As kids learn how to ski, they will likely enjoy the challenge of racing to test their skills, learn healthy ways of competing, and see how their fitness is increasing. Racing shouldn’t be a scary thing. It is a good thing for kids to begin racing as it provides many opportunities to learn how to be a good sportsman, develop teamwork, find perseverance, and how to participate in healthy competition. Racing can be anything from a relay race at practice to an official race against a neighboring town. Here are some guidelines:

How often should kids race? (adapted from USSA Level 100 Manual)

Age 6-10: fun races such as obstacle courses, relay races
Girls Age 10-13/ Boys Age 11-14 (pre-puberty or less experienced skiers): 5-15 race starts 1km-5km in distance
Girls Age 11-14/ Boys Age 12-15 (puberty or more experienced skiers): 10-20 race starts 1km-10km in distance
Girls Age 12-16/ Boys Age 14-17 (post-puberty or experienced skiers): 20-30 race starts 1km-15km in distance
Girls Age 16+/ Boys Age 17 + (mature athletes): 20-40 race starts 1km-50km in distance 

The more variety of races, the more diverse of an athlete will be developed. Racing can be done in the summer and fall through running as well. The more practice, the easier racing gets. 

What are the different types of races cross country skiers do?

Races can be in skate or classic techniques and varying in length from 1km- 50km. 
Refer to USSA guidebook for more specifics on running a race.

Sprint Racing: Sprints are done over 1-1.5km. There is a preliminary round in which each skier skis the course in 15 second intervals. The top 30 racers from the individual round move on to the elimination heats. There are 5 heats of 6 racers. The top 2 from each heat, plus the next two fastest individuals move onto the semifinal heats. The top 3 racers from each semifinal then make up the 6 person final. So the winner of a sprint race, races the sprint course 4 times throughout the day. This can also be run with 4 heats of 4 racers. 

Interval Start: In an interval start race, racers start in 30 second intervals. Each racer is then racing the clock. Their race time is the time they finished minus the time they started, accounting for the fact that racers left the gate at different times. This is also known as a time trial format. 

Mass Start: Just as it sounds, this is when all the racers head out together and the first one across the line is the winner. 

Other Races: Relay races and sprint relays are fun formats in which a team works together to win a race. In a regular relay, teams are usually made of 3-4 skiers who each ski a race course of 1-10km in distance. In a sprint relay, 2 people make up a team. Each person skis 3 times around a sprint course (1-1.5km) alternating with their partner. 

Racing Progression:

Start by just having small races during ski practices or P.E. class. Hand bibs out to skiers. As soon as a kid has a bid pined to them, racing will become more exciting to them and their competitive side will emerge. Grow to having school wide or community wide races. Try a variety of formats and see what resonates best with the kids. 

As the ski club develops, consider other racing options. Can you organize a race with a neighboring town or village? Consider the racing options within all of Alaska. 

Besh Cups: Regional Alaska Races for racers of all ages. The Besh Cup consists of 3 weekends of racings in different parts of Alaska throughout the winter. These races also serve as qualifying races for Junior National Championships

Arctic Winter Games: (U14 Athletes):  “The Arctic Winter Games is a 
high profile circumpolar sport competition for northern and arctic athletes.  The Games provide an opportunity to strengthen sport development in the participants’ jurisdictions, to promote the benefits of sport, to build partnerships, and to promote culture and values.  The Games celebrate sport, social exchange and cultures. The Games provide an opportunity for the developing athlete to compete in friendly competition while sharing cultural values from northern regions around the world” (Arctic Winter Games, 2004).

Junior National Championships: USSA holds a championship every year for U20, U18, and U16 athletes. Athletes are to qualify within their region, Alaska being its own region, for the event. It is a great goal for many athletes to qualify for the event and it provides a unique experience to travel, race, and meet kids with similar interests. Besh Cups serve as the qualifying races in Alaska. 

Other Regional Races: Different areas in Alaska have their own regional races established. Check the calendar on the Cross Country Alaska website for current calendars and more resources.