After a few years of experimentation with the controversial sprint qualifiers, the format is on its way out of the national calendar. Two venues that held early-season SuperTour sprint qualifiers last season are holding full heats this November, and are currently completing trail work to ensure their courses meet International Ski Federation (FIS) homologation standards. The Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone and Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, Mont., expect their sprint courses to be ready for the start of winter.
In West Yellowstone, the inclusion of a freestyle sprint in the festival means the elimination of the double qualifier SuperTour Sprint Showdown.
“Everybody realized that, I think, it’s run its course,” former race director Dan Cantrell said of the double qualifier in June. “In the ski community there’s obviously a push to get our domestic racers more experience in the heats. They’re more fun to race in for the skiers and they need the experience, especially if the SuperTours are a representation of the World Cup [and] we’re qualifying people to send there. So from our end, we’re figuring out what we can do to make that happen.”
As of June the full schedule had yet to be finalized, but Cantrell said it would likely feature an additional non-FIS sanctioned distance race on Wednesday, the freestyle sprint on Friday and a 10/15 k individual freestyle on Saturday.
The Rendezvous Ski Trails obtained preliminary homologation approval early this summer from John Aalberg, the North American FIS homologation coordinator. Its orange 1.5 k course meets the total climb and independent climb requirements for a freestyle sprint course; the trail only needs widening in a few spots to meet the nine-meter specification.
“It’s relatively minor,” Cantrell said of the necessary trail work. “We’re only looking at about two sections of 100 yards apiece that need widening, and only by five to six feet.”
The trails could only homologate a freestyle sprint course; Cantrell said the Rendezvous doesn’t have the available terrain to create a classic sprint course, which requires climbs of specific size in order to necessitate striding.
In Bozeman, Bohart Ranch is currently working on homologating a classic sprint course. Bridger Ski Foundation director Dragan Danevski says the hills are being improved and the total course will be 150-200 meters longer to make it a complete 1.5 k.
“We are working on finishing the homologation this fall [to] have it FIS certified,” Danevski said. “This summer we have also been working to improve the start and finish area and made improvements on the distance course. When we complete all of that we will put up course maps on the BSF website.”
In addition to a classic sprint, Bozeman has a 10/15 k classic mass start on its schedule.
All together, the four SuperTour races in Montana during Period 1 will be the last opportunity athletes not already on the World Cup have to earn start rights to the Canadian World Cups from December 8 – 16. The U.S. benefits from a larger Nation’s Group quota for both the Quebec and Canmore races and can bring five additional men and women. Outside World Cup performance, additional athletes are selected from the leaders of the respective distance and sprint USSA SuperTour standings on December 3.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.