Junior Nationals 2023 Fairbanks
Because of the shortened, three-event format of the 2023 Junior Nationals, the JN’s will close with the mass start event, rather than with the traditional relay event. With the move to equal distances across genders, the male and female skiers of a class will compete over the same distance. U16 skiers will compete over 5Km and U18 skiers will compete over 10Km. Those distances remain unchanged from the past several JN’s. Both male and female U20s will race over 15Km, which marks an increase in distance for the female skiers.
THE COURSE – SOUTH TOWER 5Km
The race will be held on the South Tower 5Km course, the distinguishing feature of which is the South Tower A climb which begins 750m into the race and climbs 39m over 365m at an average grade of 10.7%. After descending the twisting descent of the Tower Loop they flash through the exit of the Tower Loop and make a sharp right turn onto Roller Coaster, with a quick drop into a right turn up the Medivac B climb (12m ascent over 93m at 12.9%).
Over the top of Medivac the skiers begin a technical descent of Medivac and Roller Coaster, with a fallaway 180-degree left into a right-left S curve and a sharp drop into a roller (the same climb and descent as was used in the interval start classic event). Returning to the stadium via Roller Coaster, at the halfway point of the course, skiers make a 180-degree left around Roller Coaster Island, then begin the ascent of the East Ramp-Sprint Elbow B Climb (20m of vertical over 290m at an average grade of 6.9%).
At the top of the climb skiers make a 180-degree right and descend the Sprint Wall and the Ramp, with a slight detour around the Ramp Elbow before traversing the east side of the stadium. With 1800m remaining on the race course racers turn right down Sidewinder and begin a descent of Sidewinder, Roundabout and White Bear and over a couple of rollers to the West Range/Pre-Range cutoff where they make a sweeping left turn before heading back to the stadium.
After rolling over the top of the “Two-Step” the course descends and turns right down Big Surprise before beginning the second A climb on the course, the Big Surprise A climb (31m of ascent over 274m at 11.3%) which takes skiers back up to the NE corner of the stadium at which point they have 750m to go. If a pack is still together at this point, a skier who wants to thin out the group a bit might want to throw in a surge on this climb, which has a few grade changes but has a long, straight, wide stretch which is perfect for passing.
As skiers reach the stadium they descend the Warmup Loop to Dark Alley, which sets up the final, and often decisive, climb to the finish. After a left turn the course begins to ascend with 330m to the finish, and continues ascending at an average grade of 9.0% for 200m. At that point the “official” climb is over, but the final 130m of the course continue at a gentle 2% grade all the way to the finish. The final climb is wide enough for easy overtaking, as is the final 130m zone to the finish.
The top of the Ramp is a great place to watch the race. If you are at the top of the Ramp before the start you can see the start of the race and the first 250m-300m before the skiers head out Relay Alley and Relay toward the South Tower climb. You can see the skiers flash by again as they exit Tower and head out Roller Coaster (at the 1.8Km point of the course). You can see the skiers two more times after they return from Roller Coaster Medivac as they emerge from the East Ramp (at 2.6Km) and ascend the Sprint Elbow to the top of the Sprint Wall, and then see them again as they descend from the top of that climb at about the 2.9Km mark.
If you watch from the south end of the stadium, you can see the skiers three times: as they emerge from the start tracks, then again at the halfway point of the loop as they round Roller Coaster Island, and again as they descend the Ramp (at 3.0Km) and head across the east side of the stadium. It is also a short walk from there to the finish line.
In the northeast corner of the stadium you can also see the skiers three times: first, as they turn down Sidewinder, next, at the top of the Groomer Ramp as they top out on the second A climb on the course, then finally, with a short walk across in front of the Birch Hill Cross Country Ski Center you can watch the competitors enter the stadium and head down the lap or finish lanes.
In the two-lap or three lap races, with a little planning and a bit of patience at the points where the spectator routes cross the competition course, a spectator could watch from two or more locations, seeing the skiers at multiple points on the course.
Awards will be presented following each race, or possibly to both male and female skiers after each gender has completed its races. Stay tuned for details.
The sprint day is a very long day, so whether you are a racer, coach, official, volunteer or spectator, prepare for a full day out at Birch Hill . . . and then some.
In the qualifying round, both genders and all classes will compete over the 1350m sprint course. Having all skiers compete over the same distance as a single start group gives all those skiers the best opportunity to earn “good” USS&S National Ranking List (NRL) points and FIS points.
In the elimination heats, the U16 skiers will compete over the shorter 1100m course, which has 15m less climbing than the 1350m course. This decision was made based upon a consensus of the team leaders for the 2023 JNs.
