A Beginner’s Guide to Who’s Doing What at a Race

Have you ever wondering what the people holding a clipboard at a race were up to or have you ever wanted to help out but were afraid that you’d be the only one who didn’t know what has happening? If so, this guide should help you understand who all those people are high viz vests are and hopefully will persuade you to give it a go.

SASA hosts about 6 races a year and each one takes a lot of preparation before the event (more of that later) and on the day itself. As well as the pre race preparation to set up the gazebos, sort out the timing gear and get the tea urn turned on, there are a number of roles that need to be filled whilst the race is running. Here are the roles that you’ll see people fulfilling at a typical race at the Southampton slope.

Race Day

Chief of Race

Is responsible for running of the whole competition. They direct the entire proceedings. This is one of the few roles where you must be a registered SSE official.


Is there to ensure fair play, is responsible for the recording the starts, records incidents (late to gate, false starts, etc.), checks racers’ equipment (bungs, helmets etc.), this is often picked up by one of the experience officials fulfilling other roles.

Start Marshall

Responsible for making sure that the start area is clear of obstructions and ensure that racers are directed up to the start in good time and in the correct order.


The starter tells racers when to start and communicates with the timing desk to let them know who is on the course. This sounds more complicated than it is, its actually quite easy and you have the bonus of being to sit down!

Course Setter

They are responsible for setting the course.  This is one of very few roles that requires expertise.  Course setters must be approved by Snowsports England, having completed a SSE (or recognised equivalent) course setter course.


They provide a running commentary of racers and their times, based on the information given to them from the timing desk.

Chief of Calculations

Responsible for running the timing desk. They ensure that the timing equipment is working correctly, working closely with the starter and Chief of Race. They record race times. Often there will be a back-up timer, in case things go wrong with the equipment (not an unusual problem!) SASA normally has at least two people on the timing desk.  It is a role which requires knowledge of the timing software and a willingness to use a computer.

Chief Gate Judge

Another role requiring experience, they are responsible for ensuring that each gate judge knows which gates they are responsible for and briefs the gate judges on the method of recording racers who do not ski around the gates correctly. This job is often combines with other senior roles on the day, such as Chief of Race.

Gate Judge

There are always a number of gate judges and they are each allocated a number of gates (usually two or three) to watch during the race and indicate when a skier skiers out (DSQ). Depending on the level of races, a flag is used and/or the gate judge will record the DSQ on a gate judging sheet.

Finish Marshall

Responsible for making sure that the finish area is clear of skiers, skis and over enthusiastic parents!

Lift Marshall

Not officially recognised by SSE, but a very important role! They ensure that the lift queue moves smoothly. Sometimes the younger skiers struggle with the lift at Southampton, so need a helping hand. Lifts can also be vulnerable to breaking down if they are overloaded, so spacing the skiers out ensures that the skiers don’t have to trudge up the hill when we can’t get the lift working again!

Bib Issue

This role is complete before the start of the first race! They are responsible for ensuring that the correct bibs are issued to racers and for informing the timing desk if any racers don’t turn up.

Bib Collection

Probably the easiest role on the day, they are responsible for ensuring the bibs are collected at the end of the racers’ last run.


Without doubt,  one of the most important roles at a race.  For SASA races,  we normally run a cake stall, so we are always very grateful for any donations!

Race Preparation

Race Secretary

The race secretary is responsible for issuing the race invitation (the initial notice of the race), receiving and checking entries, preparing the acceptance and start lists and race bulletins and publishing the results afterwards. This involves a lot of preparation before the race and requires a reasonable degree of organisation. SASA has put together procedures for anyone doing this role, but its best for a new race secretary to work with someone who has run a race before.

Volunteer Training

Snowsports England (SSE) run a couple of courses:

Volunteer Level 1: this is a one day course, designed for people who have no (or limited) experience of volunteering at a race

Volunteer Level 2:  this is a two day course,  designed for people who have competed the Level 1 course and have experience of a number of roles.  Having Level 2 will out you in a good position to be able to take on the Chief of Race role.

The Level 1 course is normally run annually by Southern Region Ski Association (SRSA) and we advertise when those courses are running on our website and our Facebook page,  but SASA can organise a Level 1 course if we have sufficient interest.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering, either at a race or in helping to keep the club going,  please get in touch committee@skisasa.co.uk

Further Reading

This presentation contains detail of roles at a race but also covers details on understanding a course and an explanation of the current rules on the use of helmets in slalom  and GS.

[pdf-embedder url=”http://www.skisasa.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2017-Snowsport-South-Regional-Training-Day-v4.pdf” title=”2017 Snowsport South Regional Training Day v4″]

Snowsport South Regional Training -How to run a regional race