Ski -O stands for Ski Orienteering, an activity in which participants make their way from point to point around a course. The points are marked on a map and are usually located on or close to trails. Route choice is a key factor in ski-o, as time may be gained by taking short cuts between trails or lost by taking a shorter route which turns out to be very hilly and tiring. An electronic timing system is used, which means you punch a timing box at each control with a chip worn on your finger.
Like biathlon, ski orienteering is very popular in Europe but is not common here in the U.S. However NYSSRA features an avid group of ski orienteers and several meets are held around the state each winter, most commonly in the Lake Placid, Albany and Rochester areas. Many competitors travel to Vermont, NH, Montreal or Ottawa for additional races.
It’s easy to participate in local ski-o events – just show up, register, and pay the entry fee. Compared to XC the events are very low key – there’s normally a 2 hour start window, meaning you can start any time you want within the 2 hours. Instruction is available and map holders and electronic chips can be rented for a small fee. Most events offer 3 different courses with distances from 3 – 10 km. Distances are measured in direct lines between points, but because it’s impossible to ski directly in most cases racers normally cover up to 50% additional distance, and even more depending on the number of mistakes made.
After downloading your timing chip at the finish you can see your overall time as well as the time taken to reach each individual control, which makes it easy and fun to compare with other racers. It can be difficult to admit your errors until you hear others talk about theirs. Many XC and biathlon racers participate in ski-o events, finding it a fun way to get in more skiing, meet new people, and keep their brains active. Most ski orienteers leave a meet determined to do better at the next one, and some like it so much they carry on with foot and mountain bike orienteering in the summer months!
Besides one day local meets ski-o is also included in the Empire State Winter Games and the NYSSRA Nordic Championships. These are normally 2 day events and attract additional competitors from all over the northeast US and Canada. Preregistration may be required, and instruction and beginner courses may not be available at these events.
For more information about ski-o contact Janet Findlay at firstname.lastname@example.org.