by Ulrich Wenger
From vol. 2, issue 2 of New England Nordic News
When pursuit-start races were introduced, many of the big shots were not very glad, but today they agree that these races are very attractive for the spectators and TV and they have started to like it. And now they have to get accustomed to another form of races, the elimination sprints. And soon we will have other forms of competition including new forms of team competitions beside the classic relay or americaine. Why not try and introduce new forms of competition on local and regional levels to make xc skiing more attractive, especially to the youngsters? To develop speed, technical skills and team spirit, and to have more fun, should be the ideas behind new forms of xc ski competions for kids and juniors. Why not for seniors, too?
Speed or sprint competitions
Why not use the electronic timing equipment we have for the glide-tests to keep the time of sprints over 50-100 meters, to measure top-speed over a distance of 10-20m after a free "take-off run"?
- Free technique, skating without poles, double-poling in set tracks.
- In the flat or uphill (even diagonal stride).
- Individual timing-runs, parallel-runs, with the possibility to try more than one time, as a combination of several runs in different techniques.
- As a "serious" competition in itself ("gold sprint"), just for fun before or after a "normal" race, to determine the start-time for a pursuit-start (by multiplying the sprint-time by 10 or more).
- A good speaker and a big electronic scoreboard showing immediately the time and/or speed could help make the sprint-contest even more exciting.
Competitions with handicaps
Sometimes it is really frustrating for kids to have to fight against much taller skiers in the same age category. Why not try to organize a competition where these inequalities are eliminated?
- Girls and boys together in "body-height categories". - Body-height measured in centimeters multiplied by a factor between 5-40 gives the distance the skier has to ski; same finish line, all start at the same time, the tallest skier has to start with the biggest handicap farthest behind the smallest skier.
- Multiply body-height (in cm) by age (in years) by a factor that gives the individual distance to ski; see above.
- Calculate the differences in body-height (or body-height multiplied by age) in a time-handicap and then have a pursuit start.
Sometimes we have girls and boys of different age in the same relay team; in this case we can introduce and calculate handicaps as above or create new forms of team competitions:
- "Ski patrol" formed by 3 skiers of different sex and age (between 9 and 15), their total age may not exceed 36; the best skier starts, after a loop (500m-2km) the second best skiers join and they have to ski together, and for the last loop the third skier joins them and they have to ski together and cross the finish line together as a patrol; use a mass start of the first skiers for each team. There are many variations of this "patrol race."
- "Special relay": a relay team is formed of 3-5 skiers of different (or same) age and sex, for each age category there is a different loop (for the youngest the shortest, for the oldest the longest loop, even for different techniques); mass start of the first skiers, the team decides tactically its own starting order.
- "Tour de France" if you have 5-15cm new snow you can start for a team competition with the tactics of a bike race: the teams consist of 3-5 skiers that have to cooperate, the skiers follow a known route (no tracks set, perhaps marked before the snowfall) 3-10km from start to finish, there are several known places with intermediate sprints and then the finish. Which team counts the most individual sprint points (finish counts double)? Of course the "give-track rule" is not applicable; overtaking is only possible by making a new track on the side.
Ski Cross and Parallel Cross
Ski Cross is a well known form of xc ski competition in Sweden and in Switzerland. It combines technical skills with speed and fun. The parcours includes flat, uphill and downhill parts with natural difficulties of the terrain, artificial obstacles, slalom gates, a jump; the length varies between 30 seconds and a few minutes; of course the technique is freestyle. Elements of a ski cross:
- slalom gates in the flat and downhill
- quirks and bumps
- obstacles you have to step over or crawl under (a rope between two slalom poles, two crossed slalom poles)
- a slalom pole or tree you have to turn around in a full circle (even on a downhill)
- a bike tire you have to crawl through with poles and skis - steep uphill where you have to do herringbone or even side steps - a small jump
- "biathlon": you have three tennis balls to throw in a basket/hole in the snow, for each miss you have to do a penalty turn around a slalom pole
You might set two parallel ski cross parcours (e.g. up the hill on each side and down through a parallel-slalom), then you have a parallel competition. If you are in flat terrain, it might be a good idea to set a red and a blue parallel-cross/slalom crossing in the middle; I bet there will be skiers that forget to cross over to the other side.
A ski cross can become an additional unofficial competition before or after a "normal" race.
Who tries to make xc skiing more attractive through alternative forms of competition?