If you are a first timer in the YSL program, plan on attending at least one race, but aren't sure how committed your child is, or simply cannot (or do not want to) afford more than one pair of skis for your athlete then I suggest buying/finding/borrowing 1 pair of all mountain skis that roughly come up to your child's nose in height. 

If you are a first timer in the YSL program, plan on attending at least one race, and your kid is fairly committed to racing then I would suggest you find/purchase 1 pair of rock/free skis that should be about up to your child's nose in height. And 1 pair of "race" skis (new or used) that can be either GS (Giant Slalom) or SL (Slalom) side cut that should also come up to your kids nose in height. If you are thinking to yourself "what is GS/SL side cut?", don't worry it is just the shape of the ski and it is clearly labeled on every race ski. 

If your child is a committed athlete and plans on racing the entire YSL circuit this winter then I would suggest that you purchase 1 pair of rock/free-skis, 1 pair of SL skis that come up to their chin in height, and 1 pair of GS skis that come up to their eyes in height. It should be noted that many racing parents and athletes feel it is necessary to have 3,4 and 5 pairs of skis... that is not the case. At the YSL age, 1 or 2 pairs of WELL KEPT all around skis is all you need. If you want to spend the money then by all means feel free to purchase a pair of GS, SL and free-skis for your kids, but just know that it is not necessary to do this.  It should also be noted that the above  ski length sizes are rough estimates of the size of your athlete's ski. There is some wiggle room here, so if you already have a pair that are a few inches above or below their nose, don't worry about it. I just don't want any of our athletes skiing this year with skis up to their belly buttons!

If you are a U14 athlete or older and are planning on competing in a USSA race this year you must purchase a helmet that abides by the new 2015-16 USSA standard. Your helmet does not abide by the new 2015-16 standard unless your helmet has the following sticker: 
I repeat, all U-14's and older MUST have the new FIS approved helmet in order to compete in any USSA GS, SG, or DH. This means that the athlete's helmet MUST have the sticker that is shown on the attachment above, otherwise they cannot compete in USSA races. 

U.S. Ski & Snowboard Membership

Every athlete who plans to compete in a Northern Division race this year must purchase a USSA membership. To do so, follow these steps:

1.) Go to and create an account if you don't already have one.

2.) Once you've created an account, click on the membership link and become a member. It's pretty straightforward. If you have previously purchased a membership then all you need to do is "renew membership". 

**If you are planning on competing in AT LEAST one Northern Division race you must purchase a US Ski & Snowboard "Competitors" license.  

***If you only planning on attending ONE Northern Division race you can purchase a short term membership that is a reduced cost compared to the competitors license. For the short term membership follow this link:, and click "Purchase Short Term Membership" then follow the necessary steps. 

Race Registration

If you wish to participate in a Northern Division, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Sanctioned race then you must register your athlete online at least 3 days prior to the start of the race. To register for a race, please follow these steps: 

1.) Go to: and login to your account. 

2.) Click on the "Athlete Event Registration" link.

3.) Type in the specific race event details i.e. date, discipline, age, etc. and then search for the competition.

4.) Locate the race you wish to register for and "Attend" on any race you wish to participate in. 

5.) Follow remaining steps to complete registration. 

Northern Division Forms -  **U14's and older only

All U14's and older who wish to participate in a race this year must submit the following forms to the Northern Division Manager (Sherri Hale) by Nov. 15th. There are 4 forms you must complete and submit. These are:

  1.  ND Team Agreement
  2.  ND Medical Release
  3. ND Indemnity
  4. ND Financial Agreement

These forms can be found here:

And you can submit them via mail, scan and email (preferred), or fax to:

Sherri Hale
Northern Division USSA Manager
P.O. Box 217
Whitefish, MT  59937
Cell Phone (406) 871-7429
Fax:  (406) 545-2289                                                                                                                                                                                  

