Singletrack XC... Could it revive XC?
I've posted quite frequently and at length about the singletrack XC ski concept. Here's some more! --Hopefully with a new twist.
I'd like to encourage a race or loppet that had minimal grooming, suitable for any kind of ski, for a big day of skiing. It would be an event which emphasized the beauty of the scenery rather than the grooming and widening (and bulldozing!) which actually hurts a trail and costs a HUGE overhead and which makes events limited to a very few venues and so vulnerable to weather as well as to high entry fees.
I've heard that this kind of set-up impairs passing, making it better for a tour than a race. I do recall some squabbles about passing back in the narrow-trail day, but really 90% of passing works fine. ("On your left." Step aside. It's usually simple.) It's no reason to totally change the trail, the expectations/risk and expense structure. Well, it's great to have the fancy wide courses out there, but there are other ways to ski and to have events which maybe shouldn't be ignored.
I note that there are some loppets out there---generally short and on beginner loops, meant for duffers. I'm talking about something else!
There are far more great trails out there and far more lovers of these great trails than our groomed areas and groomed trail skiers.
If we wanted to open up the ski scene and maybe attract new skiers and new event participants, maybe expanding the trail options to include hiking/mtbiking trails that maybe have just one snowmobile and track-sled pass-thru the day before would result in a very cheap but challenging and rewarding event on a great trail.
Mtbikers LOVE the singletrack concept MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. They include it in their BEST races. We XC skiers should include it, too!
Perhaps "delicate" master skiers enjoy mellow, smooth and perfect trails...but maybe there's room out there for more diverse trail options.
Anyone remember the old Corkscrew/Rollercoaster trails at Forbush? BEFORE the bulldozing? They are WHY I got into xc skiing as a YOUNG person. I love skiing Soo Finn because of that great double drop with pre-jump on their Olympic course. If we had more dynamics in our xc trails maybe xc would have more appeal to younger people. (Bill Koch says today's WC courses are for wimps!)
Remember: there are jillions more mtbikers, hikers, trail-runners, adventure racers out there than groomed-course XC skiers.
I'm not pushing for a mass event or a crowd, but for more variety. To include great, narrow, challenging trails and low overhead.
I know that marketing isn't always common sense and that an expensive event can be very popular. But the $93 Nokie might prevent some fun-loving last-month entries. How many young people know what they're doing a month ahead of time? I never did! (I still don't!) What about a Nokie that was more suited for touring skis and didn't have much/any grooming and only cost $5 for 50k...would it be of interest to a different set of people?
I skied the Poto trail a month ago in perfect conditions. It was a worldclass 17 miles of joy and challenge. No other skiers were out there that day. But I saw a dozen runners at various times out SLOGGING thru the soft deep snow. If you can sell running in deep snow, ice, roots and rocks to people better than you can sell joyous gliding over hill and dale then it seems like your marketing people have a problem. There are thousands who rate the Poto as their fave trail in the summer (rated #61 mtbike trail in nation). But statistically ZERO of these people ski it in winter---despite the dozen days where it is perfect. OK, a dozen days aren't much...but they are heavenly! Mtbikers don't even KNOW that it can be great for skiing...or that skiing can be fun!
Why is XC so tiny and unappreciated or unknown when it's so rewarding, affordable and versatile?
In a tough economy, we should see a big increase in the amount of people skiing in a cheap way on great trails close to home.
...Or else we gots a big marketing problem...
[Agawa pic below photo credit D. Gebhart]