The 2012 edition of the spring International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress draws to a close on Thursday in Kangwonland, South Korea. While the selection of the 2017 World Championships host has yet to be announced, several decisions have been finalized pertaining to World Cup races for next season. The Norwegian National Team’s official website details some of the most notable developments and includes comments from FIS cross-country committee chairman Vegard Ulvang.
Many of the decisions listed below pertain to FIS’s ongoing effort to increase the marketability of cross-country skiing while maintaining quality of racing. Television viewership in Europe skyrocketed this year, but there are still tweaks being made to race formats, including:
- A shortened men’s relay. For the two World Cup relays on the calendar this coming winter, the distance of each leg will be shortened from 10 k to 7.5 k. The World Championships relay in Val di Fiemme will still be the traditional 4×10, but if the trial during the regular season proves that a shorter run time makes for a more exciting race, we could see shorter Olympic and championship relays in the future. There are no alterations planned for the women’s 4×5 k.
- Ski changes during the Holmenkollen 30/50 k will be penalized next year. Previously, athletes could switch skis during the course of the race and enjoy faster boards at no cost. FIS wants there to be a bigger tactical component to the race, so skiers will now have to make an extra lap of the stadium if they choose to change equipment, forcing individuals to carefully weigh whether a fresh pair of skis is worth the extra distance.
- Women’s sprints can now be up to 1.6 k long, up from the previous 1.4 k limit.
- The future of city sprints on the World Cup will be under review this season. None have been cut from the calendar (and Quebec presents an addition), but the practicality of the format is constantly being considered. “[It] is very good for the sport, but races are often a challenge for organizers,” Ulvang said. “Therefore, FIS will make a policy assessment over the next year whether city sprints should be on the schedule or not. Tracks have often not been good enough, but there was agreement at the meeting to proceed with city sprints at least another season.”
- Lillehammer, Norway, will host the World Cup season opener in 2013. This isn’t necessarily a marketing-related decision, but the number of spectators at the 1994 Olympic venue will likely be quite high.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.