The content on this website tends more toward “wonkish items that I find personally interesting and helpful,” less so toward “a slavish adherence to search engine optimization.” Think not so much “Slideshow: 27 times Jessie Diggins slayed on the course and with her outfit!” as, “Here is a roundup of the percentage of female coaches in high-level American skiing that I spent hours to research and that didn’t make anyone who read it happy.” Real efficient return on investment stuff there.
That said, I am human, and I do have Google Analytics, and I am not immune to the single most-searched-for query that brought readers to my site last year. And so it is with a heavy heart that I report: I am unaware of any free online streaming for cross-country ski races in the U.S.
But you might be able to find something that approximates this? And the two races in Minneapolis in February really will be free for American viewers to watch online, at least live. Read on for more about how to view cross-country ski races from the U.S. this season, both the official answer and also my attempt at some workarounds.
The paid option: Ski & Snowboard Live
Ski & Snowboard Live is back for another winter of carrying the races. They will broadcast every World Cup cross-country ski race held this season, save for any events held in Austria or the United States. The Period 2 World Cup venues of Davos, Switzerland, and Toblach, Italy, are both really close to their respective countries’ borders with Austria, but are not quite within Republik Österreich, so no issues there/you can watch them on Ski & Snowboard Live.
You may have heard something about a pair of races being held in the U.S. in February; those will not be available on this platform. More on how to view those below.
So Ski & Snowboard Live will be good for 35 of the 37 races next World Cup season. If you navigate to their site, you will find that your viewing options are broken down into a number of categories. If you are reading this website you presumptively want the category of “Nordics,” which gets you cross-country ski racing plus also ski jumping, but not, oddly enough, nordic combined.
A single-discipline pass here (“Nordic Disciplines Pass”) costs $8.99 per month. As noted, I assume that’s what you want. Your other option is an all-access pass, which gets you the three disciplines of (1) nordic and ski jumping, (2) alpine skiing, and (3) freestyle skiing and snowboarding. This costs $15.99 a month, or $69.99 for the season.
You can use discount code EARLYBIRD2023 to save 15 percent on either the monthly or season-long all-access pass, the site currently advises. I used discount code KERN2024 to knock 10 percent off the price of the nordic pass (disclosure, such as it is: I just paid cash out of pocket to access the site for the season). I have no idea if my entering this code gives Julia Kern some small form of kickback from the site. I hope it does; cash rules everything around me, and cross-country skiers tend not to get enough of it.
This year’s World Cup season ends slightly earlier than normal, on March 17, 2024, in Falun. You should therefore not sign up for your first monthly pass until on or after tomorrow, November 18, 2023, just to make sure that the timing works out. You can then renew this three times for one month each, which should get you through March 18, 2024. I apparently wasted an extra $8 by signing up earlier this week/I’ll have to re-up for another month just to watch Falun, but I wanted to be in the system as a registered user so that I could report this story.
Speaking of reporting:
Commentators and other logistics
I sent a *lot* of emails earlier this week to attempt to nail down precisely who will be serving as a commentator on these broadcasts. Here’s Kikkan Randall, via email earlier today, with a partial answer on that front:
“Another season is almost upon us! We’re finalizing the schedule for commentary with Ski and Snowboard Live. Chad and I will be commentating 20 races this season, starting with Ruka next week.”
And here’s Tom Read with Spalk, the platform supporting Ski & Snowboard Live, also via email earlier today:
“Chad Salmela and Kikkan Randall will be commentating a significant number of the races this season. We are still working through the remainder of the schedule around their availability but the wider commentary team will also include Ryan Sederquist and Tom Horrocks.”
Does Sederquist have thoughts on this gig? He does. Here’s the pride of Lake County, Colorado, on his season plans:
“I’m looking forward to hopping back behind the mic on skiandsnowboard.live after Christmas this year. I’ll do my best to bring quality, insight and excitement to the coverage of our U.S. skiers … Obviously, outside of training, writing and changing diapers, I’ve spent the off-season pondering (and am still open to suggestions) potential punchlines for calling Ben Ogden’s inevitable dethroning of Klæbo in a sprint final. I’ve been told ‘undressing the field’ has been taken, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something.”