Tips From Veteran Parents To New Parents

  • MSEF is an alpine racing club that is part of Northern Division. Northern Division is a member of U.S. Ski & Snowboard and is the governing body that puts on youth ski races for athletes in the state of Montana.
  • MSEF strongly encourages ALL athletes to attend at least one Northern Division race per year.  
  • Everything is optional!!!! Which races you do or don’t attend, which days/events of a given race series (ie skip Friday and attend Sat & Sun), speed suits, event specific skis, team coat…All between you and your athlete…coaches can help guide you through the more important of these choices such as appropriate skis.
  • If you do decide to attend a race, it is the PARENTS responsibility to register the athlete for the race. This is done online and usually MUST be done BY the Tuesday leading up the race weekend. See “Race Registration” on the FAQs page for more info.
  • When MSEF travels to races, they set aside a block of hotel rooms for all MSEF families. Securing a room in the block of team rooms is a great way to get to know the coaches and families traveling to races. Team meetings, film and waxing usually occur at these locations. That being said…not everybody stays there. Many families have friends/family at the event locations they choose to stay with, or for longer races some families will rent condos/houses so that they have kitchens and spaces that work better for their whole family. Stay wherever makes you and your athlete happy and comfortable. Everybody prioritizes the trade offs of drive time, amenities, cost, etc. differently.
  • When traveling to races…The weekends can be exhausting for racers, parents and coaches alike. The days are early and long on the slopes for our youngest racers, and often followed by swimming, film, waxing etc. As a parent, I feel my most important role is to fuel and accommodate the most rest possible for my kids. This can be really tough to do on the road. Some races I’m more prepared with premade meals, sometimes as a group we plan a team meal, a lot of times we are all winging it. I think the best we all can do is to make our racer(s) a priority and to opt in and out of whichever activities work for you and your athlete to help insure they make it through a 2-4 day race schedule.
  • At races on the slopes, you will be amazed at the independence your athlete quickly acquires. The coaches completely manage the racers at the top prior to their races…in fact, parents are not welcome. So ski a run, grab a cup of coffee, and then enjoy watching your racers run. With the younger kids it is helpful to make sure they fit lunch in before their next run (usually before 2nd run inspection for girls, and either before or after 2nd run inspection for boys). It may take a race or two to figure out the rhythm and timing of a race and your kid’s needs.
  • At some of the race locations (Big Sky for sure) Live Timing is available. If you go to this site, choose US races and then scroll through by state and find our race, you can basically follow the live times of the racers. This obviously allows you to see your racer’s time, and can be useful for just keeping track of things. If you have a boy and are free skiing or having a slow morning, you can check in with the girls to see how quick they are going so you know when to make your way to watch your kid. Or, if one parent is not at the event…they can follow along from home…grandparents etc. also sometimes enjoy checking in. Again, its not always available. Also…it can drain your battery pretty quick esp in the cold.
  • Looking for Race Suits??? I have found this site super helpful. When I have a specific child in mind, I check back here every couple days during the off season, and I have found some great deals. It’s basically a compilation of speed suits for sale on numerous different sites including Ebay etc.
  • If you haven’t yet noticed, our MSEF web page has a Buy/Sell section. Not a high volume of gear, but easy to coordinate with Missoula families.
  • If you are on Facebook, join ‘Montana Ski Racing Classifieds’. This is a group of parents and athletes across Montana, and ski racing gear of all types (skis, poles, boots, helmets, body armor, etc.) are continuously loaded throughout the year. This is a great way to find great affordable gear. My biggest tip for keeping it affordable is to always be looking throughout the year and snag the right sized high quality stuff when it comes along. If you wait till the week before the season starts, chances are you will have to pay 2-3X as much.
  • A multi event ski works great for the first 1-2 years, or until your racer/coaches feel they could really benefit from SL and GS specific skis. Regardless of what ski/s your child has, you MUST keep their skis tuned. It is impossible for your kid to progress with dull edges. So either learn how to tune, or simply swing their skis by Gull Ski or LB Snow a couple times per year to keep the edges sharp!
  • A hard eared helmet is required for GS races. If you are going to invest, and think your kids head is not growing much anymore…find one that is FIS approved with the proper sticker…this is a requirement by the time they are U14.
  • Gull usually facilitates a pro deal through Oct…be on the look out for emails in the fall. 

Championship Races

The reason why we ski – or at least why I hope we ski – is for enjoyment. Because it’s fun. MSEF as a club is not focused on results, or what place your athlete finishes in. We are, however, focused on the controllable – and that is the athlete’s development. Both personal development and technical development. With that said, once the athlete reaches the U14 age class there are extra racing opportunities that are available for those who “qualify”. These extra racing opportunities are the “Championship Races” held at the end of every race season. Before we get into these championship races, it is important to understand the classes within U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard Classification - U.S. Ski & Snowboard is the governing body for alpine ski racing in the United States. They chose who represents the U.S. on the U.S. Ski Team and in the Olympics. Within U.S. Ski & Snowboard there are 3 regions (Western Region, Eastern Region, and Rocky/Central Region). Within each region there are also divisions. In the Western Region there are 5 divisions – Northern Division (Montana), Alaska Division, Far West Division (California and Nevada), PNSA Division (Pacific Northwest Ski Asociation – Washington, Northern Idaho, Oregon), and Intermountain Division (Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho). And within each division there are numerous clubs. MSEF is a club within Northern Division, within the Western Region, within U.S. Ski & Snowboard… within the world, within our solar system, within our galaxy which is one of billions of galaxies in an ever-expanding UNIVERSE!! Wow.

Anyways, listed below are all of the ‘championship races’ and what age group is eligible to qualify for each specific race:

  • YSL Champs: All U8’s – U14’s are eligible to compete at YSL Champs. You do not need to qualify, and ALL can participate. This is a Northern Division’s Championship race and is the final YSL race of the season.
  • Western Region U14 Champs: U14’s only. This is THE premier championship race for U14’s and the selected Northern Division Athletes travel as a team to compete against the top athletes from the other divisions in the Western Region. The quota changes from year to year but generally Northern Division’s top 4 men and top 4 women are selected to participate in this race.
  • Western Region U16 Champs: U16’s only. Same details as WR U14 champs, but for U16’s.
  • Tri-Divisionals: U14’s and U16’s are eligible to compete at Tri-Divisionals. This is a race where selected athletes from 3 divisions (Northern Division, Intermountain Division, and Alaska Division – hence the name) join together to race against one another.  At this race you compete as a Northern Division team, not as your local club team. This is also a premier championship race that you must qualify for, but this race is secondary to Western Region Champs. Those who are not selected for Western Region Champs are eligible for Tri-Divisionals – you cannot compete in both. If an athlete does not qualify for Western Region Champs THEN they are eligible for Tri-Divisionals. The Northern Division quota for this race changes every year but generally there are 12 boys and 12 girls selected to compete.
  • Western Region Junior Champs: U19’s only. Same details as WR U14 champs, but for U19’s. This race is a FIS race for which you must have a FIS license and FIS legal skis.
  • Nationals: If you do well at Western Regionals then you can be selected to compete at nationals… If you do well at nationals you can be selected to compete in the Olympics, etc.

Northern Division is the governing body that selects the athletes to compete at the championship races. For information on selection process please see page 20 of the Northern Division Handbook:

Note, to qualify for the championship races you must participate at the Northern Division qualifying races. Not ALL Northern Division races are qualifiers. See the ND calendar to find out which races are qualifiers - all qualifiers are noted on the Northern Division Calendar (  by the mark “qualifier” in the title. 

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