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Courses are set by degree of technical navigational difficulty, not by length . Never choose above your skills until you consistently rank high at that level.

POINT-TO-POINT Courses are the base structure of Orienteering Races.
The skills each Color Course expects of you are detailed below:


In Sprint-O you run very short courses as quickly as possible. Make decisions quickly. Exciting to watch and great potential for errors!

In Trail-O each major control of the race is a subset group of control flags set close together. You view each group from a nearby path (trail) and chose the one which matches the description on the race clue sheet. This event was started to help physically disabled people enjoy the sport. It has turned into a mental challenge even for the elite athletes.

In Score-O you try to find as many mapped features as you can within a time limit with the more distant and/or more difficult features having higher point values.

Motala format is used where the area is small. You do 3 or 4 loops out from the start, each loop often has only 4 controls.

POINT-TO-POINT Orienteering Courses by Karen Dennis:
This is a description of the orienteering courses and the NAVIGATION skills required at each level. This list is to help you decide which orienteering course and/or which training session to select. [Ed. Note: the colors are as used in the USA and CANADA, they may differ elsewhere, but the levels from novice to advanced still apply.]     Above all, choose the course which challenges your current skill level but is still easy enough to be safe and fun for you.
WHITE course - for the novice YELLOW course - for the experienced beginner ORANGE course - for the intermediate level orienteer ORANGE-LONG unofficial - just a long intermediate level for A/Rs There is a big navigational step up to the Advanced Levels. Do not attempt until you have learned your skills and successfully finished several Orange courses ADVANCED COURSES- Brown, Green, Red and Blue are the SAME NAVIGATIONAL LEVEL, but they are of different physical demand. In national USOF competition, courses are assigned by age and gender groups. Please see USOF course/age/gender charts
WHITE course - for the novice
    Choose this novice course if you are just beginning to orienteer and have had little or no experience. If you are unsure of your abilities, try WHITE first and then, time permitting, do another course also. .This is the competitive level for 12 year olds and under.
    Before starting you should know:

1) how to read and interpret the map symbols and colors (the legend).
2) how to orient the map to North, using a compass and/or land features.
3) what are the basic objectives (rules) of orienteering.
4) what to do when hopelessly lost (how to use a 'safety bearing').

    The course is designed to give you experience in:

a) following land features ('handrails') such as trails, roads, and fences.
b) learning to relate the map to features on the ground.
c) judging distance between control locations.
d) gaining self-confidence in map reading.

YELLOW course - for the experienced beginner
    Choose this beginner course if you have had some experience with orienteering and are quite comfortable with the novice course. This is the competitive level for 13-14 year olds.
    Before starting you should know:

1) everything for the novice (WHITE) course above.
2) how to read contour lines.
3) how to select and use a 'handrail'.
4) how to select and use an 'attack point'.
5) how to interpret a scale and judge rough distances.
6) how to take a rough compass bearing.
7) how to select a route choice (safer vs. shorter).
8) how to "recover" from an error by backtracking to last known point.

    This course is designed to give you experience in:

a) following handrails to an attack point (rather than to the control).
b) taking a bearing from the attack point to the control.
c) judging fine distance between attack point and control.
d) selecting between simple route choices.
e) recognizing 'collecting features' and 'catching features'.
f) reading and interpreting contours.
g) recovering using attack points and map features.
ORANGE course - for the intermediate level orienteer
    Choose this intermediate course if you are a moderately experienced orienteer and can "ace" a WHITE course and have done a few YELLOW courses and were very comfortable with them. This is the competitive level for mid-teens (15-16 years old).
    Before starting you should know:

1) everything for the above two courses.
2) how to navigate with or without a handrail.
3) how to select and use 'collecting features' and 'catching features'.
4) how to 'off-aim'.
5) how to 'simplify' the map.
6) how to follow a compass bearing.
7) how to recognize and avoid 'parallel errors'.
8) how to read IOF control descriptions.

    This course is designed to give you experience in:

a) making cross-country navigation 'safer'.
b) choosing routes according to your strengths and weaknesses.
c) recovering from 'parallel errors'.
d) fine map reading while traveling.
e) visualization of contours.
f) judging physical challenges.

    Advanced orienteering courses are all at the same NAVIGATIONAL skill level, we repeat are all at the same skill level, and vary only in length and physicality.

    To do advanced courses you must have done several ORANGE courses with confidence. These are NOT the courses to learn your skills Choose the shortest course available if this is your first outing on an advanced course.

    The colors are BROWN (Shortest), GREEN, RED and BLUE:     The BLUE course is designed to challenge the most elite orienteer. The RED course is the elite course for women. The GREEN course is the competitive level for older teens, and for the slightly older adults. The BROWN course is designed especially for the older orienteer who still wants a technically challenging course. It is less physically challenging than the other advanced courses and is often printed on a larger scale map to compensate for failing eyesight.
    Before starting you should know:

1) everything for the above courses
2) how to 'pace count'.
3) advanced techniques such as;
attacking from above
red-light/yellow-light/green-light running
4) how to evaluate your physical and orienteering skills.
5) extensive recovery techniques.

    This course is designed to give you experience in:

a) pacing yourself (physically).
b) recognizing the challenges presented by the course-setter.
c) refining your orienteering skills.
d) discrimination of mapping details.
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