Following a record-setting number of athletes competing in the U.S. Nationals in Houghton last week— over 400 skiers from across the US made the trip to the Copper Country—US Ski and Snowboard has announced the selections for the US World Junior and U23 Championships, to be held in Whistler, British Columbia from January 28th-February 4th. Athlete selections have also been announced for the U18 Nordic Nation’s Cup Trip, to be held in Jyvaskyla, Finland February 17th-19th.
The sheer number of competitors at US Nationals, along with a continued trend towards more competition to make one of US Ski and Snowboard’s Development trips is a “sign that we’re continuing in the right direction,” said US Ski and Snowboard Cross Country Development Director Bryan Fish. “The showing from our U23 athletes on the World Cup to the number of U18 skiers that are competitive to make the [Nordic Nation’s Cup] trip is a sign of not only strength, but crucially, depth in our development system.”
Fish added that the competition at US Nationals—as well as diversity of clubs and regions where skiers are coming from—drives home a clear message: “If there’s one thing that we’re doing right [in US Skiing],” he said, “it’s that we’re working together.”
FIS World U23 Ski Championships will take place in Whistler, British Columbia from January 28th-February 4th. The following skiers have qualified to compete in those championships:
World Juniors Team
The FIS World Junior Ski Championships will take place from January 28th-February 4th, 2023 in Whistler, British Columbia.
The FIS World U23 Ski Championships are in North America! Thinking of going to watch the best skiers of tomorrow, today, in-person? Check out Whistler’s guide to Nordic skiing here!
U18 Nordic Nation’s Cup Team
The US delegation to the Nordic Nation’s Cup will compete in Jyvaskyla, Finland from February 17th-19th.
The selection criteria for World Juniors, U23, and U18 are primarily based off objective criteria, with some room for subjective discretion based on the desire of US Ski and Snowboard to fill their FIS allotment for the competition – which currently stands at 8 athletes per gender for World Junior/U23 Ski Championships, with four starting spots/gender allotted for each race. The objective criteria is primarily based on results in three different competitions: 1) the World Cup, 2) FIS points, 3) US Nationals.
Full selection criteria can be found here.
Summary on how those three qualification different pathways work:
- World Cup—A top 30 individual result during Period I of the World Cup (Ruka through Davos, this year) automatically qualifies an athlete for the World U23 or World Juniors team. This is a pathway primarily used by U23 athletes who are racing Period I of the World Cup.
- FIS points—two results in FIS races that earn below 50 points for men, or 50 points for women, during the same period as Period I of the World Cup also serves as an automatic qualifier. This is also a pathway primarily used by U23 athletes, but one used by those who are on the SuperTour during Period I.
- US Nationals—top two of three results at the 2023 US Cross-Country Ski Championships in Houghton, using the old World Cup point system (read how that works here), are counted towards the points total for selection. This pathway is primarily used by athletes qualifying for World Juniors. It is also the only pathway for athletes qualifying for the U18 Nordic Nation’s Trip.
The selection criteria for U23 and World Juniors has not seen broad change for some time, but what has changed recently is just how many U23 skiers are now qualifying for the U23 Championships based on their World Cup results. Of the male contingent representing the US this year in Whistler, nearly the entire team qualified based off World Cup results, with Ben Ogden notably declining the spot he earned based on his seven top 30 individual results during the qualifying period this season. Gus Schumacher, JC Schoonmaker, and Luke Jager also qualified via the World Cup on the Men’s side, while Sophia Laukli and Novie McCabe did so on the Women’s side.
The fact that the best U23 athletes in the country are racing—and doing well—on the World Cup just reiterates something that US ski fans have been able to see for some time. This is an extraordinarily talented group of athletes able to compete at high levels at younger ages than previous generations of American skiers. That spells out progress for the US skiing development system, but what will follow from are implications on a domestic circuit that has typically centered around US Nationals as the primary means of qualifying for Junior World Championship teams. With a number of high-level skiers choosing to race in Houghton last week, it’s clear that Nationals still is an important part of the ski calendar, but this aspect of the competition is likely to be diminished as the US sees more skiers performing well on the World Cup.
One of the other unique aspects of the “trips” qualification this year is that the World U23/Junior Championships are in North America. Junior Worlds competitions so often are staged in Europe that US Ski and Snowboard has always designed its junior programming with that assumption, and with the goal of acquainting young American skiers with the travel and competition demands of competing in a primarily European sport. With Whistler being an exception to the rule for World Juniors, the U18 Nordic Nation’s Cup (to be held in Jyvaskyla, Finland) is the sole opportunity for young skiers to head to Europe to compete. It’s also worth noting that this U18 trip did not happen last year, as the Nordic Nation’s Cup was part of the wave of COVID cancellations that interrupted the European calendar last January.
Those two factors have combined to produce an unusually high number of World Juniors skiers choosing to either also race the U18 Nordic Nation’s Cup or race the Nordic Nation’s Cup instead of going to World Juniors in Whistler. That could strike some as odd at first, but there is plenty of individualized thought affecting when and where U18 skiers that are already qualifying for World Juniors should be first getting international experience, and how to balance individual goals with more domestic goals, such as doing well at Junior Nationals, in a way that captures their desires and goals in the sport.
1/16/23 Correction: A previous version of this article reported Ben Ogden’s club as just Stratton Mountain School T2. Ogden is also a part of the University of Vermont Ski Team.
Ben Theyerl was born into a family now three-generations into nordic ski racing in the US. He grew up skiing for Chippewa Valley Nordic in his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before spending four years racing for Colby College in Maine. He currently mixes writing and skiing while based out of Crested Butte, CO, where he coaches the best group of high schoolers one could hope to find.