The 1350m course starts with a gradual B climb (12m ascent at 6.2%) up the Ramp with at 180-degree turn at the entrance to Tower loop, then a descent of the Ramp with a slight “detour” around the Ramp Elbow. After traversing the east side of the Stadium, skiers will take a sharp right turn and descend the Sidewinder-Roundabout-White Bear-Surprise Cutoff descent, followed immediately by the White Bear B climb (27m ascent at 9.7%) which takes the skiers back to the stadium.
The descent from the stadium through Surprise Cutoff is technically challenging, with advantages gained by choosing a good line. It is likely that the decisive moves in the U18 and U20 heats will take place on the White Bear B climb, which is a long, straight, wide “almost A” climb which will reward fitness, especially in the later rounds, and which has good opportunities for overtaking.
Once the skiers have re-entered the stadium, they have about 140m to go to the finish, with a 90-degree turn about 100m from the finish. Based upon our experience using this same finish at the 2017 SuperTour Finals, if the order of finish has not clearly been established by the time skiers top out on the White Bear B climb, there is plenty of space in the stadium for skiers to settle a close finish without obstruction.
The first 750m and the final 250m of the course over which the U16 skiers will compete in the heats are the same as the 1350m course they skied in qualifying. The difference comes after descending Sidewinder and entering Roundabout. The U16 course does not descend to Surprise Cutoff, but continues left, around the Roundabout turn, and then ascends the Groomer Ramp B climb. The course that was used at the 2017 SuperTour Finals used the same final 400m as this course. In that women’s final Jesse Diggins took the victory over Kikkan Randall, while Fairbanks’ own Logan Hanneman captured the men’s title.
NOTE: this article is being composed several months in advance of the JN’s, so please check the schedule you can access from links at the top of this page for the “FINAL” schedule. The schedule listed below should be considered a DRAFT schedule.
The qualifying round will begin at 9:00AM, with boys first, then girls. With approximately 200 skiers of each gender, it will take about 50 minutes to get all the skiers of one gender out of the starting gate at 15-second start intervals. There will be a short break between the boys start group and the girls start group. The qualifying round should be complete by approximately 11:00AM
The U16 skiers will be the first skiers to start within their respective gender start groups in the qualifying round as the first bracket in the afternoon elimination heats will be the U16 boys and girls bracket.
There will be three heat brackets in the afternoon. Each bracket consists of five quarterfinal heats, two semifinal heats and B and A final heats for each gender or each age class in the bracket, for a total of 18 heats per bracket. Heats will be run at 5 minute intervals, so each of the three brackets will take 90-95 minutes. There will be a short break between brackets to allow skiers in the next bracket to inspect the course and warm up a bit on the competition course.
The exact order of the brackets after the U16 bracket is not final at the time this is being written, so please look to the schedule accessible from links at the top of this page
Awards for each class will be presented on-site immediately following the completion of the respective brackets during the breaks between brackets.
Competition will kick off for the USSA Junior National Cross Country Ski Championships on Monday, March 13 with the Interval Start Classic Technique races. All races will be held in Fairbanks, Alaska at the Birch Hill Recreation Area on the world class Jim Whisenhant Cross Country Ski Trails.
For the first time at the US Ski & Snowboard Junior National Championships both genders or all classes will compete over the same distance. The change to equal competition distances was an outgrowth of FIS’ spring 2022 decision that male and female competitors in the same age groups should compete over equal distances. Having all classes within one gender compete head-to-head over the same distance provides the best opportunities for skiers to earn “good” National Ranking List points and FIS points.
The competition course will be the freshly FIS-homologated “Black Funk-and-a-Half” 7.5Km course. This course consists of the “traditional” Black Funk 5Km course, the most challenging 5K competition course at Birch Hill, and second lap of the second half of the Black Funk 5Km course. After skiers complete the 5Km loop, they pass down the lap lane, cut to the east across the south end of the Birch Hill Ski Stadium, enter the East Ramp trail and follow the remainder of the Black Funk 5Km course. The course distance is slightly under 8Km. FIS courses can be certified, or homologated in FIS-speak, as long as they are not more than 10% longer, nor 5% shorter than the nominal course distance.
- Link to course map
- Link to stadium detail
- Link to spectator map
There are three major, or A, climbs (vertical gain of 30m or more) on the course. The first A climb, the Black Funk climb, starts just before the 1Km mark. This is a 50m climb and is the longest and most challenging of the course, 617m in length with an average gradient of 8.1%. The Big Surprise A climb is covered twice, with the first ascent commencing just after the 4Km mark, and the 2nd ascent beginning just before the 7Km point. The climb gains 31m and averages 11.3% over 274m.
