October 03, 2016 (Cancun) – FIS Cross Country faced a barrage of criticism after announcing a new height limit for the length of classic ski poles following its Fall Congress in Cancun. The limit, 83% of the athletes height measured from the tip of the pole to the top of the strap on an athlete in his or her competition boots, was proposed by Andreas Schlütter, the German Ski Federation head of Cross Country and a former World Cup athlete.
“At the Congress in Cancun I suggested that we should regiment a classic pole length limit. So, at the FIS Fall meeting we established the new limit and agreed upon the rule change. We don’t want to over-regulate the sport, but we made it clear that this was for the preservation of the classic technique. There is also precedent for length limits on gear in the past. In a few years you can count on seeing a minimum length for skate skis as well,” said Schlütter on xc-ski.de.
While it is unclear whether the ruling can be changed, athletes and fans responded negatively on the FIS Cross Country Facebook page. Lukas Bauer, Olympic medalist from the Czech Republic was among those who were surprised that a ruling could be made so soon before the start of the season, despite the fact that he is notorious for using short poles in World Cup competitions. “What is quite strange is that such important decisions are done almost in front of the season (and this will be applied already this season)…:-(,” he wrote, “I think that such decision have to be done on the spring and not in front of season, because all athletes are working hard to improve their technique from the spring time and this is important part of this process….”
But FIS seems ready to stand by its decision, adding that the rule had been passed unanimously by all National Ski Associations. “Classics teams [sic] show [sic] that in steep uphills the ideal length of poles is up to 90% of body height. Whereas in flat sections it is closer to 85%. Double poling itself is not the biggest issue and the purpose of the rule is not to ban double poling. It is half skating, skating steps, etc., which is of course forbidden in classical technique competitions and give skiers unfair advantage (which is sanctioned),” according to the FIS Cross Country Facebook administrator.
It remains to be seen how National governing bodies will enforce the rules, how the poles will be measured, and how often. Stay tuned for updates.