’t seem to matter at all to the traveling skiers, we continually only see a tiny turnout from the non-college, traveling elites. If there was only SuperTour, no college, no citizens, we would be hosting a total of 15 athletes, and that might be wishful thinking. No joke. Keep in mind, that of the million plus dollars that have been awarded on SuperTour, none of that money has come from USSA, the local organizers have to pony up all the money. And then when USSA cuts the overall prizes for the total series, it reflects badly on the entire series. It is extremely fortunate that there is a SuperTour at all.

  • nyctvt

    February 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Have USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt kick in some of his hefty salary towards prize money.

  • campirecord

    February 7, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    As long as USSski can provide proper bib sizes for women I am happy, those Yellowstone bibs were outrageous, footbal player size bibs… nice way to make athletes in spandex look like crap.

  • rweston

    February 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Lets not “mix the two”. First and foremost we need “money-more money and much more money” for our sport to thrive. Money for athletes, coaches and race sites. Lets not mix this with what we need to continue-to-do and new adjustments needed to develop faster/tougher skiers for the International scene.
    Lets talk money first: have you not heard that Kodak, a long time sponsor of the US Ski Team and it’s programs, just filed for bankruptcy? This corporation had a huge positive affect both nationally and locally on the development of nordic skiing. From New York State to the development of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Many of yesterdays/todays top athletes (in all the ski sports) and current and up-coming coaches passed thru inexpensive programs summer and winter (beginning in the mid 80’s) made possible for America’s Youth in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Rochester, NY area once had 15 or more schools with cross country ski teams and two leagues. That number is now down to 6 Schools and one league. This trend is state wide. Probably like much of the rest of the Nation?
    The money issue is real and athletes need to understand that they are not the only ones ” going unpaid.” There are many top level XC Coaches in all parts of this country working with every level of athlete that are in turn “giving more than they are getting.” These coaches become even more important to our over-all development program as High School programs are cut or can no longer service the needs of aspiring xc ski loving kids. If we want to be “good at the top” we need to do everything possible to “expand our base.”
    We need to generate interest for people from all parts of this country to get together with USSA,USST staff at the spring meetings to find and look for those new and potential sponsors. We can’t leave any stone unturned. Which kinda brings us back to the “old catch 22” with each region of the country needing to run their own programs so there are not enough sponsors to go around esp. in this current economy.
    How can we come up with more money?
    Lets talk “Developing Speed” and “Fast Skiers” next time boys and girls. Hello Canada!
    Off to the gym. Still no snow in NY.


  • joeconn4

    February 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Very well written Audrey, thank you for the depth and background on this issue!

  • abarrett

    February 7, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Roger Weston for president! He’ll cure the economy AND get ski development back on track!

  • T.Eastman

    February 8, 2012 at 1:41 am

    What is the depth of the field at the various Super Series races?

    Lots of skiers go to West Yellowstone but what of the other races on the circuit?

    The full treatment using the qualifier and all heats seems to be the proper format and should be the format used if points for possible World Cup starts are to be awarded.

    If sites want to host events, the full sprint format should be expected with bids along with appropriate funding for prizes.

  • nexer

    February 8, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I’ve never seen a Kodak banner in any picture related to XC skiing. Ever.

    Who wants to put on a race when the athletes and coaches keep blasting the race organizers on a public forum?

    Volunteering is a thankless job. Cold bagels and you have to bring your own coffee half the time.

    It’s hard to believe that teams can’t come up with more prize money when the amount of fluoros on the floor is worth more than my car.

    The general skiing public doesn’t care about the supertour.

  • chadsalmela

    February 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I think we are looking at two issues; both of which are FIS level things that trickle down to what each nation must try to do to be competitive internationally.

    Simply put, the FIS calendar is nearly impossible to follow–particularly for people not all that interested in the nuances of high level ski racing. As a result, FIS has trouble landing good TV deals and their production becomes so limited, that the TV product is poor anyway. They need to stabilize World Cup race formatting and make it much more predictable for everyone. Imagine if the NFL had 15 different types of games they played on 8 different fields of play! Good luck understanding that sport.

    The US reaction to this is finding ways to manage the development of athletes in a myriad of not only numerous, but numerous changing disciplines. When’s the last time FIS did NOT have a change in its international racing formats?

    Secondly, the homologation issue is going to ruin the sport worldwide. Here’s a sport struggling to have a following, with a schedule at the highest level that is nearly impossible to anticipate as a fan, requiring domestic race organizers to spend ridiculous amounts of money to get trails homologated, or face sanctions or the inability to host a race that any serious developing racer wants to take part in.

    The problem is above the US domestic level. It’s basically a convoluted, uncertain, ever-changing game at the FIS level, to try to become more popular in television markets we aren’t aware of in the US, We’re really not even ON TV in this country. So at the ground level, everything seems nuts at this discussion level because we are reacting to issues that we’re not even seeing.

    FIS needs to stabilize it’s World Cup and Stage World Cup formatting so that the rest of the world can figure out how to prepare for it, and potential fans can figure out what the heck they are watching every weekend. This is all Farra was trying to manage when you boil it down. We need a stable FIS model of competition, so that the numerous national entities of the sport can get in line with that model. If you consider what a JOQ athlete, an NCAA college athlete, and a Supertour athlete (your basic development pipeline groups who race Supertours) need to accomplish in a domestic race weekend, it’s a total mess right now. That’ll happen when the ultimate target keeps moving on you.

  • Mike Trecker

    February 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Yep. Add to that getting blind-sided by a big money, open citizen race in our backyard on the same weekend, pulling quality SuperTour racers out of our races, and you can see what we’re up against. *&*#@)^&%!!

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    February 8, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Dues are paid to the amatuer non-profit USSA (NGB), and a large portion of those funds go towards funding a team at the highest “pro” level of the sport. The remainder of elite team funding comes from alpine sports.

    The USSA should only be concerned with it’s charter as a NGB – promoting and growing the sport ats it’s grass roots level, including properly funding race series such as the Super Tour, and others, including marketing and TV, etc. Leave the “pro” team to the free market, like all other successful sports. Build regional programs, and real races with real money that attract euros, and more, faster skiers will appear, and pro team funding will be found.

    Divest from this silly alpine sports funding, and just worry about funding regional associations, programs, and races and Forget a “us ski team” It will take care of itself. And yes, just as with school tuition, consider family financial resources (tax returns) when considering funding amateur athlete’s trips. Seems logical where funding is an issue.

  • rweston

    February 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Big Al, Nexer and Chad,
    I thought my day was complete with Syracuse winning in OT and the Dukee’s winning at the buzzer. Then I read Al’s endorsement that really cracked me up. That’s until I read Nexer’s comment about the “amount of fluoros on the floor is worth more than *his* car.” That’s an all-time BEST!
    Speaking of all-time BEST, Chad, well written.

  • Mike Trecker

    February 10, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Chad nailed it.

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