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FIS points are the scoring system for cross-country ski racing

Cross-country skiing is often referred to as Nordic skiing.  Anyone taking an interest in competitive cross-country skiing will inevitably come across FIS points - the Federation of International Skiing approved scoring system for ski racing.  FIS points are awarded for approved races and used to create a “FIS listing” which effectively ranks skiers competing in different competitions around the world.  Competitive skiers are thus given a world ranking in a similar way to the “seed” ranking of top tennis players.


FIS points have a reputation for complexity. This article aims to give a simple overview for new-comers to the sport, to aid understanding and enjoyment of spectators.  It is also intended to help inform the public’s appraisal of the performance of the British Nordic Ski Team, a talented team of young athletes who are re-invigorating this sport in Great Britain. More detailed information and links to scoring rules and FIS listings are available at the end of this article.


Here are a few key facts about cross-country ski scoring to aid interpretation of race results:


  • The most important thing to know about FIS points is - the lower the FIS points the better the skier.

  • Participation in any World Cup race is limited to skiers who have scored under 120 points in at least one race in the previous 12 months.

  • The best skier in the world has a FIS listing (ie his average points for the year) of around zero.

FIS points – why are they so complicated?

Cross-country skiing competitions take place mostly in mountainous and forested terrain around the world. Unlike most other sports with standardized courts, pitches, tracks or courses, cross-country skiing is, in essence, a “wilderness” sport. There is a range of standard race distances encompassing sprints of about 1km to long distance races of 50km. Some races use mass starts, others employ interval starts. Skiers race in a wide variety of snow conditions, terrain and temperatures.


As no two races are the same, so the scoring system for ranking cross-country skiers must include a number of variables that capture the relative ability of skiers in the race.  To do this, FIS points are calculated according to a formula incorporating adjustments called “factors” and “penalties” to arrive at the final FIS points awarded to each skier for each race.

Penalties and Factors

The quality of the competition determines a “penalty” for the race.  For major events,such as the Olympics, the penalty is zero.  Usually, however, each race's penalty is based upon the current FIS points of three top finishers in the race.  Each skier is awarded race points proportional to the time difference behind the winner of the race. This is multiplied by a “factor” [or “f” value] fixed by FIS. The type of start (mass or interval) and type of race (distance or sprint) are“factors”.  Thus, racing against the world’s best skiers and coming 40th may well yield better FIS points than competing in a regional race and coming 10th.

British Cross-Country Skiers– just how good are they?

A number of years ago GB skiers struggled to get under 200 FIS points.  Now several of them regularly score under 50 points (120 being the threshold for participation in World Cup races) and are improving every season.  Some of our top British skiers are now ranked in the top 20 in the world.

FIS points and World Ranking - in more depth

To gain FIS points in races, skiers must first obtain a FIS license through their national governing body for the sport.  In Britain this body is British Ski and Snowboard (BSS).  FIS-registered skiers may compete in FIS approved races and are given FIS points based on their performance. The points are published on the FIS website.  Each skier’s five best results in the last year are averaged and the result is their FIS points listing. [There is an adjusted formula for those who complete less than five races]. There are separate lists for distance and sprint races, updated six times a year. Competitive skiers are given a world ranking based on their FIS listing.  Among other things, the ranking is used to seed skiers for team selection and to limit entries for major events.


For more detailed information on FIS points and ranking, refer to the FIS Website

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