Friday, February 24, 2017

Radical changes proposed for the Alpine Skiing World Cup

The FIS race director Markus Waldner is suggesting some radical changes for the Alpine Skiing World Cup, as reported by His ideas include finishing the season with the World Championships, removing super-G and adding sprint downhills, and increasing the number of the parallel races.

World Championships after the World Cup?

Having the World Championships once the World Cup has finished sounds sensible; Waldner compares it the domestic soccer leagues finishing before the FIFA World Cup. However, I can see two problems.

World Cup races in March are often harmed by warm temperature. Do we want to see the Worlds' medals decided in unfair conditions?

Secondly, what about the Olympic seasons or the seasons with no championships? The Olympics are usually in mid-February; would the World Cup season finish in early February then or continue past the Olympics? And in a non-championship season, would the World Cup season continue till mid-March like it currently does?

Finishing the season with the World Championships sounds cool but you can't have it every season. On the other hand, with the current schedule you have the World Cup Finals concluding every season, no matter if there were the Olympics or the Worlds or neither that season.

The future of speed disciplines

I don't get the point of Waldner's idea of dropping super-G altogether from the World Cup. The number of the speed races is already an issue, handicapping speed specialists in the overall standings against the technical specialists. Getting rid of super-G would only skew the schedule even more in favor of tech specialists, even though Waldner's suggested sprint downhills would balance it.

One of the ideas is also to have the technical races in weekdays to give more flexibility for the speed races in weekends. More scheduling flexibility is definitely needed as showcased by this season's downhill cancellations. Yet I'm not sure moving races to weekdays is a good idea unless you can have them as night races when people have come home from work.

More parallel races

Waldner is pushing for more parallel races since they are easy for the audience to understand, even if they aren't into ski racing. He is suggesting a crystal globe with four to five parallel races, which would end the criticized practice of counting them towards the slalom or giant slalom standings.

Personally I'm not a huge fan of the parallel races but obviously their reception has been mostly positive. No longer counting them towards slalom or parallel slalom standings would be an improvement since parallel races require somewhat different skills.

However, increasing the number of parallel races makes the schedule even more tech-favoring, even though speed specialists have occasionally had success in parallel races. What I think is the biggest problem of the Ski World Cup is the speed vs. tech disparity; Waldner's suggestions only seem to increase it.