Letter to Worldloppet 2001

Letter from IAWLS to Worldloppet

March 2001

Photographs

Before giving to a photographer the monopoly of taking pictures of the skiers and handling their selling, each race should impose some conditions to be satisfied in the interest of skiers:

  • A skier should not have to support any expenses for returning the picture(s) he/she does not want to buy. That happens for example with all the races which have Flli Dall’Acqua as official photographer. In many countries it is illegal to mail to somebody items which have not been ordered and ask for payment. What we recommend in that case is that the skier keeps the unwanted pictures at his home where the photographer can pick them up at any time. At some races pictures have been sold before the start, to be mailed afterwards, but most skiers wish to see what they pay for.
  • There are several valid systems (American Birkebeiner, Vasaloppet, Engadin for example) which mostly consist in sending to the skiers mini-pictures or barred pictures and an order form, or in providing a free return envelope.
  • If a skier wishes to order one or more pictures, he/she should be allowed to do so using his/her credit card (or other means avoiding bank charges).

Result lists

Getting one’s results on Internet within a few days after the race is very useful. This does not substitute the printed result list which is one of the items to be included in the service package of every race.

What do we wish to use the result list for? There are two main uses:

  • To find quickly the results of friends. This task pleads for the organization of the result list in alphabetical order.
  • You exchange a few words with another skier along the track, or you compete ferociously with bib No. 3254, but then you loose contact and you wish to know who it was and by which margin you won or lost. It is likely that you will find this bib No. in the vicinity of your own placement. For this purpose a list in the order of arrival is preferable.

We think that all races should offer as a standard a list in order of placement with all the data: placement, bib No., time, name, sex, club or country, age, placement within the age group etc. If, in addition, we can get a second list in alphabetical order with just the names and placements (it can be very compact with small lettering), it would be nice.

Registration and Internet

Registration

  • The registration via Internet would be a practical solution for those who have a PC. The registrant could then do everything from his home without any need to go to the post office or to queue at a bank. The race organiser gets the data directly on the computer without any need to retype it. But a problem arises for the payment of the registration fee. It is known that the communication of your credit card data by Internet is very risky (many persons will never buy anything via Internet, even when the vendor has a “protected” or data encryption system which is no problem for hackers). Non-protected credit card payments should be totally excluded from Worldloppet races and those who have an encrypted system should announce clearly that there is a risk. We propose that all WL organizations discuss this problem together and present the situation in a future Yearbook.

Penalties for late registration

  • There is a unanimous opinion that the registration fees generally rise too steeply with respect to early (6 months before the race) registration. It is unjustified to charge 50% more for a registration made 6 weeks before the race. We understand that a registration on the last day involves extra trouble for the organizer and must cost more.

  • The Sapporo Ski Marathon has adopted a clever paying system for foreigners: the registration fee (4000 Yen) is to be paid in cash when picking up the bib, independently of the registration date. Very good!

Information on Internet We wish that the following data be obtained from a race organizer’s site:

  • -Info on the race

  • -Registration (payment of the fee: see above)

  • -Checking of the registration list

  • September 23, 2007 forecast

  • -Results of the latest races with a well designed software allowing a search using a number of parameters. Alternatively, the whole result list could be organised so that it can be downloaded allowing the user to make the search using his/her own tools, e.g. Excel. Maybe all WL races can agree on the specifications of the result lists to satisfy these requirements.

A new motto

“Jeder ein Sieger über sich selbst” is the well-known motto of Dolomitenlauf. This idea holds of course for all WL races. There is also one important principle which we feel should be satisfied by every race:

“Everybody must be allowed to ski at his/her own pace”

This implies a smooth start without any need to hurry in order to reduce waiting times in the subsequent bottlenecks, and no traffic jams along the track. We do not enrol in these races in order to get our skis trampled or poles broken in a battlefield. Many of us want to measure our level of fitness by comparing our times with the winner’s time and that supposes that we really can ski and do not spend time in queuing. Nowadays the difficulties at the start of Marcialonga exceed the legendary Vasaloppet nightmare; furthermore, Marcialonga is the only race where there are traffic jams as far as 30 km after the start (the Soraga climb). Also in the Engadin there are bad bottlenecks in the St Moritz area.

The situation needs to be considerably improved in several WL races by measures such as:

  • -starting waves (size of the waves and the time interval between them to be optimized),

  • -imposing the classical technique,

  • -widening the track, etc.

For example, American Birkebeiner has the same number of starters as Marcialonga but it runs very smoothly. The reason is partly a wider track but before all, in Cable, the waves are limited to 500 skiers!

Race Courses and Tracks

We wish that the tracks of WL races be kept open the whole winter.

