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Understanding Skicross

Skicross Competition

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Understanding Skicross
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Skicross, also known as ski cross, is a race on a set course with four (sometimes but not often six) racers going head-to-head together down to the finish line with the first across the finish line to be the winner.

That sounds simple but, in fact the competition is much more involved. First, all competitors race the course alone against the clock in a qualification round. Race officials determine the cut-off time based on the preset number of pre-final races to be conducted.

For example, there may be 100 racers in the qualification round but the venue is set for 32 competitors to race in sets of four for eighth-finals, quarter-finals, Semi-finals, and finals.

The eighth-finals elimination round has 8 'heats' or races of 4 competitors with the first and second finishers in each heat advancing to the quarter-finals elimination round. The quarter-finals elimination round has four heats after which the top two in each of the 4 heats advances to the semi-final round.

Again, the top two in each of the two semi-final heats advance to the finals. In the case of awarding prize money there may be a "small" final heat with the bottom two racers in each of the semi heats racing for spots five through eight.

The "big" final heat determines the gold, silver and bronze medal winners and the fourth place finish for prize consideration.

International Ski Federation (FIS) Rules and Considerations

In FIS sanctioned Skicross competition the rules aren't as stringent as alpine racing regarding skis, bindings and apparel. However, there has to be a semblance of uniformity to determine a fair gradation to apply to racer standings.

Some FIS considerations for the course are:

  • 800 to 1200 meters long
  • 150 to 250 meters vertical drop
  • Ladies and Men use the same course
  • Course is a series of 'Features' (natural and manmade)
  • 50% turns of varying size and speeds between the features
  • 25% traverses, bumps and rollers
  • 25% jumps (3 to 13 feet high) and landings
  • A Drop Down Start Gate
  • Timing System for Qualification and High Speed Camera for 'photo finish'

FIS Equipment and Apparel standards:

  • Giant Slalom Skis with no FIS regulation on length or side cut
  • Ski Boots and bindings (as per regular FIS Rules
  • No one piece Speed Suits allowed
  • Pants and Jacket separates are required and they are to be 'loose.' Actually this is the most stringent requirement - The gap in the material must be a minimum of 80mm, measured everywhere around the circumference of each leg from the mid thigh to the top of the ski boot and 60mm everywhere around the elbow and the bicep.
  • Body protection, (back, arms and hip) and padding must not be built into the ski suit or attached to the ski suit by a zipper, Velcro, or any other means.
  • Helmets are required

Who Are Skicross Racers

Most skicross racers, both men and women come from an alpine skiing discipline. However, with all the jumps and air time it is obvious there is some freestyle skills involved.

Almost all major ski countries have some involvement in skicross but not always to the extent of a formal skicross team.

The USSA Freestyle/Freeskiing is the sanctioning body along with the FIS. To compete in an FIS sanctioned skicross event (NorAms, Europa Cups, World Cups or World Championships) athletes must have a USSA Freestyle or Alpine license and FIS freestyle license.

Who Can Compete

Any athlete wishing to compete who has a valid USSA and FIS Freestyle license can compete in Nor-Am/FIS ski cross events. As for International competition all athletes from the U.S. must be entered by USSA. However, that is not out of sight for everyone as application can be made to USSA by any licensed athlete.

The American Skicross Association is recognized as a proving organization by the USSA and most all major Skicross athletes in the U.S. belong.

Skicross competition made its Olympic debut at the Vancouver winter Games in 2010 and is on tap for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

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