“…The evolution of double poling has been challenging the core of the Cross-Country Skiing sport…”

It has been a year since the International Ski Congress in Cancun has decided to embark on a prohibition campaign in cross-country skiing.

It felt so distinctly 1984-85 – here’s why.

First came the FIS Congress’ decision to introduce technique zones in classical races where double-poling was to be forbidden.

It was swiftly followed by another FIS ruling: in classical technique competitions, the maximum pole length must not exceed 83% of the competitor’s body height.

The explanation went as follows:

The primary goal of the rule is not to ban double poling but to add an additional tool to protect classical technique and all its aspects (diagonal, double poling, kick double poling, herringbone) so that competitions in classical technique are fair for everybody.

The language of the official FIS website is grave:

“…The evolution of double poling has been challenging the core of the Cross-Country Skiing sport. ”

“…Cross-Country Skiing has been facing an intensive evolution comparable to emergence of free technique in the mid 80’s.

Indeed, the last time the rules of competition underwent such changes – many say limitations – was in 1984-1985, when the newly appeared “skating style” was wreaking havoc in the established order of things.

Back then, just like now, the officials were trying their hardest to try to stop the skiers using the new technique; their tricks included everything from the erection of nets, to narrowing of the tracks, to even building snow walls; virtual tunnels to make skating impossible.

On December 1984, the FIS Council directed the competition organizers “…To set courses in such a way that the skating step will physically not be applicable on all parts of the course.” Hello, 2016 and hello “double poling-free zones”!

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In parallel, the skiing bosses of the 1980s had decided to limit sportsmen’s zeal for innovation in equipment (Gunder Svan just caused quite a sensation by appearing at a training session with a long pole a.k.a monopod instead of traditional poles). Hence, two basic rules regarding the gear that stood unchanged for 30+ years:

Ski length Minimum: height of skier minus 100 mm
Poles’ length no longer than skier’s height, measured with tip of pole resting on ski in front of binding. Two equally long poles must be used, one in each hand.

The restrictions introduced in mid-1980s survived in the gear rules – but singularly failed to stave off the spread of the skating technique. An eventual compromise of splitting the competitions into two “sub-genres” not only worked as a long-term solution but also helped to promote equipment sales and the popularity of cross-country skiing as a whole.

Will the end be the same in this case too – separate competitions for “classic classic style” and for double-poling?

It seem to be going that way. While the World Cup circuit racers complain about the measuring stations’ procedures, the Ski Classics’ teams, where the races run primarily in double-poling, do not hide their rejection of the very concept of penalizing the style.

Already, most manufacturers are offering double-poling specific ski – naturally, as top models at the premium price.

And yes, you can ban double-poling in classic style competitions altogether – but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

TOP PHOTO: Ski CLassics racers await their turn for poles to be measured for compliance with “83% Rule” in Livigno, Dec. 2016

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