Per the official FAQ document, replays will also be available through Ski & Snowboard Live. Commentary will be available on the replay. This was the case last year as well.
Let’s talk about time zones
The Ski & Snowboard Live website lists events in your local time zone. This means that, as I sit here in Anchorage, 10 hours behind Norway and 11 hours behind Finland, the races’ start times look like this:
(This feels like an acceptable place to admit that the last two ski races I woke up to watch live were the team sprint at the 2018 Winter Olympics and the junior men’s relay at 2020 World Juniors. Not saying just saying. Much respect to Kikkan, who lives in the same
city time zone as me, for waking up in literally the middle of the night to do this all winter. This is just one of many differences between Kikkan Randall and myself.)
If you are trying to plan your winter viewing schedule, you may also find your way to the FIS calendar page, which looks like this. Start times on the FIS website are set forth in Central European Time (CET), as well as local time at the actual race venue (LOC).
You will probably find the FIS app (Apple, Google) more helpful for planning your schedule, as it automatically lists race start times in your local time zone for you (this is 24-hour time, so “00:00” is midnight):
Finally, hopefully you will find most helpful of all my weekend viewing guides on this very website, which look like this and will be posted all winter in advance of each race weekend:
About those two American races
While Ski & Snowboard Live is the self-proclaimed “Official Streaming Service of FIS World Cup & World Championship Events in the United States,” this means “streaming service for viewers based in the U.S.,” not, “streaming service for FIS World Cup events held in the U.S.” For American-based World Cup races, you need Outside Watch.
Outside Watch is the online streaming service of what used to be a well-regarded print-only magazine called “Outside.” You can find the Outside multimedia platform portal here.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard advises, “All events held in the United States are LIVE on Outside for free this season, with coverage also on NBC/CNBC and Peacock.” So you should be able to watch the two days of February racing at Wirth Park in central Minneapolis here. Scroll down the schedule until you find “MandW sprint individuals” and “MandW 20k sprint,” which apparently denote a skate sprint and a 10-kilometer interval-start skate race, respectively.
A USSS media representative, in a recent email to Nordic Insights, confirms, “Outside will be broadcasting the [Loppet Cup] races for free, so anyone can watch via Outside! TBD on NBC.”
If you miss these races live and want to watch a replay, you will need an active Outside+ membership to do so. “Please note,” Outside+ advises (emphasis in original), “Replays may not be available immediately after the live event. Please allow up to 1 week for the replays to become available on the Outside Watch platform.” So you might just want to plan on watching these races live.
I cannot currently speak to who will be the commentators for the two Loppet Cup races at Wirth.
Other options: How much do you know about computers
If you are willing to depend on the internet uploads of strangers and a hodgepodge of YouTube sites of various legality, you will often, but not always, find replays uploaded online in the hours or days after a race. Try searching for the race venue and date, e.g., “Ruka World Cup November 24, 2023.” You want a video in the results that is at least 60 minutes long; something with a promising title that is only 30 seconds long is simply a clickbait teaser.
I found several full-race sites in Period 1 of last year’s World Cup season and for a time embedded them into my race writeups on this website. This pretty consistently led to Ski & Snowboard Live getting mad at me, then reporting those sites to YouTube for alleged copyright violation and getting them taken down. Not great. I will therefore confine myself to noting that sites such as this, this, or this have or had some full races from last World Cup season.
I express no opinion as to the legality of these sites. I am not currently an active member of the Alaska Bar Association and so I am not allowed to give legal advice any more, but I would strongly urge you to consult with a lawyer before, say, uploading copyrighted material on your own, or certainly before charging someone else to view copyrighted material that you have uploaded. She will probably tell you that that is a bad idea and that you should not do it.