There are eight B climbs (climbs with between 10m and 30m of ascent) on the course. The first two B climbs are climbed only in the first 5Km lap. The final three B climbs on the 5Km loop are covered twice. On the 5Km loop the Black Funk A climb is followed by the Comp B climb (18m ascent over 148m at 12.2%) and the West Ramp B climb (13m over 159m at 8.2%). The last three climbs on the course are covered twice: the East Ramp B climb (20m ascent over 280m at 7.1%), the Medivac B climb (12m ascent over 92m at 13%) and the climb up to the finish, the Warmup B climb (18m over 235m at 7.7%).
The course also features some challenging descents. After the initial climb up the Ramp, the course descends the West Ramp then takes a left turn and enters the fastest and most technically challenging descent of the course: the SuperDuper-Black Hole drops. This descent starts with the skier gradually accelerating into a sharp left turn (SuperDuper) where choosing the correct line can make the difference between staying upright and falling and losing time. Upon exiting SuperDuper, skiers will glide over a small rise, then drop into a transition into a gradual right turn and another rise where racers will make a fairly high speed left turn into another steep and fast drop. That downhill drops 64 meters over 665 meters and is followed immediately by the biggest climb on the course.
The next challenging descent is the Medivac-Roller Coaster descent, which features a fall-away 180-degree turn to the left followed by a right-left chicane into a steep drop, the glide from which will carry the skier up and over a big roller. The drop is only 22m over 194m, but the technical challenge is significant.
After returning to the stadium on the Roller Coaster trail and traversing the east side of the stadium, racers enter the final technical descent, the Sidewinder-Roundabout-White Bear-Big Surprise downhill. Skiers drop steeply out of the stadium onto Sidewinder, then have a left-right-left-right series of turns from which they exit into a fairly fast downhill into a rise on top of which they make a sharp left turn through Surprise cutoff, then make a right turn onto Big Surprise, with a left turn into a steep climb at the bottom of Big Surprise. This downhill drops 31 meters over 349 meters.
SPECTATORS’ GUIDE TO THE COURSE
Most important! Our number one rule of spectating for ski races at Birch Hill is that spectating is permitted ONLY ON FOOT. The only people on skis on race days at Birch Hill are competitors warming up and racing, and coaches with red bibs testing wax. The first reason for the rule is the safety of ALL spectators. If spectators on skis are “racing” around the stadium trying to catch more views of the skiers, it presents a danger to the health and welfare of other spectators, especially smaller/younger spectators and spectators who might be moving slowly. In a collision between a spectator on skis moving at high speed and a spectator on foot, the spectator on foot will be the one who comes out on the short end. The other reason is that there is no need to be on skis to rush around and “see more” of the race. Because the competition courses come and go to and from the stadium several times each lap you can see just about as much of the race if you are on foot as you can were you to be on skis. So, PLEASE leave your skis in the car if you are coming to Birch Hill to watch the races, and wait until after the competition has ended to get out on the trails on your skis.
Also, please comply with the directions provided by course controllers. At locations where spectator routes cross the competition course, we will have controllers who will let spectators know when it is safe to cross, and who will block the crossing when it is unsafe. Make everyone’s life easier and more pleasant by complying with their instructions. Thanks!
The Birch Hill ski trails provide the best in-person spectator viewing opportunities of any competition course in the world. That is not an idle boast! Thanks to a fortuitously-located stadium and excellent terrain immediately adjacent to the stadium, the Birch Hill competition courses not only provide high quality technical and tactical challenge, but numerous locations each lap where you can see the skiers pass by “up close and personal.”
The best location for spectators is at the top of the Ramp. If you stand at the top of the Ramp you will be able to see the skiers five times in the first 5Km of the course, as well as two more times after the skiers have completed their first 5Km lap — a total of seven times over the duration of the race. With a little running back down to the stadium and to the north end of the stadium, you might be able to catch the skier you have been watching two or three more times before they finish.
If you want to stay in the stadium area and are willling to walk 200-300m per lap, you can see the skiers seven or eight times coming and going to and from the stadium. The best viewing points in the stadium are at “Doomahickey” turn in the SE corner of the stadium, and at the top of the “Groomer Ramp” in the NE corner of the stadium.
Awards for boys will be presented on-site after the completion of the boys’ race during the break before the start of the girls’ race. Girls awards will be presented on-site after the completion of the girls’ 7.5Km event.
The Junior National Cross Country Ski Championships 2023 will be held in Fairbanks, Alaska from March 13-16, 2023.
The website jn2023faribanks.org is scheduled to launch summer 2022.
- March 13th – Interval start classic technique
- March 14th – Sprint free technique
- March 16th – Mass start free technique
The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks will be organizing and putting on the events.