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Colorado hack attacks the FIS. "Guys in tights" get a mention.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
PG has already linked to this provocative piece (in the thread about water-injected snow) and it deserves a wider airing. Here's the link: "World Cup no utopia for ski bum".

The author - Scott Willoughby, Denver Post sports writer - berates the FIS for removing 38 inches of natural snow from a layer of man-made ice, on the basis that this doesn't quite fit the spirit of skiing (!), and concludes with this blazing paragraph:
Quote:
While it's arguably easier to reverse the Earth's rotation than convince FIS officials to change their policy and leave the snow on the slopes, I'd argue that's what the skiing public in the United States would rather see. It wants to see skiers adapt to the conditions like the Broncos and Raiders did Sunday night. If you want American skiers to embrace ski racing, give them something they can relate to. Give us the snow we covet, not just some guy in tights blazing through the perfect turn in the blink of an eye. I mean, that's cool, too, but wouldn't you really rather see them wearing snorkels?

In the week of America's big downhill at Beaver Creek, this attack - by a writer who's "covered the FIS World Cup tour for several years" - could have some punch.

Before the FIS punch back - though my guess is that they won't bother - does anyone have any nice or nasty things to say about them?

[comment can be posted below, or on the related thread.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Would Scott Willoughby be happy to see the racers decimated by the conditions? Attempting to stage a Downhill, or even a GS or Super G, with lots of fresh snow can be extremely dangerous.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
So, we mustn't accept that they slow down to balance the risk against their wish to win the race? Racers have ways of adapting, just as Formula One drivers must adapt for wet or dry tracks.

Surely downhills could vary in relative condition, with different speeds from week to week, retaining the character of the snows and terrain in different locations. Hasn't he got a point that the FIS are just trying to homogenise everything?


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Wed 1-12-04 17:21; edited 1 time in total
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He's missing the point, which is to have as level and consistently reproducable a playing field as possible.

Surely he can't be that dense ??
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Lots of sportsman have to read conditions - yachtsmen, golfers, jockeys, etc: I don't see why skiers should be different. The variabilities can never be eliminated anyway: e.g. wind/visibility/precipitation on a given day, terrain from course to course, luck of the draw, etc.

I'm with David G on this.
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Surely there only trying to create a hard wearing piste that is the same for the 1st and last skier down if they didn't harden it the surface would degrade badly on the racing line and the result would be influenced more by the draw. In the womens giant slalom and slalom in Colorado last weekend the skiers that came down after the advert breaks where the course was side slipped clearly had an advantage what is preferably a hard wearing course that should be fairer and "safer" Puzzled because the surface is more predictable or a course where results are influenced by a lottery at the start.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Maybe he'd like the US to have their own "world series" for skiing ? Very Happy
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
The first paragraph of the article David quoted I thought was a bit daft really. Whether people ski on hard, prepared snow or not, most TV viewers will barely know the difference. Unless you get a series of accidents - which regardless of whether the racers ski a little slower, would probably be the result. It's a race - there's a lot at stake - and given how closely matched the elite skiers are, if you don't ski very close to the limit, you don't win. In conditions that are not as uniform as possible that would translate into more accidents.

The big question is not about the surface itself, but about how snowsports are organised, whether the governing bodies - national and international - need to take a close and critical look at the way things are being run. Whether competitions are shown at the right time, whether they could be made more interesting and visually attractive by some means short of seeing people injure themselves badly in horrific falls like that Canadian in last weekend's speed event. And even the elite racers are mostly paid a fraction of the salary of the run-of-the-mill premiership football player, to take considerably more risks with their health, in a career that is often a fair bit shorter.

Besides, the article is misleading. Races are often held in less than ideal conditions - the weather, after all, is unpredictable. Poor, variable visibility, where piste and sky merge as one, contours disappear. A surface that does deteriorate rapidly at times, especially in the technical events. Sometimes both. Particularly in the speed events, these racers are risking their lives. Surely there's some way of making the sport more attractive without deliberately making it more dangerous than it already is?

The level playing field, I think that's a secondary issue to safety, myself. Reversing the order for the second run goes some way to achieving that. It's the overall organisation that needs radical change, new, forward-thinking, ex-competitors from different disciplines brought in to promote the sport and look at introducing the viewer-friendly events such as skier- and boardercross, extreme skiing competitions, alongside the standard stuff. Quickly too, before it suffocates to death.
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Quote:
The level playing field,


