Don’t panic, but your FIS points will be going up one year from now. In fact, everyone except the best skier in the world in each discipline will likely see their FIS points jump up at least a few points due to a new penalty calculation system that will go into effect at the start of the 2019-20 season.
Currently, FIS calculates their minimum race penalties as zero for a World Cup, six for a Continental Cup, eight for a National Championship, nine for a regular FIS race, and 30 for an ENL FIS competition. For the 2019-20 season, World Cup will remain at zero, Continental Cup will change to 15, National Championships to 20, FIS races to 23, and ENLs to 60 in an effort to better define the upper levels of the sport and prevent too many athletes from becoming bunched together at certain levels of the world ranking lists.
“The changes were really driven by the men’s World Cup working group,” says U.S. Ski & Snowboard Competition Director, Jeff Weinman. “What they were looking at was how to try and better segment out the athletes from World Cup, Continental Cup, and FIS.”
Weinman explains that the bulk of the changes will be seen at the World Cup and Continental Cup levels due to how the current way FIS points are calculated. Under the current system, certain athletes’ world ranking is not accurately reflecting their true abilities, according to Weinman.
“If you’ve got somebody like Mikaela Shiffrin who is winning World Cups consistently by multiple seconds, the second-ranked person in the world probably shouldn’t be at 0.40 FIS points or whatever it is calculated to now,” Weinman explains. “They’re probably more like an 8-point skier. Those skiers have taken those ‘fake points’ to the Continental Cup or FIS level and they’re affecting the penalty in a way that they shouldn’t be.”
In addition, these new changes will add a layer of protection for racers that are racing at the World Cup level and scoring points, but not enough to find themselves ranked inside of the top-30 in the world. With the only way to score under 15 becoming racing at a World Cup and finishing inside of the top 30, these new changes will better define what a “World Cup caliber” skier is.
For example, a racer that ends next season with 6.00 FIS points through winning NorAm or Europa Cup races and has yet to race on the World Cup will likely be ranked somewhere around 40-45 in the world as opposed to 31. Additionally, an athlete that has raced all year on the World Cup and scored twice but fell short of a top-30 rank will be ranked somewhere in the 30s as opposed to behind skiers that have only performed at the Continental Cup level.
So, what does all of this mean for the vast majority of ski racers out there? Well, not as much as you might think. In fact, apart from the number of FIS points a racer has increasing, in general, world rankings of the vast majority of active FIS racers will likely change little, if at all, with the new system.
“I think people need to get past the notion of points as a big indicator and instead look at world ranks,” says Weinman. “If you think ‘Oh my gosh, my points are going up by 15!’ that’s not a great way of going about it. In reality, your world rankings are the better indicator and those likely won’t be changing by much.”
Currently, all races that are held this season will also be calculated using the new system and be available on the FIS website for people to get a feel for what their FIS profiles will look like at the start of the 2020 season. The new calculations will be visible on the right hand side of the results in a column labeled “2020 points.”
For example, a recent race series held in El Colorado, Chile, was calculated both ways where one of the women’s penalties was calculated at 56.55 for the current system and 70.55 in 2020 points.
When it comes to national team nomination criteria, there are a few tweaks that will likely be necessary in order to accommodate the new ranking system, but U.S. Ski Team management does not foresee too much changing as far as the makeup of their teams are concerned going forward.
“We are going to work on the criteria, but because there’s been so much time that has been put into it in the past year, we aren’t going to be reinventing the wheel in that regard,” says U.S. Ski & Snowboard Alpine Director Jesse Hunt. “There are nuances that we will for sure take a look at but it won’t really change the athletes that are selected to a large degree.”
In addition to the FIS penalty changes, FIS has also approved adding a pregnancy clause to their rules, further clarifying how an athlete’s rankings will be effected by time off due to a pregnancy. Previously, pregnancy was not specifically addressed in the rules and was technically covered under the injury section if the FIS rulebook. FIS also approved the usage of photo-finish technology for dual events similar to what is used in cross-country skiing.