The SuperTour starts soon. In fact, it starts tomorrow. Here’s your one-stop rundown for who’s racing, when the races are, and what the stakes are for this Continental Cup level of American domestic competition.
(If you don’t want to read any further than this: the fastest American athletes not currently on the World Cup, plus a healthy admixture of Canadians and other foreign nationals; over seven distinct weekends-ish between tomorrow and late March; guaranteed start rights for the World Cup and probably start rights for World Championships, respectively.)
If you’re still with us, let’s delve into who’s racing.
Who is racing in the SuperTour generally?
The lion’s share of professional skiers in this country are currently training with and racing for one of six large professional ski clubs: Alaska Pacific University, Bridger Ski Foundation, Craftsbury Green Racing Project, Stratton Mountain School T2 Team, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, and Team Birkie. (Disclosure: I train with the APU Masters team, which is under the same umbrella as the APU Elite Team but has little overlap with the pro skiers.)
Athletes affiliated with one of these clubs are most likely to attend some or all of this winter’s SuperTour weekends in an effort to contest as many races as possible and compile as many ranking points as possible for selection to the World Cup and World Championships.
That said, having the fastest skiers in the country come to town is also a superb development opportunity. Expect to see fast juniors from many local clubs travel to a race in their region for the chance to engage in high-level competition. And the fastest juniors and U23 athletes will likely seek out multiple SuperTour races in an attempt to improve their chances of qualifying for Junior/U23 World Championships, held in Whistler later this season.
Who is racing in the SuperTour this week?
The fields for the opening SuperTour “weekend,” starting in Canada tomorrow with a classic sprint (yes I know tomorrow is a Wednesday), are absolutely loaded, reflecting the breadth of teams that have flocked to Sovereign Lake for early-season training. In addition to athletes from all six clubs mentioned above, there are deep teams from Dartmouth, University of Colorado, University of Denver, and University of Utah all on site. Oh, and most of the Canadian national team, too.
Between the diversity of NCAA racing and the draw of prime early-season snow, countries represented on the start list for this week include Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Austria, and France.
Athletes currently on the U.S. Ski Team who are slated to race in Sovereign Lake include Hailey Swirbul, John Steel Hagenbuch, Finn O’Connell, Sydney Palmer-Leger, Sammy Smith, Michael Earnhart, Walker Hall, Will Koch, and Zanden McMullen. Put another way, every single national team member not racing World Cup Period 1 is entered in these races. A top result in Sovereign Lake will be a meaningful statement about an athlete’s current overall race fitness relative to the rest of the country.
More details on how to follow these races coming in tomorrow’s viewing guide.
How can you find out more about these athletes?
Great question. Here are previews of most of the domestic teams mentioned above. (If you’re affiliated with APU or Craftsbury and would like to see your team featured here, please be in touch: info (at) nordicinsights.news. I have a few simple questions for you to answer about your current team roster and season outlook before I can write a preview.)
Here is our preview of the Bridger Ski Foundation Nordic Pro Team (above photo: @flyingpoint).
Here is our preview of the SMS T2 Team.
Here is our preview of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation XC Gold Team.
And here is our preview of Team Birkie.
Where and when are the races held?
|Nov. 30–Dec. 4, 2022||Sovereign Lake||cl sprint, 10km skate, sk sprint, 10km classic|
|Dec. 8–11||Sun Valley||15km classic, classic sprint, 10km skate|
|Jan. 2–7, 2023||Houghton||U.S. Nationals: 10km sk, cl sprint, 20km classic|
|SuperTour status only: skate sprint|
|Jan. 14–15||Birkieland||30km classic, classic sprint|
|Feb. 18–19||Wirth Park||skate sprint, 20km classic|
|Feb. 25||Birkieland||Birkie (skate race only scored for SuperTour)|
|March 22–26||Craftsbury||SuperTour status only: 10km classic|
|national championships: skate sprint,|
|4 x 5km mixed relay, 30–50km classic|
How far do athletes have to travel to attend the races?
Pretty far! An athlete skiing for APU, for example, and contesting a full SuperTour schedule, would end up making four costly roundtrips from Alaska to the Lower 48: to Canada and Sun Valley in November and early December; to the Midwest in the first half of January; back to the Midwest in mid-February; and to Craftsbury in late March. An athlete skiing for Craftsbury or SMS, for example, could drive to the last of those, but would still be making three long trips within the first three months of the season. A Team Birkie athlete could get away with less flying and more driving this season, but could need to spend more time on the road next season as the schedule changes.
This is a big country; support your local pro skier’s request for help with airfare if you can.
What are the stakes?
Development in skiing is a process; there are values in racing, and in learning how to race away from home, and in learning how to travel to races and all that that entails. Those values are real, and are important. They are also somewhat ineffable, so I want to acknowledge that those things are happening here before I move onto the more easily parsable selection criteria:
- The overall SuperTour points leaders — top man and top woman — following the second weekend of racing, in Sun Valley, will receive World Cup start rights for the seven races in the Tour de Ski. (For reference, this was how Zak Ketterson and Alayna Sonnesyn got their Tour de Ski starts last season.)
- The overall SuperTour points leaders following all four races at U.S. Nationals will receive World Cup start rights for World Cup Period 3 (six races in Livigno, Italy; Les Rousses, France; and Toblach, Italy).
- The overall SuperTour points leaders following the Birkie will receive World Cup start rights for World Cup Period 4 (seven races in Oslo, Drammen, Falun, Tallinn, and Lahti).
Keep in mind that being named to the World Cup team “does not automatically include funding or ski service from U.S. Ski & Snowboard,” per the relevant selection document from USSS. “SuperTour leaders and discretionary picks will be required to pay a fee for waxing/service and/or may be asked to provide their own serviceman/technician.” Once again, support your local pro skier’s request for help paying for their own wax tech if you can.
The above start rights are effectively guaranteed: U.S. Ski & Snowboard would be technically within their rights to fill World Cup start quotas solely from athletes who qualified based on their World Cup performance, but has historically taken to the World Cup the top-ranked SuperTour man and woman at each of the three points in the season noted above.
Start rights for World Championships are more complicated. There will be a longer article on those criteria as those races approach, but the short version is that there are four distinct criteria for selection to the American team for World Championships.
(1) an individual top-8 finish on the World Cup, in races held in specific formats mirroring those races that will be contested in Planica;
(2) discretionary selection;
(3) ranking in the top-45 for the World Cup sprint or distance standings; then
(4) being the top-ranked domestic male or female sprint or distance athlete through mid-January, with performance at U.S. Nationals weighted most heavily.
Of note, criterion no. 1 is automatic (“will be selected”); criterion no. 2 is discretionary (“may select additional athletes”); criterion no. 3 is automatic (“shall be selected”); and criterion no. 4 is discretionary (“may be filled”). Domestic performance is therefore last on the list; is discretionary; and is subject to the maximum team size already being met before reaching this criterion. More details on this to follow later in the season.
— Gavin Kentch
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