Where's the Potential in XC Skiing? In the Outdoors?
This is a favorite subject for me -- I hope it's not a dead-horse.
JD Downing has a piece in the 12/09 issue of "Cross Country Skier" magazine about the future of USA XC being rooted in the local clubs. He described the role of the local club and how many of them do things like take care of trail grooming for a particular trail. He also mentioned that clubs provide the inspiring coaching that youngsters thrive on.
These notions seem dandy, but I want to keep pondering the issue.
Organized sports -- like with most highschool clubs -- does seem like a big potential area. However, it seems like we might need a layer that goes deeper yet.
For instance, I've heard that a lot of HS and college skiers stop skiing after they graduate. So there's that. I'd think that growing the lifelong side is critical.
Do sports thrive the best when they're organized or do they start with the sandlot? (I dunno, but my idea of sustainability would lean on the sandlot.)
To me, trail grooming means *complex overhead effort*, so there's that. And the more overhead a sport has the less viable it is, so it seems offhand (altho sailing is probably thriving).
I note that a touring skier doesn't need grooming. (But with medium-wide skis, they can still enjoy groomed trails and even racing.) And a touring trail needs at most a little pruning and tidying in the fall, if that. A ski trail causes no erosion at all! Totally zero impact! Also, touring doesn't need waxing irons or an entry fee. And touring can be very social -- far more so than a race, actually. Except HS -- and World Cup -- races do seem to have a lot of standing around on the sidelines, so there's spectating. But in touring there are no sidelines, rules or referees. Guides and leaders are still inspiring and helpful.
Moreover, tours can be morphed into races. They can respond to whatever the need is.
Lately I've been promoting more of the touring side here at OYB.
I'm definitely going to make a new YouTube about the forgotten techniques of touring!
(The Delay Diagonal, Diagonal Pendulum/skip-phase and 2-Step DP techniques from wood-ski days are natural and stable for homestyle trails and convivial, scenery-oriented touring. And they're not taught anywhere. In fact, they're called mistakes! I think this hurts the XC cause!)
By the way, I just read a remark that groomed skiing shouldn't even be called "cross country"!
I'm wondering if maybe the deeper roots -- and wellspring of potential -- aren't in things like Outing Clubs and Scouting.
To me, if an area is dominated by kids/adults who don't do much outdoors then the main need is for a year-round Outing Club -- which then spins off various things like XC ski as needed.
It seems like success has to start with an overall wholesome culture then move out to general outdoor activity then spin off to specialties, with the simplest modes getting priority.
I'm not sure about money being a problem. Sure, it makes sense to keep it simple, yet at the same time people do seem happy to spend the big bux when even slightly provoked.
And I'm not sure about difficulty being a barrier. Kids love tricky stuff! Stunts/skate/surf/climb aren't easy!
Basically, XC seems to have gotten its people -- around mid-Michigan, anyway -- by the early 80's -- then stopped growing. Maybe we've added 10-20%.
Cycling in several sectors seems to have busted its greyhair dead-end. The kids are into citybikes. The establishment had nothing to do with today's boom. We should look at that.
Bike racing per se seems a bit stuck in a rut. The youth citybike movement has lateraled into community activism and from there it moves back over into sport when it cares to. But that's not a traditional sport pathway. Flexible bike race modes seem to be thriving: cyclocross has latched onto a "party in the park" atmosphere. OK, I'm just blathering, but it seems like something is going on here.
Some organized bike clubs are missing out on today's bike boom. They're stuck in greyhair mode. Do they have a fun problem? A complexity problem? Is it just regional? My local TCBA group is nearly all grey.
But some big tours and tour-concepts are thriving, such as vintage tweed and "gran fondos" like L/Eroica.
Back to skiing: I see that the Birkie has *6800* registered! Wow!
And what about how the Women's Ski Tour that got so mobbed in Traverse City?
I guess we gotta keep looking to what's working... I haven't heard of any big growth happening in the Outing Club scene yet somehow, to me, it seems like it's an important sector.
MSU's Outing Club does big, pricey trips with little/no emphasis on local stuff -- they're about whitewater, caving, climbing, downhill skiing -- all far away. Local stuff isn't even mentioned on their website. Hello? Something seems "off." Are they really serving their people? I'm sure there is an exotica demographic, but is that the best potential?
Who knows... I'm just mulling this stuff over...