Are You Point Chasing?
A Racer’s Perspective By Claire Abbe
While there may be races that involve penalty manipu-
lation, there are other factors that can impact a race and
point scoring opportunity that are not penalty manipulation.
Thankfully, USSA’s research is showing that the few and
far-between instances of likely penalty manipulation do not
discredit the current point system.
In my career, I’ve seen various scenarios that affect penal-
ties — course-sets, weather conditions and end-of-season
fatigue for World Cup athletes — most of which are not pen-
Take course-sets, for example. Straight courses with little
offset do not typically separate the field and allow for tighter
races. A slight mistake by a low-seed-point athlete can cre-
ate results for other racers. But straighter courses also create
faster times, which in turn can inflate the race points across
the field. Challenging courses reward the best racers. Race
organizers and course-setters, however, are in a constant
battle to provide a venue that allows for a fair race.
This gets even more challenging with the late-season condi-
tions that can affect the outcome of a race. The World Junior
Championships in Italy earlier this month had warm weather
and variable snow conditions, producing an interesting re-
sult for late start numbers. In the men’s giant slalom, two
racers tied for 30th after the first run and therefore started
first and second in the second run. The course conditions
deteriorated rapidly and the top skiers starting late in the
second run could not come close to the times of the early
starters. The result was that the racers tied for 30th ended
up second and fifth overall in the race (from the 25th and
42nd start positions, respectively).
Spring races almost always offer warm weather and soft
snow conditions and can just as easily create similar cir-
cumstances and results. The men’s giant slalom at World
Juniors was not an example of point manipulation. It was
simply an example of racers skiing their best in the condi-
tions that were presented to them.
World Cup athletes can understandably be burned out after
a long and grueling season and may have no real reason
to go all out, risking injury, during spring series racing. They
simply want to make an appearance in front of their home
crowds and give back to the programs that helped them
climb to the top of the sport. If they ski at 95 percent in the
race, this would be impossible to recognize. There is no way
to regulate conservative skiing.
But I’ve often competed in spring races alongside some of
the best international and NCAA athletes, during which no
one has held back. Some athletes have yet to qualify for
their next year’s team, and most athletes with low points
do not want to give away the points they worked so hard
to earn throughout the season. You don’t become a world-
class ski racer without being competitive. It’s full bore all
the way — the way it should be. But in those cases, if the
temperatures are warm, and the snow is soft, it can also be
very difficult for those in the middle and back of the field to
score. Racing results come from peak performance as con-
sistently as a racer can manage, and in due time the results
I know how easy it is for an emerging ski racer to get caught
up in point chasing, worrying about circumstances that you
simply cannot control. I would encourage these racers to
focus on skiing their best to score their best.
Note: All-American ski racer Claire Abbe has competed and
coached at the NCAA and NorAm level and now serves as
the director of marketing and strategic relationships for Ski
Some racers may be in over their heads
when trying to manipulate points.