Athlete Pipeline - What do Expect
The world of ski racing can be a convoluted mess of confusion, stress, and money.
What the heck our USSA points?
How do I qualify for Championships?
What do I do now to make it to the World Cup?
There are a lot of questions and a lot of different answers for most of those questions. So I'll try my best to make this as clear and as simple as possible. My goal for this post is to have you walk away with a greater understanding of what's possible for your athlete and what they can expect each year from U12 on.
What I'm not going to do is tell you how to get to the World Cup. That's a whole 'nother post and there are A LOT of different ways to get there now, many of which include a full college education. Give me a call if you're interested in that.
Before we get into all that, I want to reiterate that the driving philosophy of the Sundance Ski Team is to create Higher Level Humans. Which means that we want all of our athletes to find success at any level and we will always have a place for our elite athletes looking to go to the highest level of the sport and for the athletes that want to get better at skiing and ski racing and have a lot of fun doing it, and everyone in between. We do believe that competition fosters growth and progress, and if put in the right light, each can learn from all experiences and carve out a niche for themselves with all the support they could desire from the team.
This age is awesome. It's where things start to come together for the experienced athletes, or even for those just joining it's a time to really see what you have and test yourself against the best kids your age in the state.
As a U10 and U12, you have the opportunity to qualify for IMD Championships. You do so by going to South Series races and finishing in the top 30 to earn World Cup Points
The Intermountain Championship consists of a Slalom, Giant Slalom and Dual. The quotas will consist of: U10- 10 per gender for both North and South, U12- 40 per gender for both North and South. Northern division will have a quota of 15m/15w. U8’s are not allowed to compete in the IMD Championships. Alternates will not be selected. Selections will be based on the best two results in slalom and the best two results in GS and then combined into one list, ties within Overall Rank are broken by the best result, 2nd best result, 3rd best result, and so on. If there is a tie for the last quota spot, all tied athletes will qualify for the event.
This age is supposed to be focused on learning how to ski and ski a lot. They are not so concerned about number of starts, or qualifying, or results, or champs, or medals. We want them to enjoy the sport and have a lot of fun with their teammates and learn how to backflip and 360 and ski crud like none other. Of course we do want them to start to develop a competitive edge and the desire to succeed on race day on top of all that.
This is the stage that we still highly encourage a lot of freeskiing and fun, but the competition side starts to come out.
First year U14's have a few unique options such as IMD Projects in Speed (varies each year). They can qualify for U14 Regionals or Tri-Divisionals in March.
Second year U14's can start lowering their USSA points at the Eric Hayes race in December, the Wes Baron in January, and the Snow Cup and Last Chance in April. They can also qualify for U14 Regionals or Tri-Divisionals.
Intermountain U14 Regional Championships Team (from IMD Handbook)
Intermountain will field a team of 26 men and 18 women to the U14 Regional Championships. IMD team members will travel with their parents or coaches but need to participate in all team activities during the event. IMD will provide a staff of 8 coaches to help with the entire team. All IMD staff members regardless of what team the coach and athlete are from will treat all athletes equally. All team members will receive a team jacket in order to represent our Division to the best of their abilities. Athlete seeding at this event will be based on USSA Seed Points in each discipline. Intermountain is given a pre-set number of spots within every seed in which we can place our skiers. The U14 Championship Team will be named no later than March 1st.
Intermountain Tri-Divisional Championships Team
Intermountain will field a team of 49 men and 47 women to the Tri-Divisional Championships. Alaska Division’s quota is 6 men / 9 women and Northern Division’s quota is 15 men /14 women. This event will consist of 1 SL, 1GS and 1 SG. The selection method this series is the IMD World Cup Point Selection process to Intermountain selected Championship events with the following added provisions: ! Athletes will be selected after the U14 Regional Championships selection has been announced, by continuing down the same selection board. ! Will use the new 200-1 IMD World Cup Point system (shown above) rewarding points to the Top 60 per gender per event. Will use a ranking of the Total Score of the best 2 of 3 in all 3 events (SL, GS, SG). Ties within Overall Rank are broken by using the best result; then continue with the 2nd best, 3rd best, and so on until the tie is broken. Alternates will be selected until the quota is filled.
U14 Selection to the U16 National Championship
U14’s may advance to the U16 National Championships, if they win an event and place in the top 3 of another event at the U14 Regional Championships. Both first and second year U14's are eligible.
