Buck Hill announced in October that they are hosting the club’s first-ever three-run FIS race. Considering the lack of vertical at Buck Hill, it is remarkable to have a FIS-regulation race at this venue. We have seen three-run races indoors in Europe, but Buck Hill is breaking new ground in the U.S. by hosting a race in this format, and they hope it will open doors to see more races like this in the future and provide more FIS racing opportunities in the Midwest.
For this three-run race, when athletes finish a run, they get right back on the chair and lap around for another run. It will be like a sprint slalom. The goal is to bring some more fun into the sport while providing additional opportunities for athletes to race FIS in the Central Division.
Buck Hill plans on having two races per day, each composed of three runs. In this format, athletes will get to ski six runs per day. The first three runs will be combined for a first-race total, and the following three runs for race No. 2. An athlete must finish all three runs to finish the race.
An incredible amount of time and effort went into getting the hill homologated and events added to the division calendar before Buck Hill was approved to host the three-run slalom races.
“This has never been done before,” said Buck Hill’s Head FIS Coach, Dave Ziemer. “For kids to run three runs is new and exciting. It should make a fun-filled day of a lot of runs and a lot of racing.”
The athlete’s perspective
U19 FIS athlete Leyton Sheppard is excited about the new format. “The long history of Buck Hill … and the unbelievable talent that has been trained on this little hill makes it the absolute perfect venue to hold these special three run slalom races,” he said.
Sheppard said he is honored to train and race on the same hill as “racing legends, such as Lindsey Vonn, Paula Moltzan, Tasha Nelson, Kristina Koznick, David Chodounsky, Michael Ankeny, and so many others.” He is excited for other FIS athletes to have the opportunity to race there too.
FIS racing through COVID-19 and beyond
Coach Ziemer says that FIS racing in the Central Division has been on the downslide. A leading cause of this is the lack of events available to FIS athletes in the Central Division. Central athletes have traditionally traveled to other divisions with more racing opportunities. This is not only expensive, but also time consuming for athletes and families. Coaches in the Central Division see the need to provide athletes with races close to home, which is more essential than ever with travel between divisions restricted this season due to COVID.
Buck Hill’s goal is to have as many kids participate in FIS racing as possible. There are a lot of athletes that had not previously purchased FIS licenses because of the cost to travel to races. But there has been an increase in kids buying licenses because now they can race FIS right in their backyard.
These races are open to all FIS athletes, but COVID restrictions limit the number of out-of-division athletes that can attend. Buck Hill is currently planning to be able to host 100 athletes per day. Race days will be split up by gender to allow the maximum number of athletes to compete, given the current COVID guidelines. Men will race on one day, and women on the other day.
This series is an excellent chance for racers to score some points. The point penalty is expected to be 64. Buck Hill has plans to bring back some alumni athletes in, which will help to create that penalty of 64 points. Over the past year, most of the penalties have been in the high 70s. Creating this point scoring opportunity for athletes will help to lower the penalties over time.
Organizers say these races will be a win for the resort and athletes. Since the FIS race will be a combination of three runs, Buck Hill will use their upper finish, which takes up less hill space than other races, and leaves more of the hill available for the public. The resort management is more favorable to allow the ski team to run this FIS event on weekends or holidays because it does not take up as much of the available space that is typically accessible by the public.
Ziemer explained that Buck Hill is always trying to push the envelope, be forward-thinking, and provide as many possibilities as they can for athletes.
“This race is all part of that,” he said. “We are here to develop champions in life and ski racing. We as staff and employees at Buck Hill strive to have that mindset of doing what’s best for our kids, and that’s what we are working towards.”
The Chuck Stone Memorial Race will be the first event in this series and will take place on Dec. 22 and 23. There will be two FIS races per day. A second event is on the calendar for March 6 and 7. There may be a possibility of a January and February race, but that is still to be determined.