Speaking of illegal, there are a number of live streaming sites out there for all manner of sports. A representative sample are compiled here. I would be surprised if any of them deigns to stream nordic skiing, but your mileage may vary.
Other options: VPNs
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are used for a variety of purposes on the internet, both savory and unsavory. Among their uses are to change the apparent IP address of your computer, so that it appears to the host computer that you are based somewhere other than your actual physical location.
There are a number of VPN providers out there. Windscribe is one such option; there are many, many others. If you download a VPN or VPN extension that has servers in, say, Norway, this will enable you to view ski races held in Norway that are broadcast on Norwegian television and hosted on Norwegian media sites.
Until a few years ago, a free account with Windscribe plus geo-locating as Norway was enough to let you view the entire World Cup season on NRK, the Norwegian national broadcaster (see above). Now this season, once again, brings only some local races on NRK, with the rest on Viaplay (Klæbo has thoughts on this). You can, for example, view this weekend’s season-opening races in Beitostølen on NRK here, then nordic combined and alpine and biathlon races after that, but not World Cup cross-country ski races. When things return to Trondheim in mid-December or Oslo in March those races might show up on NRK again, but that’s not a guarantee.
You can officially subscribe to Viaplay from within the U.S., but this subscription package does not include sports. The cheapest package from Norwegian Viaplay that contains sports, along with a great deal of other programming, is 399 kroner per month, or roughly $36. You would presumably need a way to pay with a Norwegian-based credit card, which sounds hard.
Update: Download a VPN that will let you geolocate as Canada (Windscribe is one such option), set your location to Canada, watch the free live feed via FIS. (Found here, or just Google “FIS cross country watch live [name of venue].”) This should be pretty seamless.
You might have better luck with a VPN that places you in somewhere like the United Kingdom, where you can attempt to view, and/or subscribe to, Eurosport for their coverage. Or try Finland (broadcaster: YLE), Sweden (SVT), Germany (ARD/ZDF), Italy (RAI), or so on. There is a non-zero chance that Viaplay now controls all rights throughout the entire Schengen Area, which would be frustrating to me, but is also well above my pay grade.
You should consult last season’s “how to watch” article for some more detailed instructions on how to download and use a VPN. Note well, all the links contained in Ian Torchia’s blog post (linked to in the 2022 article) are now dead, sorry.
What about biathlon
I’m not going to sugercoat this: Biathlon does an amazing job of television production compared to the convoluted mess that is high-level cross-country skiing. (By way of explanation, if not complete defense, IBU controls and I believe owns its own media production, while FIS does not. IBU can therefore put together a consistent product all season long, while FIS is more subject to the vagaries of each country and each venue depending on where the World Cup goes that weekend. Devon Kershaw has highly amusing, if not particularly complimentary, thoughts on the camera skills of the Davos crew that you should listen to some time.)
Here’s what I wrote for the biathlon section in last year’s viewing guide:
“Biathlon is making it easy for you: Go to http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/ibu. Watch what you want, for free, either live or archived. No VPN needed. The end.”
The only thing I would add to that for 2023/2024 is that U.S. Biathlon has written and made available this superb roundup of spectator resources. Would you like a primer on the multiple different race disciplines within the sport of biathlon? Detailed information on the development pipeline? Information on how to qualify? You will find all these things in one place. As a professional sports explainer, may I say here, great job, U.S. Biathlon.
To review, Ski & Snowboard Live is your most reliable and official option in this space for nordic skiing. Given how much most things connected with cross-country skiing cost you could definitely just pay the eight-plus dollars a month to subscribe there. But if you can make other options work, well done; leave a note in the comments here with what you found so that others can see it. (After the first few races of the season, it’s sounding like VPN set to Canada is the best bet for live coverage, ) And do come back each Thursday or Friday throughout the season for a viewing guide that will set forth race times and logistics for each World Cup weekend.
— Gavin Kentch