Early Thought: Ski-Cross? ...Cyclocross Ski Race
April 25, 2012
OK, I've beat close around this subject for years now. But I don't know if I've ever come right out with it.
And, yeah, I know it's the wrong season for thinking about either leg of this sports mashup, but whatever...
Why not have a ski race in a small park-like setting where spectators can see the action and where the action is technical?
To get even more specific: why not have ski races ON CYCLOCROSS COURSES!?
Some of them have to have plenty of nifty terrain, though I know that much of the challenge of many courses is artificial and temporary. If need be, to amp up a ski-cross course we could shovel heaps of snow into multiple places on downhills and pack them into small jumps to add to the fun.
I have already been pushing the idea of having XC ski races at alpine slopes in low-snow times, with an uphill/downhill/slalom format.
This ski-cross idea is even bigger in potential (one could allege) and easier to do.
OK, ski-cross is probably taken as a phrase, but it'll do for now.
It's so obvious, why didn't we think of it?
I've also been promoting my local new Expert Loop. It's a fun, high-energy, tricky 1-mile loop within a nearby park, set mostly through the woods off of the hiking trails. So there would be easy access for spectators to scamper around. The trees do get in the way of visibility, but, hey, they add their own panache and a chance for surprise. Partying in a forest is fun, too. Get the microbrew sponsor, bring out the cowbells.
I can't emphasize it enough: typical groomed XC ski trails DON'T REQUIRE MUCH SKILL TO SKI!!!
But if you groom for singletrack and twist the trail over hill'n'dale, then you can re-include skill in the equation. ...Just one set of tracks. For skating, a flat path one skier wide would work.
It's basic: you can't make a road or 2-track require much biking skill -- it takes singletrack to do that. Skiing is the same.
No, there's more to it. 'Cross courses can be fairly wide. The technical aspect doesn't have to be narrowly set. So you have a series of barriers to jump -- but they can be wide. Guys can ride three abreast and the guy with the faster, smoother skills moves up.
A ski trail can deliver this, too. If you have a high-banked berm-shot turn going up a hillside and around a tree then down, there's no reason a skier HAS to take the shortest line. He could go wide. Ski-cross shouldn't be so grooming intensive as to preclude creative route solutions. Wouldn't that work?
You want a course that was fun to watch. You don't need an alpine ski area to do this. You just need some terrain. Then you run the trail up, down and all around it, twisting as you go.
Courses don't have to involve huge mileage/acreage to challenge skiers. Doh! What were we thinking? Sure, huge is adventurous. But small can be fun, too! Skilz, baby!
Today's typical sprint courses are small and public and usually include sections requiring TINY bit of skill, like sharp corners. But I've NEVER seen a Sprints course that emphasized HANDLING SKILL to a serious extent. Not like a Cyclocross course challenges bikers. Sprint courses are power-fests with a few change-ups tossed in, some short, quick downhills and a few crowded corners. Big deal.
The alpine Red Bull NordicX courses are so "crayzee" that skiers are intentionally thrown out of control and kept that way most of the course. Sure, skills count, but really the downhills and jumps tend to overwhelm the skis. A cyclocross course rewards finesse. Ski-cross should, too. NordicX is mayhem. Fun, but not the end-all for the sport. It's also dependant on an alpine venue. Skicross fits in any hilly little park.
OK, Sprint courses need to be wide, to allow for passing. But we don't need to worry much about that for our tricky park courses. If you're catching someone they should stand up a sec and let you pass. If they don't, you can go wide somewhere. No biggie.
Anyway, I've been encouraging people to come out and ski my Expert Loop. Our snow hasn't been very good lately, but every now and then each winter IT TURNS ON. What I should also do is promote a RACE there. Any number of people could have a lot of fun with it. From 1 to 100! Ski trails can support a lot of traffic.
I suppose then we run into the unreliable weather/snow bugbear. Well, we should just sort out a few venues around the state. If there's no snow one place there usually is somewhere else. It's gotta be a Moveable Feast.
Heck, what if we didn't even say where the race would be ahead of time. Just that it'll be within 2 hours of you. Then wherever the snow is best we make the call that's where the race will be that weekend.
Ski-play in the tricky VanAtta Woods. Get another dozen out there and it could be Ski-cross!
Related Articles & Good Stuff
Views From a Wider Range of OYB