High Plains Remains a Division as USSA Studies Jr. Nationals Qualification

Chelsea LittleMay 15, 2016

A few weeks ago, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) decided not to auto-renew an affiliation agreement with High Plains, a cross-country division encompassing primarily Wyoming. At USSA Congress this weekend, the Cross Country Sport Committee voted unanimously to reinstate the affiliation agreement and give High Plains back its Junior Nationals quota, among other things, for next season.

FasterSkier caught up with USSA CEO Tiger Shaw on Sunday morning to talk about how the decision was made.

FasterSkier: How did the discussions about High Plains go?

Tiger Shaw: I have got to say, the process ran like I would have hoped. The Cross Country Sport Committee was talking about the actual situation with High Plains for part of the discussion. Rebecca [Watson, the chair of the board of High Plains] – who I’ve gotten to know pretty well now and she’s wonderful – did a great job of explaining how they operate and their history and background, and the state of affairs within Wyoming.

Then there was some discussion about the concept of in-division versus out-of-division: a club being located with one division but part of a different division. It works pretty well in alpine – a club decides what division it wants to join. Willard Mountain in New York competes as part of the Vermont Alpine Racing Association.

Cami Thompson-Graves [the head of the Cross Country Sport Committee] did a great job of codifying the issues, letting people have their say – there was some discussion about that specific situation in Jackson – and then reining it in. It was quickly apparent that the discussion is well beyond just the High Plains setting. One thing is that the affiliation agreement doesn’t encompass everything, nor should it necessarily, and we weren’t going to figure that out yesterday morning at 8:30. So Cami asked for volunteers to join in a smaller group, you could call it a task force, to discuss the situation overall, which might apply to some other division some day.

In the meantime, High Plains is fine. They can move ahead, status quo. The group will give Rebecca some guidance about what they think should change, if anything, within High Plains. And those will be mostly recommendations and suggestions, which she’s totally open to. And then the group will report back to the Sport Committee. So everybody voted on keeping High Plains in as a division. It was unanimous and we will sign the agreement again with them.

I was thrilled with the process. It was democratic, it went to committee, all the major players were there and had their say, but it would have gone on all day if we wanted to but instead we tabled it and sent it to a committee to spend some time on this summer.

FS: Was that meeting just the Sport Committee, or was it open to other people at Congress?

TS: It was held in the planned time slot where most of the Sport Committees roll up all their subcommittees inputs and give reports. It was a special agenda item within it. It was totally open to anyone who wanted to come in and listen and talk.

FS: Did clubs or other people from Wyoming get there to participate?

TS: I think that everybody in the room had read all 122 emails [laughs]. I’m kidding, I don’t know how many emails there were, but you get my point. But it was clear that a lot of the input arguing on both sides of the equation were wonderful inputs for the subcommittee to consider and were way too much to bring into this meeting. I think a lot of people participated that way [by emails]. Nobody missed anything by not being there… So I hope that nobody drove all the way from Wyoming just for that.

FS: Some of the interplay between high school and club racing is challenging in a lot of places around the country.

TS: That was certainly a topic and was clearly passed to this smaller group to look at that. Nobody wants to discourage anybody from any way [from skiing]. High school is just completely embraced, like it should be, by everybody. The question is what is the best way to integrate that, or whether it should exist separately from USSA competitions. How the qualification processes should work.

Also, when you have an elite competition leading up to Junior Nationals, that’s a subcommittee decision. Clearly there is work that can be done there that could alleviate that issue, which could definitely happen all across the country – there were people talking about the impact of qualification quotas here and there, if there’s good kids who can’t qualify in their division, and then divisions that have a lot of spots but don’t have a lot of kids in them. That will be talked about too.

FS: Is there any other big nordic news from Congress?

TS: I was in some of the meetings, but because I have to be in all the different sports I don’t see absolutely all of the content. But it seemed in general like the attitude and the feeling was wonderful.

The nordic combined and jumping crowd was highly organized and got a lot done too. So things are good.

There’s a lot going on. There’s a freeskiing committee that was broken out from freestyle, which we have pushed the FIS to do the same thing, and that worked really well and also creates a new board member for that discipline.

It just seemed like the energy and the alignment and the enthusiasm has built a lot since last year, and that’s exactly what I’m after.

Chelsea Little

Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.

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