for the 2019-2020 age class U12 and under race season.
The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Congress in Park City, Utah, drafted and approved several new rules “to help keep cost down and level the playing field”.
The summary is:
- Two races during the season will be run without speed suits.
- Only one pair of skis will be allowed per athlete per race. The same pair of skis will be used for inspection and race.
- No tuning benches or flourinated wax allowed at race venue.
Exact language is as follows:
- 5.4.3: At U12 and under competitions, we recommend each division hold two races next season (2019-2020) that do not allow speed suits showing. This is a one-year test and look forward to feedback next season. Races will be decided in each division.
- 5.4.4: U12 and under competitors are only allowed to use one (1) pair of skis per race (inspections & competition). Parents, coaches, or technicians are not allowed to furnish additional pairs of skis for use during race day inspections or competition. Non-compliance may result in NPS or depending on circumstance, DSQ (proven violation after start).
- 5.4.5: U12 and under competitors should refrain from using fluorinated wax. In any case, application of any type of waxing solution must not be applied at U12 and under competition venues. Use of ski preparation benches at the U12 and under competition venue is not allowed.
Some of the pro / con feedback to the new rules [not my own opinion] can be summarized as follows:
The sport is expensive due to resort costs, travel, training fees, and venues. The new rules will have little to no impact on actual costs to parents. The fact that some of the people suggesting the new rules host $3,000+ summer race camps seems hypocritical, or, disingenuous at the least.
Ski racing is a long road, so, keeping it simple at the younger levels is a welcome change.
A great move to “bring sanity and fun back” to ski racing youth.
YSL rules exist today, so why are new rules needed for the highest level of competitive racing in this age group?
Part of the fun for parents is participation on race day. Final ski prep at the race start can be fun and social for parents and kids, so, why take it away?
Eliminating the speed suit from race day will be great for coaches and kids alike! Kids will stay warm and coaches can better focus on the kids, not jacket logistics up and down the mountain!
The rules change does not go far enough. The the same 3 or 4 kids will still be on the podium every race; can we not get rid of Live Timing and the scoreboard as well?
The new rules are great, what about extending the changes to U14 and U16 as well?
My take on the rules, and why it may make some sense….
Lets face it, all kid sports are really “amped up” these days. Select baseball, soccer, competitive cheer, karting, elite hockey…… has become hyper competitive. Parents will do just about anything [and spend just about anything] to assist a child with obtaining a dream. Do parents go too far? Are the parents becoming too competitive themselves? Perhaps. But, Alpine Ski racing is no different from any other youth sport.
However, for alpine racing to survive, it must maintain (and grow) its participation and youth base. Individual sports can place immense pressure on athletes. Overzealous parents can further amplify this pressure to the point of an anxiety storm. Simply, young athletes have choices and will pick a different sport….ski racing will be down one more potential talent that never had a chance to develop.
So, how do the “new rules help?
Perception is reality for young athletes. If little Johnny sees a parent cork / fluoro, or, special prep a competing athletes skis at a race …. and then that competitor takes the win, it has an impact. The majority of parents don’t have the knowledge, time, or interest to learn race day ski tuning. Further, when Johnny sees the top competitors having 2+ sets of skis at the start…. and his parents, coach, etc say he only can have one due to cost, necessity, club allowance, etc…. its going to have an impact. Johnny is going to start to feel that he does not have a fighting chance in this sport, so, why bother? The reality is very different of course…. but, perception is what counts in this case. So, control the venue to reduce anxiety, and stop alienating less experienced new athletes.
The rules don’t go far enough….
Parents need to be responsible as well. Perhaps we need to take a step back, a deep breath, and ask “Why we race?” Why we encourage our kids to race?” To be in the outdoors? Be social? Turn off the video games? Be a better skier? Do something athletic? Learn that hard work and dedication to self improvement is a life lesson more valuable than any race win you can imagine? I think when we encourage the process, see the forest and not the tree we do best.
All that said, the reality should not be lost. Fluoro and tuning on race day might be worth .1 to .4 sec. best case [and some can screw it up and make things slower]… certainly no “silver bullet”! A second pair of skis will only help if they are prepped right for the conditions, and even then, the base of the second set might actually be slower. Experienced racers have the flexibility to prep multiple pairs and make adjustments on the fly in the field, and this can be valuable, but, you need the knowledge, or, someone that is dedicated to you with that knowledge.
Ski racing is extremely technical and requires a great deal of knowledge and dedication to succeed. It is the learning of the sport that is so rewarding for many, “The Process”; however, others will choose this sport for different reasons. As responsible participants, and parents alike, it is in our best interest to reduce the frustration and anxiety for those new athletes that are starting this journey. Its our sport to love, lets help others on the quest.