Split Second Timing

USSA Alpine Race Timing Software Overview



Author: Deborah Lewis

Date: 26-Sep-2001



This document provides an overview of the Split Second Timing software used for timing and scoring USSA alpine ski competitions.  The basic capabilities and operation of the software are discussed, along with the various types and interactions of data files and operator interactions.


Note: This document does not attempt to fully describe the rules for conducting USSA races or the complete details of the data that must be collected or computed when organizing a USSA race.  The objective of this document is to provide a basic overview of what’s going on and why.  Complete details of the FIS International Competition rules, USSA file formats, race points and point list computations, etc. are available from other sources.




The Simple Version of the Race Timing Story


In an alpine ski competition run under FIS rules, there are four disciplines contested: SL, GS, SG, and DH.  Each discipline has a different mix of characteristics, essentially determined by varying combinations of turning and speed along a spectrum, and there are competition rules dictating the appropriate constraints on what constitutes a suitable race course.  The first two disciplines are two-run competitions, where a racer must complete each of the two separate courses which are set for the two race runs, while the latter are one-run competitions. 


The essence of ski racing is pretty simple.  One or two courses are set, according to the requirements of the discipline, each competitor entered in the race attempts to negotiate the course(s), and the results are determined according to the (combined) time of each racer.  Fastest skier wins.  Racers who do not complete the course(s) don’t count.


Timing software for running an alpine ski competition provides the following basic functions:


  • record a description of the race (type, date, location, etc)
  • record a list of the competitors
  • provide the start list [for each race run]
  • interface with the timing hardware to record each racer’s time
  • provide the race results


Figure 1 shows the simple view of the role of timing software for a ski race.  In this basic view of the process, the timing software needs to keep track of the racers who competed in the race and the outcome of the competition (their times).




Even in this simple view, it is clear that the timing software needs to provide at least minimal capabilities in the following areas in order to accomplish its purpose:


  • data entry and editing so the race description and racer list can be entered
  • timing hardware support
  • data storage to maintain the actual race data
  • reporting capabilities to produce start lists and race results


The complexity of the timing software program depends on factors such as how sophisticated the data entry and editing facilities are, what kind and types of timing hardware are supported (e.g., electronic timing systems from various manufacturers, scoreboards, etc), support for specific race operation policies (determining start order of the competitors, maintaining starting/seeding groups within the overall list of competitors, etc), the number and type of reports to be produced.  There may also be additional capabilities provided such as data interchange capabilities for interoperation with other race organizers or sanctioning bodies such as USSA, along with other utilities and operations which can assist in the race operation or in facilities common activities done with the software.



Additional Factors for Running USSA Races


Running a USSA or FIS race requires additional capabilities of the timing software.  There are a number of specific requirements for data that must be recorded for the race, how the race is conducted (seeding, start order determination, etc), computation of race points, the format of reports that are produced, data file formats for submitting race results to USSA, and rules related to the USSA points lists rankings.


As the sanctioning body, USSA maintains lists of licensed competitors eligible to compete and their rankings in the form of national points lists.  The points lists are updated and published several times each year.  The current points list is used to determine seeding and start orders for the race.  The race results must include race points computation and is submitted to USSA in a standard data file format so that the results can be incorporated into the points list update cycle.


The USSA points lists and national competitor rankings system entails some additional requirements for the timing software when running a USSA race:


  • import the current USSA national points list
  • use current rankings to generate the seeding and start order
  • compute race points for qualified finishers
  • produce race results data file in “ski data” format to submit to USSA


Figure 2 depicts the additional capabilities that must be supported by the timing software to run a USSA race.  Additional data files must be supported in order to incorporate the current USSA points list and to produce the race results file in the USSA submission format, additional data must be maintained about the competitors in the race (USSA license number, current points), USSA rankings and seeding rules must be used to generate the start order for the race, and additional data must be computed in the race results (race points).



Running a USSA Masters Race


USSA is the sanctioning body for alpine masters ski competition in the United States.  Masters racing is age-group ski racing conducted using the FIS competition rules.  Masters races are organized within each division of USSA, along with regional and national competitions coordinated by USSA and the national masters committee.


Starting order for masters competitors is done within age groups, with the overall age group start order specified by division or national rules.  Age groups for regional and national events are 5-year groups determined by the competitors birth year.  Age groups for divisional races may use either 5-year or 10-year age groups.  Some divisions also provide for an “open seed” group in which competitors from various age groups may compete, with eligibility determined by pre-race election (mainly for 1-run speed events) or by qualification based on first run times (top-N finishers from first run move to special open seed start group in the second run).


Unlike USSA races, in which men and women’s races are relatively distinct both organizationally and on the hill with separate courses and start times, masters races at the division level frequently set a single course for all competitors.  Separate courses for men and women may be set if dictated by larger fields or weather and snow conditions at the competition site.  Divisional and national races break the field into 4 major groups based on gender and age and separate courses may be set for each group.


