Inherent to the nature of sport, a way to determine an athlete’s performance is often determined by numbers. However, with ski racing being an individual sport and consistently plagued by inconsistencies, a more complex number system is needed than most other sports. The point and ranking system utilized by U.S. Ski & Snowboard and FIS work to ensure that an athlete’s point profile reflects their ability, difficulty of races attended, and the difficulty of venues raced at.  

At the most basic level, similar to golf, low numbers are better. Every athlete across the country starts their ski racing profile (in both U.S. Ski & Snowboard and FIS skiing), with 990.00 points. That number tends to fall dramatically with the first few races and then becomes more and more difficult to trim once athletes are around the 100 point range. The only difference between U.S. Ski & Snowboard and FIS point-ranking systems is that U.S. Ski & Snowboard rankings are only for United States athletes competing at U.S. Ski & Snowboard sanctioned events and races for ages 13 and up, whereas FIS points reflect an athletes’ ranking internationally when they compete in FIS-sanctioned races, which are only available for athletes beyond the U16 age category. 

A racer’s profile points are calculated through a simple formula: 

Penalty + Race Points = Racer’s Result

However, calculating these two inputs are a bit more complex… 

At every race there is a calculated penalty which reflects the difficulty of the race venue, length of course, and overall level of competition. For example, at a Continental Cup like a NorAm or Europa Cup race, the minimum penalty allowed is 15.00 points. At a typical FIS race, the penalty can vary quite a bit but has a slightly higher minimum of 23.00 points. In U.S. Ski & Snowboard races, the penalty can vary dramatically, tending to normalize around 50 or 60 points. World Cup races, on the other hand, have a minimum penalty of 0.00 points and the top-ranked skier in the world in each discipline carries a 0.00 point profile while they hold that ranking. If you want to learn more about the in’s and out’s of the penalty calculation, visit page 27 in the link below titled “U.S. Ski & Snowboard Competition Guide.”

After the penalty comes the other essential element of the equation, the race points. Race points are utilized to recognize that the time gap behind the race winner SHOULD matter more than placement in a race when calculating a skier’s ability level.

For example, here is a scenario: Racer A wins two races. In the first race, Racer B finishes 1.00 seconds off the time of Racer A but in fourth place. In the second race, Racer C finishes in second place, however 2.00 seconds off the time of Racer A. Because Racer B finished closer to the winning time of Racer A in race one than Racer C did in race two, Racer B should score better points even though they finished in a lower placing. If you want to learn more about the exact calculation of race points, visit the “U.S. Ski & Snowboard Competition Guide” link below, on page 27. 

Once those two numbers (penalty and race points) are calculated by the race officials, an athlete’s result for a given race is produced. Their profile points are then calculated by taking the average of their two best results within a season for a particular discipline. 

Next comes the ranking system. For U.S. Ski & Snowboard, athletes are ranked against other athletes in the country based on their profile points. The racer with the lowest points in the United States in a particular discipline will be ranked first. Second lowest points will be second… pretty self explanatory. It works the same way within FIS, however athletes are ranked against all FIS-registered athletes in the world. The rankings will hold for a given “Points List,” and then refresh every two to three weeks, reflecting the improvements in points that happened within the last list. For more information on the points list system, visit page 30 in the USSA Competition Guide link.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard Competition Guide (p. 26-33 for information on points and rankings)

FIS Point rules

Additional links to U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s description of the point system:

https://usskiandsnowboard.org/competition/points/alpine-points

http://my.ussa.org/aip/alpine/points

Article Tags: Ski Racing 101

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Claire Thomas
- Utah native Claire Thomas is a summer intern for Ski Racing Media and will be entering her sophomore year at Dartmouth College in the fall.
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