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  5. Equipment Setup for a Cross Country Ski Race

Equipment Setup for a Cross Country Ski Race

There are a variety of different equipment setups for cross-country ski races depending on the type and tier of event. Make sure to understand the requirements for the event and its races to find a good balance of equipment. This equipment will to be setup in up to 4 areas:

  1. Start: record the start time of the racers
    • Interval Start: racers start at a regular interval in a single lane
    • Mass Start: racers start in a group at the same time
    • Pursuit Start: racers start at an irregular interval in multiple lanes
  2. On Course timing points (optional): record time(s) on the race course away from the main stadium area
    • Splits: placed at informative or regular intervals on the course
    • Segments: place at the start and end of a feature for determining time spent on feature
  3. Lap (optional): record the time of a single course circuit when doing multiple circuits
  4. Finish: record the finish time of the racers


Start times. Racers have scheduled start times, but an actual start time will be recorded and used for most types of races.

Here is a quick summary of how start times are used in various types of races. There are a few reasons for this depending on the race type:

  • Interval Start: Races have a 6 second window around a their scheduled start time in which they can start. The racers actual start time should be recorded and used for the accurate calculation of the racers total time. Additionally, it can be used to ensure that this time is within the 6 second start window.
  • Mass Start: All racers in a start group will have the same start time. Start Groups will have a scheduled start time however in many cases they will start later than what is scheduled. The actual start time should be recorded and used for the accurate calculation of the racers total time.
  • Pursuit Start: Racers are required to start at their scheduled start time. In this format Racers are solely responsible for starting on time. In this format volunteers are responsible for recording Mistakes. A chip timing can also be used to help rectify mistakes.

Interval Start

The interval start procedure is best thought of as a pipeline of stages through which each racer moves. These stages involve both volunteers and timing equipment. This pipeline is defined as follows for the highest tier races (FIS races) with some steps omitted at lower tier races:

  1. racers arrive at the start area and pick up their GoChips from the Chip Handout volunteer(s)
  2. Wrangler volunteers get the racers lined up in start order
  3. Assistant Starter readies the next racer and passes them to the Starter before the racer’s scheduled start time
  4. Summit Operator posts the next starter’s bib number on their Summit
  5. Starter uses their arm to block the racer from starting until 3 seconds before the racer’s scheduled start time
  6. racer starts within their 6 second window by opening the start gate
  7. the opening of the Start Wand will then cause a chain of events:
    1. the connected Activator will record the start time and broadcast this to nearby phones
    2. the connected Activator will ‘freeze’ the time broadcast by the loop to the start time recorded by the Activator
    3. the racer’s GoChip will pass over the loop, record the frozen start time and broadcast this to nearby phones
    4. the Summit will record the start time as a backup
  8. Starter closes the Start Gate in preparation for the next starter

Mass Start

Mass Start races have a simpler procedure then Interval Start races but getting all the racers into the start area can be very hectic. It is important to remember that the race does not need to start exactly on time. It is best to start the race when all the racers are settled and ready to go. The race is started with a loud noise generated by a start device such as a start horn or start pistol. This start device can be connected to an Activator and optionally a backup Summit to record and transmit the start time. At lower tier events, the race can be started simply by yelling ‘GO!’ and recording the start time with the keypad function of the Zone4 Go Android app.

Pursuit Start

In Pursuit Start races the scheduled start time is used as a racers actual start time. This requires an extra level of organization since any race delays need to be communicated to the timer and the athletes well ahead of the race so that adjustments can be made. Racers start at irregular intervals typically determined by results from previous races. The start is typically divided into 3 lanes with racers distributed into each in a round-robin fashion. This results in racers starting from; lane 1, then lane 2, then lane 3 and then starting again with lane 1. In this type of event racers are solely responsible for starting on time while volunteers are there to help them get lined up correctly and to record racers who start early.  There is an optional mass start after the Pursuit portion for remaining racers that are too far back. The process for running a Pursuit Start is as follows:

  1. Racers arrive at the start area and pick up their GoChips from the Chip Handout volunteer(s)
  2. There is one Assistant Starter per lane that helps racers in their lane line up in the correct order.
  3. There is one volunteer per lane observing racers to make sure they start on time. Racers who start ahead or significantly behind their scheduled start time should be recorded and this information should be relayed to the chief of start. This volunteer should not hold racers back before their start time or take on any responsibility for the racer starting on time.
  4. There is an optional timing loop across all lanes that each racer will cross immediately after starting. This will record an approximate start time however scheduled start times will always be used for a racers start actual start time. 

On Course Timing Points

Any number of timing points may be put on the course to record times. These can be described as either split points or segment points. Split points are placed individually at informative or regular intervals on the course to provide additional timing data. Segment points are placed in pairs at the beginning and end of a feature such as a hill climb. These on course timing points only need a GoChip Activator and loop setup since the GoChip will store and continue to broadcast this data to nearby phones. An Android phone running the Zone4 Go app may optionally be set up at on course points if this data is to be transmitted live.


Lap points are typically in the main stadium area close to the start and finish. Lap points record times for each circuit of a course. The lap point needs a GoChip Activator and loop setup with an optional phone. At higher tier events (FIS Level) , backup lap times may be recorded by a Summit Operator however this is not required. 


The finish timing setup is similar between all events with the number and type of  backup devices reduced at lower tier events. The simplest setup is just an Activator and loop with a phone to transmit times. A backup volunteer team can be added with a Summit and/or paper bib order. Adding a PhotoCell provides an automated high accuracy time source but can be unpredictable and provide inconsistent data with large packs of skiers.

If timing chips are not being used a photocell with a summit as a backup device can be used. 

A photo-finish camera is used at the highest tier of events providing invaluable timestamped image based data. The camera provides not just resolution of close finishes but is also often used as the main timing device since it gives more accurate times than timing chips and much more reliable data than a photocell. It does however require a volunteer to identify and tag all racers.

Updated on 2019-06-28

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