Ski Orienteering – Skill, Endurance & Quick Thinking
As one of the four disciplines regulated by the International Orienteering Federation (the others being foot orienteering, mountain bike orienteering and trail orienteering) ski orienteering is a winter activity requiring strength, endurance and technical skiing skills, along with the ability to make split-second decisions while navigating cross-country terrain, often at high speed. Participants use standard skate-skiing equipment and a map of the area indicating trails and other relevant information is provided. A laminated map can be attached to the chest area at a roughly 90 degree angle for ease of reference. A compass can be attached to the map, or alternatively, on a skier’s arm. While ski orienteering is a form of cross-country skiing, it requires tremendous upper body strength to navigate narrow snow trails and changes in elevation.
During ski orienteering competitions participants must navigate a dense ski track network, with the goal of visiting multiple control points in a specified sequence. As a time-measured activity, the fastest time wins, and tracking is carried out electronically to ensure competitors visit all control points in the correct sequence. While the track network is printed on the map provided, along with other information, such as the width and quality of the tracks and terrain, there are no physical route markers, and one wrong decision can mean the end of the race.
World Ski Orienteering Championships are held every second year (on odd-numbered years) and include the categories of Sprint, Middle and Long Distance, as well as Relay for men and women. The World Cup is held on even-numbered years, and Junior World Ski Orienteering Championships, as well as World Masters Ski Orienteering Championships are held annually.
Ski orienteering as a sport is becoming increasing popular among adventure seekers, and the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) is lobbying for it to be included in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games program. As ski orienteering is a feature of the CISM World Military Winter Games and the Asian Winter Games, and with around 35 nations having competed in the 2011 World Ski Orienteering Championships held in Sweden in March, it seems very likely that the sport’s Olympic hopes will be realized.