The course should not include road crossings (use tunnels or bridges).

Classical skiers complain that in many free technique WL races the classical tracks have disappeared after the devastating passage of a pack of skaters. The definition Free Technique means that adepts of both techniques must find good conditions all along the course. A serious analysis followed by adequate (and maybe sometimes drastic) measures are needed in all WL races concerned by this point.

Snow guarantee

Some WL races offer a snow guarantee, i.e. the registration fee is reimbursed in case of cancellation of the race. We think that this is a minimum that all WL races should offer. But we hope that the WL organization will move towards a real snow guarantee, i.e. that the race will take place even in case of lack of snow.

Imagine the disappointment of an overseas skier in case of cancellation of a race. That may involve important financial losses. Air tickets of the kind that the huge majority of skiers uses are not reimbursable. There is also a practical problem in Mora where hotels are few and expensive: if you want a hotel room you have to pay the totality of the sojourn in November of the previous year and though it includes a cancellation insurance, that works only in case of illness of the skier. Dolomitenlauf has a fall-back solution in Obertilliach but even that was unusable in the exceptional winter 2000. Marcialonga has in the past mobilized the whole population of the valleys to haul thousands of truckloads of snow from the mountain peaks to the course. Now they have a battery of snow cannons . We WL skiers appreciate very much the safety provided by this system.

A 4m wide and 25cm thick snow avenue requires 1 cubic metre of snow per metre of track lenght. Thus, Marcialonga area newspapers announced in January 2000 that they had made 70,000 cubic metres of artificial snow when the meadows were still green a few weeks before the race. The compact artificial snow is reputed to resist relatively well to a warm weather spell and to rain.

Thus, it seems that snow cannons should be the future orientation. It is evident that an absolute guarantee is impossible but what we mean is that the cancellation of a race should be a once per century event rather than happening once or twice per decennium.

New WL Races

We know that the WL Committee makes an evaluation, during a detailed visit, of a new candidate to the WL series. What criteria of acceptation are used is not transparent. Is there something like a Chart of WL races containing commonly accepted rules which also every new race must satisfy? Is there something like a VADEMECUM based on the experience of old members to help new members to deal with practical problems? It would be interesting, in the spirit of the recently started dialogue between skiers and the Organization, if the Organization could publish an article on these themes in one of the next Yearbooks.

We disagree with the statement that new races cannot be accepted because the calendar is too full. There are already overlappings for all races in February. New races in the Northern Hemishere can be added in January and March where there are no overlappings until now.

Australia is very far (except for Japanese skiers). The trip would be much more worthwhile, and draw more skiers from the European and American continents, if Kangaroohoppet could be combined with a race in New Zealand the week before or after. A few years ago the Merinos Muster Race approached the WL Committee. We have not seen any news about this candidature in the Yearbooks. According to a rumor, they are not receivable because their race does not reach the required size of 500 participants. If this is really a criterion, we disagree. From the skiers’ point of view, the fewer skiers there are, the better it is! We understand that a new member must be serious and that the size is somehow connected to the professionality of the organizers. In the case of New Zealand, we wish that an exception can be made regarding the required minimum size. Provided of course, that they are still candidates, satisfy all other conditions and have hotel, transport and other facilities capable of growth. One of us explored the Wanaka area and found that there is potential for a relatively good 21 km loop to be covered twice. But the organization cannot be dependent on only the owners of the local hotel.

Information on WL Organization Policies

We wish to establish a friendly relation with the WL Organization. It would be nice to have some sort of feedback to our suggestions. Some ideas:

  • Make the following editions of the Yearbook larger by 2 or 3 pages and include:

A presentation of the views of the WL Organization on the points we presented and on other points of general interest.

A contribution by a WL skier (example: in a recent Engadin Ski Marathon booklet there was a page reproducing an enthousiastic letter from an Australian lady on her unforgettable experience in that valley).

  • Create a WL web-site where you present the points of general interest.

  • Distribute to all participants of each WL race a questionnaire to be analysed by the General Secretariat. This will bring a massive feedback on the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of skiers of all levels (the Elite skiers are not an interesting group; they are taken care of by their sponsors). We are willing to help with the design of the questionnaire.

(Here we open a parenthesis on the rôle of the FIS TDs who visit every race every two years. We take for granted that all the points raised by the FIS rules for popular races concerning the safety etc. are fully satisfied. However, most TDs do not enrol nor ski the race themselves and their report to FIS is necessarily based mainly on the answers given by the organisers to their questions. Nothing can replace a massive response from the skiers themselves)

  • We are thinking at the possibility of creating an International Association of WL Skiers with e-mail networking. To launch such an association we need to put an announcement in the Yearbook.
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