Timing Crew

Crew Chief Al Whitney at the Timing Trailer

Ski racing is a timed event. It rewards the person’s who get down the track fastest. But since all ski racers, at all levels, are passionate about what they do, we have to assure them that ski race timing is always fair and accurate. Besides this, because the ski world has  impatient people, we also have to publish the results of a race in a timely fashion.

So just what are the jobs the ski race  timing team takes on to accomplish this?

The team consists of:

starter who oversees what happens in the start gate and communicates with the rest of the timing line.  The starter does not start the racer, just says he can start – an electronic gate tells the timers he has started and the starter confirms this as well as who will start next.

finish controller, who watches as the racer passes through the electronic eyes that measure the time the racer took, and assures the timers that it is the racer that was expected.  The finish controller is in audio contact with the starter, and with the rest of the timing line.

Between these two crew members, there may or may not be several positions mid-course that are run by members of the team where an intermediate time or speed is measured.  The interval controller turns on a set of photocells that record the racers passing, and turns them off again so that course workers can pass without being timed. (We like course workers, we just don’t care how fast they are skiing.)

Timing Crew veteran Harvey FellowesSomewhere in a sheltered place, connected by wires to the start and finish gates, and to any interval and speed traps  are the Timer operators who collect all the electric signals, assure they are attributed to the racer at hand, and oversee a computer that pops out each competators race time.   In recent years, the Timer operators also assure that race times and relative racer positions are published on the Internet, as an unofficial document.  

It is expected that the equipment will work every time, but alas, there have been times that it has not (even in the Olympics).  So we have a backup plan.  At both the start and finish line we have 2 hand timers (total of 4) who record the time of day of the departure and arrival of each racer, from which we can calculate a race time.  They may be operating simple stopwatches or more sophisticated electronic timers.

Of course keeping this all working involves some amount of trouble shooting so generally we have a couple of people who do the set up and troubleshooting of wiring.  

Like most aspects of a ski race, there is also a Chief- here the Chief of Timing and Calculation.  This is ‘the buck stops here' role, but certainly one you can aspire to if you are wishing to get there.  The C of T may or may not be one of the operators.

All this adds up to about 14 team members for a race with interval times and perhaps 10 for any other race.  That’s every day so we need spares.

A chat with almost anyone in timing will give you the impression that this is the most fun you can have short of being in the race.  You are close to the action, always aware of who is winning, and in communication with other team members all the way down the track.  You do have to be attentive – as we are not allowed to make mistakes.

Our goals are absolutely reliable data, accuracy, fairness, ready on time for the race to start, no delays caused by timing, live to the Internet with accurate information, and no delays in getting the results to the Race Office.  It’s a lofty goal and we mostly live up to it.  If it fits your notion of an involvement in ski racing, then get in touch. We are happy to train and involve new team members, and you will be among people who are striving to get better all the time.