As a second year U14, it's important to start lowering your USSA Points at the open races listed above. This will help in seeding at U16 events. All athletes start with 999 USSA points. The goal is to lower your points. The lower your USSA points, the better your start position at qualifying events and the higher on the selection boards you'll be. You lower your points by finishing at scored events like the Open races listed above (Eric Hayes, Wes Baron, SnowCup and Last Chance).
The most simple explanation for points is this:
Race Points + Penalty = Racer's Result
Here is the explanation from the Alpine Handbook:
While the winner of any seeded race is given zero 'race points,' a penalty is calculate for every event and added to each racer's points to produce the racer's results for that event. The magnitude of the penalty depends upon:
The seed points of the best five racers who start
The seed points of the best five racers among the top ten finishers
Whether the times of those five racers are clustered near the winner's time or relatively widely dispersed.
The procedure allows the scoring of different races on different slopes and different days, each with different levels of competition, to be based on a common scale. In theory, every racer is a seeded event can compare themselves against Lindsey Vonn or Ted Ligety and against the best racer in the state, as well as other competitors in a given event.
The average of a racer's two best results in each of the scored disciplines becomes the basis for that racer's ranking among other racers. Published lists of such rankings, 'seed lists,' provide the data by which race organizers and race juries can see or establish the start order for subsequent events. Thus, the circle continues: from seed list to race result to seed list; with one aim being lower points, and better start positions and better results.
Of course, in order to gain a better start position by lower seeding points, competitors also must improve their skills, strength, and tactics and then prove this on the hill. It is a basic concept of the sport that skiers must ski well to improve their points.
Please see pages 21 through 27 of the Alpine Handbook for more info on points and seeding.
To break this down even simpler: the better the skiers at the event, the lower the penalty. The lower the penalty, the lower the race result. The lower the race result (two of them to average) the lower your points go down on the next points list release. Now, with that, the lower the penalty, the more likely it is that really good skiers are there, so the stiffer the competition.
All of this applies to FIS races as well.
U16's are pretty similar to second year U14's except they get to race downhill!
The goal is earn World Cup points at U16 qualifying events to qualify for U16 Regionals or Tri-Divisionals. From regionals, the goal is to qualify for U16 Nationals, and then from U16 Nationals, the goal is to qualify for U.S. Nationals. Win one even and place top 3 in another to qualify.
Intermountain U16 Regional Championship Team
Intermountain will field a team of 26 men and 32 women to the U16 Regional Championships. IMD team members will room with their peers and be involved in all team activities during the event. Teams will travel on March 14th. IMD will provide a staff of 10 coaches to help with the entire team. All IMD staff members regardless of what team the coach and athlete are from will treat all athletes equally. All team members will receive a team jacket in order to represent our Division to the best of their abilities
Intermountain Tri-Divisional Championship Team
Intermountain will field a team of 19 men and 20 women to the Tri-Divisional Championships. Alaska Division’s quota is 5 men / 5 women and Northern Division’s quota is 6 men /5 women. This event will consist of 1 SL, 1GS and 1 SG . Athlete seeding at this event will be based on USSA Seed Points in each discipline. Intermountain is given a pre-set number of spots within every seed in which we can place our skiers. The selection method this series is the IMD World Cup Point Selection process to Intermountain selected Championship events with the following added provisions: Athletes will be selected after the U16 Regional Championships selection has been announced, by continuing down the same selection board. Ties within Overall Rank are broken by using the best result; then continue with the 2nd best, 3rd best, and so on until the tie is broken. Alternates will be selected until the quota is filled. ! Up to 20% of the U16 quota may be used as discretion and determined by the IMD Director.
U19 and FIS
As a U19, you have several options:
Continue to race all Open and U16 events in an effort to lower USSA points to qualify for FIS events.
Race FIS events (if your USSA points are low enough to qualify) to start the process of lowering points again, this time in FIS.
FIS is the international governing body of skiing. FIS points are used to rank you against all skiers in the world. Your World Rank will qualify you for NorAms, Continental Cups, Europa Cup, or World Cup events.
Which route you choose will be highly depending on your results, points, goals, and conversations with your coach.
If your goal is to race for a NCAA D1 college, then having FIS points below 40 is a good idea.
Check out the list of all NCAA skiing programs here
If your goal is to make it onto the US Ski Team, then you'll need less than 20 FIS points (the Development team selection process can be found in the Alpine Manual). However, there are a lot of ways onto the US Ski Team. Just because you are not selected on the 'golden path' as a U16, does not mean there is not hope. There are a lot of cases of college athletes making it to the US Ski Team and consistently scoring World Cup Points.
I'll add more to this if I get the interest and questions. But for now, I hope this helps paint some light on what's possible!
- Coach Tyson