World's First Downhill Ski-O Challenge!

Broken River Ski Field, 6 Sep 06

Richard English (PAPO) recently devised what may be the world’s first downhill ski-orienteering event, to provide a fun challenge for those with fixed heel bindings. His description first appeared in "Contour Lines", the magazine of Peninsula and Plains Orienteers. We foresee cross-fertilisation into MTBO, rogaining and traditional orienteering - just as soon as we get those tows set up on every hill...

If you have heard about ski orienteering, then you’ll probably know that its held on boringly flat courses. All very well for your sedate nordic/telemark skier but what about a bit of excitement on steeper, untracked terrain? To satisfy this potential demand I recently devised the world’s first (?) downhill ski orienteering event.

The event was run on a standard Orienteering score format with a 45 minute time limit and penalty point system (In other words you have to collect points by visiting any selection of pre-placed “controls” within the time allotted - get back late and you lose points. The team gathering the biggest number of points wins.) The trick, in this case, being that to be efficient at collecting points you needed to plot a route which linked as many controls as possible on a continuous downhill sweep before using the tows to regain altitude for another run. Some higher points were allotted to controls that needed some uphill climbing (with or without skis – your choice) to add to route choice planning difficulties.

On the day six teams entered the challenge and after a short briefing, five minutes were spent pre-planning their routes before the official “off” (Some, who shall remain nameless, were seen sneaking out of the Lodge door as the ten second countdown began. )

Unfortunately the snow had been rapidly softening during the day and by the time the event got under way true “gorilla snot” conditions prevailed. This provided teams with some additional difficulties. From the great vantage point of the Palmer Lodge deck, teams could be seen going hither and thither (or should that be ‘slither’) jumping on and off the tows at some rather unconventional places in order to gain the necessary height to pick up outlying controls.

With time running out only two teams had checked in whilst others could be seen still tearing off downhill in an attempt to pick up more points ( turns out that one team forgot to check the time when they set off so had to guess the elapsed time – moral, wear a stop watch ! )

In the end everybody reported in within 5 minutes of the close off time but with a penalty rate of 20 points per minute it cost some teams dearly – although not as dearly as the points docked for arguing with the controller (bad mistake!) Or for forgetting to pick up a control after the event although these penalty points were later removed when the offender agreed to do the Controller’s hut duties for the rest of the week.

And the results, in reverse order, were:

A good time was had by all, although the complaints of soreness over the following days suggested that even though it was only supposed to be a fun event competitors really gave it a good go. Next year I’m hoping that the Challenge will be back, with a different set of controls and hopefully with more entries.

(Course Planner and Controller) who doesn't have any skiing background, let alone Ski-O experience. It was installed on 13 Dec 06
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