Race Day 101

The kids really looked good the past two weekends in training and I am sure everyone is fired up about our first race at Loon this.  Before I share the details for this weekends races I wanted to share the following Race Day summary that Mark Schiffman put together a few years ago.  Please take five minutes to read as it is full of very useful information and advice.

A Test Against the Clock

By the numbers the time actually spent racing is less than 2/10ths of 1% of the time spent skiing and training, yet is one of the most memorable parts of the season. The focus of the Ford Sayre Program is on having fun and developing skiing fundamentals. Races are great learning tool as they provide challenges, opportunities to test oneself, and encouragement to improve.

Getting There

Parents (or someone designated by the parent) are responsible for transportation to the ski area and back home after the awards at the end of the day. Plan on arriving by 8 a.m. for a 10am start and 7:30am for 9:30 start. When in doubt, get there a little earlier. It will save some stress all around.


When you arrive at the ski area you will need to pick up your racers bib at registration (ask a coach or a parent whose kid has a bib if you cant find it). Always bring a copy of your USSA (print off from website) to pick up the race bib.

Meet the Coaches

Racers should next meet their coaches at the appointed time (usually 8, or 8:30) for warm-up and course inspection.  Coaches will be responsible for supervision of the racers during course inspections and until completion of the racer’s run. Though depending on the start time we may encourage racers to take some free runs on their own. Coaches will be at the start, and when possible along the course and at the finish.

Two Race Runs

Typically, there will be one race run in the morning and one in the afternoon. In most cases the course will be reset between runs. Once the racer has finished his or her first race run the parent (or designee) is responsible for the racer until course inspection for the second run. Grab a snack or lunch, then find some friends, go ski and explore the mountain. The second run starts roughly an hour after the last racer completes the first run, usually at 12:30 or 1 p.m.  We will try to get on the lift for inspection at least 45 minutes before the start of the second run.  This means parents will have to make sure kids eat lunch soon after their first run, and keep an eye on them during this time. A smart, simple rule is to never take the race bib off from around your neck. That way it can’t get left on a table or in the bathroom.

Relax and Ski

For coaches, the focus on race day is mostly on getting the racers to relax and transfer the skills they have practiced day-after-day to a more challenging arena. Almost all kids are nervous on race days. They turn to parents for encouragement and support. Be positive, and try to emphasize the effort, not the outcome.  By seeing you demonstrate a positive, low anxiety, relaxed approach to ski racing, your child will be encouraged to keep learning and improving. Even though well intentioned, there is nothing more counter-productive than having parents coach their child during a race.  It is a sure way to distract the racer, and make him or her more nervous than they already are.  A simple “good luck, go fast and have fun,” proves to be the most effective approach.

Keeping track of clothing and equipment

If you have not yet written your name on ALL of your child’s equipment and clothing, DO IT NOW! It is really easy to grab the wrong skis at a race. If your skis have your name written in large letters close to the tip, this will cut down on the likelihood of mistakes.

Most racers will shed clothing at the start of a race for aerodynamic or at least psychological advantage. First, it’s important that kids don’t do this until just before the start. Staying warm is more important than aerodynamics when it comes to performance. Whenever possible coaches or parents will take these coats and warm-ups down to the finish or into the lodge. To make sure your child finishes the day with everything she started with, follow these simple rules. 1) Write your child’s name, phone number and Ford Sayre on everything. 2) Tell your child to make sure he/she puts anything he/ she takes off in the team bag, or hands it to a coach. 3) Make sure your racer claims all of his/her clothes promptly once the bag or gear comes down.

End of the Day

At the completion of the second run, the parent is again responsible for the child. Turn in race bib(s) and get back USSA or bib deposit. This is a great time to go take a few runs and explore the ski area before the awards, which are typically held one (1) hour after the conclusion of the race. We encourage everyone to attend the awards ceremonies, to show good sportsmanship, as well as support for the team and event organizers.

When it comes to racing, the coaches emphasize that you can control your effort, but not the results. In most ski races at least 95% of all participants at a race do not win, but by giving their all, every race becomes an accomplishment. After a run coaches ask the skiers how they skied, not what their time or place was. However understanding that most of the time they will not win the race is one of the most important lessons of ski racing for kids to learn. To be successful kids rely on their parents to let them know the world is still okay if they don’t reach their goals for a specific day, and on their coaches to remind them that that every race is a new opportunity to succeed.

Congratulate Your Racer

No matter what happened, no matter the result, the coaches always see something that each child has accomplished that day, don’t forget to let your child know all the good things that you saw. Even if they don’t acknowledge it, they’ll appreciate it . . . greatly!

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