No, that'd just be too slow. Confused
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David Goldsmith, for once I'm going to have to disagree with you. Taking your comparison to F1 - the current F1 drivers would certainly not put up with a track where deviating slightly from the normal racing line resulted in almost certain serious injury because the surface was completely different. I witnessed a British Land championships at Tignes that had to be abandoned due to too many of the competitors getting injured. It's OK to talk about battling with the elements etc., but not on speed events.
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John, that's OK with me. This is a very interesting topic, and we haven't mentioned the TV influence which demands the speed.
But I genuinely think Scott Willoughby has a valid point. Ultimately ski racing is there to reflect the mountains and the snow, and to mould it into an all-artificial enterprise of bulldozed terrain and snowguns is a shame.
Ski racing has to fit its risk and technique to the prevailing conditions. Why should a soft-snow downhill be inherently dangerous? The Inferno at Murren is presumably (I've not run it) run in whatever conditions prevail.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
David Goldsmith, The Inferno? Bit like comparing the London to Brighton rally to a Grand Prix.... wink
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
PG, not for the dedicated racers that manage it in stupidly fast times, some of the are skiing at near downhill race speeds
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Still, it's an amateur event, it would be interesting to see how much Maier won it by. Vast majority dawdle down. I thought the comparison was pretty apt, most along for the fun, a few guys pretending they're Bode Miller.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Surely the organisers have to make sure that, as near as they can, they give skiers an equal chance. Even the way they do it there is considerable deterioration and later skiers usually don't have much chance even if they ski as well. This was made clear when they reversed the order of skiers in slalom for the fastest 18 in the second run. It became obvious that 18th was the optimum position to achieve for a not quite top skier in the first round (skiing first in the second), since the fastest skiers from the first round found it harder to ski well in the second and most got overtaken, except for an exceptional few.


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Sat 4-12-04 2:43; edited 2 times in total
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
PG,
Quote:

see how much Maier won it by
which Maier and when? Anyway, the Inferno isn't so much a downhill as a combined uphill and downhill Happy

My word though, it's only when you approach steep(ish) pitches already at high (top?) speed that you begin to appreciate what real downhillers get up to!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
But back to the main topic

"Beyond safety, the argument is essentially that the best racers, the truly fastest skiers won't necessarily win the race."

Errr, who will then?

"It won't be the best show."

Possibly not, but an argument hardly addressed in yer man's column.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
The point is, surely, that we are talking about specific events held under certain rules. Now, the rules may appear daft, but if you don't have them, then you don't have a competition that everyone can understand.

For FIS Downhill racing, it's simple. You have a defined racetrack which must meet certain criteria for satisfactory performance. You define the limits to visibility within which the race should be run. The athletes then draw/select a start number, set off, and the one down the hill in the fastest time wins.

For any FIS alpine racing event, you introduce variables that make no sense, if you're just trying to get from the top to the bottom in the fastest time.

Why have gates? Why not just straight-line the whole thing? Why have GS and slalom events with VERY artificial courses constrained by gates?

The answer is that the events in question are there to test particular skills: combining all-out speed with technical ability.

As an alternative, you could have a race where everyone lines up at the top of the mountain, starts together, and the one that reaches the bottom first, regardless of route taken, would be the winner. (I think they run something like that in New Zealand). (Actually, I might pay to watch something like that: a sort of super-skier-cross: just throw in the most violent elements of rugby football and rollerball, and you've got a sure-fire winner.).

Is the winner of any of these events necessarily the "best skier in the world". Of course not. No more than the winner of the Olympic 100 metres is "the best runner in the world".

With a sport like skiing (maybe especially with a sport like skiing, which taps in to so many spiritual indefinables, like oneness with the natuiral environment, the spirit of the mountains and so on) you are always going to have maverick geniuses who just aren't interested in competition, but who could kick ass with the best of them if they could be bothered.


FIS, for all its faults, exists to service our competitive instinct, and provides skiers who are that way inclined with an outlet for their competitive natures. If FIS didn't exist, you can bet that someone would be busy inventing it.
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Yes, but the significance here is that this reporter has covered FIS events for years and appears somewhat disillusioned with them.

It might be interesting, historically, to know when the FIS first began to demand removal of snow from ski runs. And has it been a factor - even if an oblique one - in boosting TV audiences for ski racing? Or have they diminished?
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
On flatter, less technical courses, it is still possible to use snowcats to pack down new snow and race on it. This was done as recently as last season, at Chamonix. Unfortunately, it can make for a boring race as the new snow makes speeds much lower and therefore jumps smaller. Waxing and straight-line ski performance come into play more, and you can get some very topsy-turvy results in new snow races. On the Birds of Prey it would not have been possible to leave the new snow on the course. The turns there are so tight that the racers dig their edges in very hard, and would create huge holes in soft snow. The first few racers would have a smooth course, but no-one starting after number 10 would stand a chance. So the results of today's race, with Scott Willoughby as FIS Referee, would have possibly have been:
1st Friedman USA
2nd Buechel LIE
3rd Fill ITA
There would have been a lot more crashes, which arguably would have made the race more interesting to watch, but at the cost of a lot of ruined young lives...
In the end, we all want to see competition that is as fair as possible, and the best way to guarantee a course that is reasonably similar for everyone is to race on pretty firm snow.
If Scott Willoughby wants to see skiers wearing snorkels, he should run a Powder 8s competition but insist that the competitors wear skinny skis so that they actually sink into the snow...
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Acacia:
Quote:
Is the winner of any of these events necessarily the "best skier in the world". Of course not. No more than the winner of the Olympic 100 metres is "the best runner in the world".
That's not the best of comparisons really. You should see these guys free-skiing. I'd bet they'd be right up there in a skiing 'decathlon'!

As for Martin Bell's points. I think that about closes discussion in this particular thread! To sum up:

- less interesting, unless you have a macabre interest in watching people break limbs... or worse...
- topsy-turvy results, a bit like having a Olympic stadium running track with an all-weather synthetic inside lane, graduating to mud in lane number 8.

Thanks MB.
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