The International Ski Federation (FIS) tends to be a hide-bound organization, not quite as stiff and remote as the International Olympic Committee, but close.
It’s why they probably aren’t going to allow American skier Lindsey Vonn to compete against men in the first downhill of the season next month at Lake Louise. Too bad. As an event, it would greatly energize the sport and bring attention to a wider audience, something that ski racing generally lacks whenever it isn’t an Olympic year. They should be finding reasons to put her in the field, not trying to find ways of keeping her out.
The primary objection seems not to be that Vonn would be a woman competing in a men’s event, but that by skiing the downhill at Lake Louise, a week in advance of the women’s event, it would give her an unfair advantage over her female competitors a week later.
First of all, the men’s and women’s courses at Lake Louise differ. Not wildly, but enough so that line that you would pick out in the first event is going to be different than the line you’d follow in the second event. Snow conditions would likely change too. Lake Louise can get a lot of the soft heavy stuff early in the year and from day to day, it can play havoc with conditions - and alter them significantly.
Even if she does get into the starting gate against the men, a far more important chance to test the course would come in training runs prior the women’s event and Vonn has already said she would skip a couple of those to level the playing field.
In fact, that might even put her at a bit of a disadvantage, which is something the women’s field probably needs anyway, considering Vonn usually crushes the opposition whenever she skis at Lake Louise. She’s won there nine times in 11 years, took both of the downhills last year, and was almost two seconds faster than the next-fastest skier in the field. Vonn thinks she could crack the top 30 in the men’s race.
I’d like to see her get a chance to try.