First run start order within an age group is determined by random draw within age group, with optional seed groups defined within an age group.  Division races generally do not seed competitors within an age group: first run start order is done by random draw across all competitors within each age group.  Regional and national level masters races may seed competitors within an age group to determine first run start order.  Because there is no national points ranking of masters competitors, there is no automatic process for determining seeding groups.  Typically 2-3 seed groups are created by the division team captains at the seed meeting for the larger age classes; smaller classes may be left unseeded at the discretion of the team captains. 


Second run start order may be either fastest-to-slowest or slowest-to-faster order according to first run time.  All first-run finishers qualify for the second run; there is no top-N cutoff for masters as in certain USSA and FIS races.  Similarly, there currently is no use of the turn-15 or turn-30 system for second masters second run start order.



Split Second Timing’s Alpine Race Timing Software


The standard timing software for USSA sanctioned races is supplied by Split Second Inc.  By arrangement with USSA, a non-timing version of the software is available free of charge to USSA race organizers and clubs.  A license for the timing version of the software can be purchased from Split Second.


Note: The current version of Split Second’s timing software as of the 2000-01 competition season is version 6.01 for DOS and version 2.06 for Windows 95/98.  The general functionality is the same in both programs, but the internal data file formats and program implementation vary.


Split Second’s timing software provides all the functionality required to run a USSA sanctioned race.  As discussed above and shown in Figure 2, the Split Second software provides capabilities for loading the current USSA national points lists for men and women competitors, maintains all race and racer information required by USSA and FIS rules, generates start order according to USSA rules, computes race points, produces results reports in the required print format per layout and content requirements specified by USSA, and generates a race results data file in the “ski data” format required for submission to USSA.


Figure 3 depicts the major elements of the Split Second timing software.  The capabilities and file formats required for running a USSA are all provided.  The Split Second software also supports two additional data interchange formats as part of the specific capabilities provided in this software in order to facilitate loading the racer list for a specific race and exchanging basic “raw” timing data between timing system computers.




Supported File Formats


The internal data file formats used by the Split Second timing software are a proprietary binary format.  The file formats and organization are different between the DOS and Windows versions of the software.


The primary data interchange formats supported by the Split Second software are the file formats for the USSA national rankings point lists and for race results submission to USSA for scored races.  This support allows the timing software to operate correctly within the context of the system for maintaining the USSA national points ranking system.  As noted above, seeding and start order for competitors in scored races are driven by their rankings.


The current USSA points list can be loaded into a competitor database which is then used to simplify competitor data entry, as well as race official information that must be documented for a scored USSA race.  Once the current points list is imported into Split Second, data entry for competitors in a race can be done by lookup on name or USSA number – most of the competitor’s data on the entry screen is then filled in automatically.  This greatly reduces the amount of manual data entry required to set up race scoring.


The race results data in the required file format for submission to USSA is generated by an export function that is performed when the race has been completed.


In addition to the standard USSA points and results file formats, the Split Second timing software also supports two other data interchange file formats that can facilitate certain operations.


  • competitor data import to load the racer list in a race
  • timing data import/export to exchange raw timing data


The competitor data import operation (nominally referred to as importing a comps.txt file) allows you to load a list of competitors directly into the racer list of the race you are currently working on.  The competitor data file is a simple text-based file format, similar in content and layout to the competitor data in the USSA points list file.  One use of this capability would be to perform race registration entry in a supporting program which can generate the competitor list to be loaded directly into the timing system, so that duplicate data entry is not required in both programs.


Note: There does not appear to be any corresponding export operation which would enable the competitor list within a race to exported in the comps.txt format.


The timing data import/export operation uses a simple text-based file format containing the minimal data about a race competitor result (name, bib, class/team, first/second run times, combined time).  The primary purpose of this interchange format is to enable exchange of the race timing data between the actual timing system used to run the race and another (usually non-timing) version of the software, such as the office system used for race registration and results generation.  An additional use of the timing data exchange capability is to enable export of race timing result data to supporting programs used for scoring and combined event calculations.


Running a Masters Race


The Split Second timing software does not directly support masters age classes, start group orders, or start order computation.


Note: Support for 5-year age masters classes is intended to be added for the 2001-02 competition season.  Details and availability are not known at this time.


Entering data and generating start order and results reports for a masters race can be done using the Split Second timing software by following some conventions for how racer data is entered and organized.  More manual effort is generally involved, however, since the grouping and ordering rules used by masters are not directly supported by the timing software.  Auxiliary programs can be used in conjunction with the timing software to “fill the gaps” that aren’t handled automatically by the Split Second software.


-- end --



USSA – United States Ski Association – sanctioning body for alpine ski competition in the United States



Split Second, Inc. – manufacturer of timing software for USSA ski races










D. J. Lewis