The basics of ski orienteering –

I thought cross-country skiing was a niche sport. Any self-proclaimed Nordic skier can tell someone you are a “skier” and automatically make them believe you mean downhill skiing. And if you take the trouble to explain what kind of skier you really are, chances are they still have no idea what you’re talking about. Now combine Nordic skiing with the similar niche sport (although better known in Europe) of orienteering and you have a very special sport: ski orienteering.

An athlete races through difficult conditions in Kääriku, Estonia for the 2021 World Ski Orienteering Championships (Photo: WSOC 2021 Facebook)

Orienteering is something that has always interested me. I like the added intrigue to a run of having to find specific points along the way. It helps that I consider myself competent with maps and directions. However, I knew very little about the realities of orienteering until I moved to Europe and was introduced to the world of orienteering. For readers who haven’t heard of orienteering, races don’t have a marked course or set distance. Instead, races involve athletes navigating a compass and detailed maps of an area to find waypoints in the landscape and follow a course. I should note that the sum total of my orienteering experience had been using hand-drawn maps and cryptic clues to find points around my hometown during team training. arid land in the fall.

Turns out that’s not how the pros do.

Ski orienteering involves the same elements as traditional orienteering but is completed on Nordic skis. An official orientation map is quite detailed and in addition to marking the course with the checkpoints that must be visited, it also provides detailed information on the ground such as hills, ground surface and notable features such as rocks, logs or cliffs.

Old orienteering map of Kääriku Estonia from the 2006 European orienteering championships, the map does not show the checkpoints.

The course is only revealed to competitors at the start, which means they cannot plan their route in advance. These events emphasize the ability to navigate. the definition of ski orienteering says: “Skiing and boating skills need to be tested so that boating skills are the deciding factor. In ski orienteering, the course must be done mainly on skis. Parts can be completed on foot, in which case the competitor must wear appropriately sized skis, ski poles and ski boots.

Winner of the 2021 World Pursuit Championship, Audun Heimdal (NOR) consults his map on the move. (Photo: WSOC 2021 Facebook)

Ski orienteering is both a mental and physical challenge, requiring mathematical and spatial abilities and short-term memory while performing the physical demands of a cross-country ski race. Compared to a traditional cross-country ski competition, ski orienteering takes place on technically difficult, narrow and soft trails. Athletes are required to read a map and make route choices while maintaining ski speed.

Read on the move (Photo: WSOC 2021 Facebook)

As in other Nordic skiing competitions, ski orienteering races can be in the split start, mass start or pursuit start format. Instead of distance, events are ranked based on time as competitors will take different routes to complete. For example, the long distance event should last between 85 and 95 minutes while the medium distance event should last between 40 and 45 minutes. The courses are designed to require a range of different orienteering techniques and require concentration throughout the race, requiring detailed map reading and frequent decision making. As athletes find each checkpoint, marked with a separate flag, they use an electronic punching system to monitor their progress along the course.

A Finnish athlete passes a checkpoint, scanning his moving GPS. (Photo: WSOC 2021 Facebook)

The sport of orienteering native at the end of the 19th century in Sweden and has a long history in Scandinavia. What began as military training in land navigation has grown into a competitive sport for military officers and then civilians. The first competition open to the public took place in Norway in 1897.

The Orienteering World Cup started in 1989 with the first event taking place in Austria. In 2012, the first stop of the World Cup season took place in Lake Tahoe, California, despite few American competitors in the sport. While most of last winter’s events were canceled due to COVID, the World Orienteering Championships were held in Estonia and brought together participants from 17 countries. Looking at the World ranking list it seems that, as in cross-country skiing, the Russians and Scandinavians are dominant. On the men’s side, the three best athletes in the standings are all Russians, followed by three Norwegians and a Swedish. On the women’s side, Estonian Daisy Kudre leads the standings, followed by Swedes and Russians.

Tight turns and light snow create difficult conditions in Estonia (Photo: WSOC 2021 Facebook)

the Orienteering ski season 2021/22 kicks off in December with the Winter Universiade in Switzerland, followed by the World Cups in Austria and the World Championships in Finland. If you’re looking to spice up your Nordic routine and try something new, ski orienteering might be for you.

Juniors race to the line in Kääriku, Estonia at the World Junior Championships (Photo: WSOC 2021 Facebook)

About Ethel Partin

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