NOVEMBER - FEBRUARY
Washington Interscholastic Orienteering League (WIOL) and public Winter Series
Julia Morse  Michelle Kastner
Winter League is the Pacific Northwest’s premier competitive orienteering series for all ages: Elementary, Middle School, and High School students, college students, and adults. We also offer non-competitive categories at every event.
Students and adults will love the chance to make sense of new surroundings and get outdoors in an immersive way. Learn to read topographic maps, use a compass, make route choices, and problem solve when things don’t go as expected. As students improve, these skills are used while running, providing a challenge for both mind and body.
The challenge ascends as the season progresses! Events in the first half of the season are held at beginner-friendly venues, some of which are trails only, while events in the second half move to more forested and challenging venues. The season is capped off with a championship event and an awards ceremony to recognize top individuals and teams in both the series overall and the championship event. Your best four event scores make your season score, so don’t fret if you can’t make it to every event.
Frequently Asked Questions
What equipment do I need? / What do I need to buy for my student?
Orienteering requires very little special equipment. Dress for the weather and your expected pace. On more advanced courses with off-trail travel, you may also want to consider the vegetation when picking your kit. You’ll see people wearing trail running gear, hiking gear, casual outdoor gear, and everything in between. We rent timing chips (called an “e-punch” or “finger stick”) and compasses every event, though you may want to purchase your own.
How long are events?
Every event and every course are different. During Winter League, Elementary / Beginner courses are designed to be completed in 10 to 30 minutes, while participants on advanced courses may spend 40 to 90 minutes completing the course. WIOL students have assigned start times, while public starts are first-come first-served during the start window.
Is it safe for my child to be out in the woods alone?
Like any sport, Orienteering is not without risk. That said, orienteering is very safe. Your child will learn valuable independent problem solving skills, and we have procedures in place to make sure everyone returns safely. Every participant is required to carry a whistle to be used in case of emergency, and parents may shadow elementary school students on their course.
What category should I sign up for?
- WIOL Elementary (usually grades K-5): A beginner solo navigation activity. Students may be shadowed by an adult for safety, but cannot be given assistance. If any navigation help is provided, it must be reported to meet officials at the finish. Sixth graders may compete on the elementary school course if shadowing is still needed.
- WIOL Middle School (usually grades 6-8): A slightly more challenging solo navigation activity. Ninth grade beginners may compete on this course.
- WIOL Junior Varsity (usually grades 9-12): Boys and girls run separate courses of roughly equivalent technical orienteering challenges. Depending on experience, high school students new to orienteering may want to try a public course with a friend first.
- WIOL Varsity (usually grades 9-12): A challenging orienteering course for experienced orienteering students. Students must have competed at this level or finished in the top 25% of Junior Varsity the prior year. Petition the WIOL Registrar for an exception.
- Intercollegiate: Advanced orienteering. Students must meet the current World University Orienteering Championship eligibility standards. Generally this means you are over 17 and under 25 on January 1 in the year of the event, and you are officially registered as proceeding towards a degree or diploma, or graduated in the past 12 months.
- Winter League Long Advanced: Advanced competitive orienteering open to all. You know your way around a topographic map and have enjoyed being lost a time or two before trying this course.
- Non-competitive courses: Beginner, Intermediate, and Short Advanced. If you’re unsure, ask a volunteer at registration what might be appropriate for you. Small groups may participate on these courses.
Scoring and Awards
At each event, individuals on competitive courses earn points based on finish rank within each competitive category:
- 1st place: 100 points
- 2nd place: 95 points
- 3rd place: 92 points
- 4th place: 90 points
- 5th place: 89 points
- points continue to decrease by one point per place
Students’ individual efforts contribute toward a team score. In High School Junior Varsity and up, each category has its own team score calculated by summing the scores of the top three finishers from each school. In Middle School, boys and girls scores are considered together when calculating the top three finishers to create a single Middle School team for each school. There is no team scoring for the elementary school categories.
Season scoring uses the best four scores from the seven events in the series. The championship event is a stand-alone event for scoring purposes. Ties for season scores are broken by comparing the best individual event scores of each individual or team head to head. In the case that all event scores are the same when ranked this way through all seven events, a tie is awarded.
At the championship event, we’ll present awards to the top three individuals and teams for the season as well as the top three individuals and teams from that day’s championship race!