FIS votes for gender-equal cross country distances

SWITZERLAND — At the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) off-season meetings, a truly historic decision was made — women will now ski the same distance races as their male counterparts already ski.

Whether women and men should race at equal distances has been an important topic for years. This prominent discussion built up to this year’s Cross-Country Committee (CCC) meetings with the decision on the agenda.

According to Gabby Naranja with, there was little difference between the men’s and women’s nordic sports in the NCAA, except for distance. “In most individual nordic events at the college level, the course length of women’s and men’s races are not the same,” she wrote. “The trend is a 5-kilometer deficit for women’s race events in comparison to men’s events.”

With 57%, the CCC voted for equal distances for women and men. 

Liz Stephen is a three-time cross country ski Olympian and the head coach of the Park City Ski and Snowboard – Nordic Comp Team (PCSS). She said,

“It’s about time! I am so excited for the current women on the World Cup who get to experience this change, not to mention the women to come who will think of this as a given. This is a long fought battle and it’s the perfect depiction of this generation’s ceiling becoming the next generation’s floor. I am so proud to see this decision come to fruition.”

The implementation will be effective from the upcoming World Cup season on the World Cup level as well as on Jr. World Ski Championships (JWSC), U23 World Ski Championships (WSC), and Youth Olympic Games (YOG) level for now. The decision on whether to implement it at the World Ski Championships level will be discussed with all stakeholders and decided in May 2023.

In a second step, the voting members decided on the formats that will be in place and voted to use the following standard distances:

  • For World Cup: Sprint | 10km | 20km | 50km with Skiathlon being 20km (10km + 10km)
  • For U23 WSC and JWSC: Interval 10km | Sprint | Mixed Relay 4x5km | Mst 20km
  • For YOG: Interval 7.5km | Sprint | Mixed Relay 4x5km

The National Ski Federations did not go into a lengthy discussion but came up with a clear opinion. Upfront, the main argument to vote for equal distances was that there should not be any question about whether women were capable of racing the same distances as men, as they prove that they physically are capable of doing so already.

The main argument against was the time that women need to cover the same distance as men and the effective TV time. 

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