Uplift for Michigan XC Skiing?
I wonder if in Michigan there's more activity and organization on the racing side of XC skiing than on the touring. I suspect, though, that the touring scene is always needed as a far-larger base in a ski scene for it to be healthy and thriving. So how are we doing here in Michigan?
I also note that in hard economic times that casual dayskiing has the LOWEST POSSIBLE overhead. But even in good times it's the easiest to afford and spread around of all the forms of skiing. I also note that it's the most VERSATILE kind of skiing. (Probably one of the reasons for crowded races back in the early 80's was that MOST people raced on touring skis. Also, entry fees were very low because touring skis require only minimal grooming and trail building.)
I wonder how much dedicated and effective "day skiing" there is. For instance, how many resorts with lodging or day-lodges (warming huts with lunch rooms) are there in the LP for XC skiers?
Bob Frye's Ski HQ in Roscommon seems to have a big day-skier base and a resort-like setting. He's really made a place that kids of all ages can have fun at. There's even a terrain park next to the patio now. I bet there are more teens hanging (and skiing) at his resort than any other. (I suppose that TC and Boyne rival him but for *hanging* out, I think Bob has em beat.)
Is there a regional/statewide tourism campaign to bring folks, skiers, families up to places like Bob's HQ?
Even the mighty Vasa trail doesn't seem to have truly suitable facilities to match its status as the major multiseason/multisport outdoor center of its region...SOCIAL center, too. It has a warm bathroom. That's it. Jellystone lodge seems to be an add-on on the side.
Consider the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota. Holy smokes! I haven't visited or even studied it that much but my impression is that it's a huge, long permanent trail system---100 miles?---with half a dozen true-blue resorts on it. No downhill/liftserved slopes.
In contrast it seems like Michigan families are flung out onto trails that have a pay-pipe in the ground as their only support, promotion and welcome.
Consider Stokely and Soo Finn. I suppose those are rare exceptions and unusual ethnic traditions.
Maybe XC works better/harder in Minnesota in general due to their far greater Scandanavian heritage.
I suppose our XC is mostly patterned after mtbike trails and hiking trails: what infrastructure is needed for those? Actually, many regions have nice lodges for the outdoor clubs that form the organized social anchors for naturalist type activities in the area. New England has those and so does the NW (there's a nice xc ski touring club lodge up the hill from Seattle as I recall).
Our snowmobile scene has its act together---because the snowmobile SEEMS to fit better in with the car than XC skis do. You see motels full of beels, where you can sled right to a trailhead. But motels are also full of beelers who drive to a trailhead. They're catered to everywhere upnorth, with banners galore.
In the winter, people need a place to warm up apres ski. Of course, hikers do, too, in summer. In Michigan, who gets the welcome? Every group BUT the silent sports types. (Canoe renters get SOME respect, even though it's a herd sport, with exhausted high-school crews "processing" the stream of weekend drunks. They reality is a bit different than that, but there's an image problem there. And a reality problem. Natural appreciation and actual "family friendly" gets pushed down QUITE a ways by the dominance of the screamin' drunks, who may well have kids along, but it ain't pretty.)
I do note a neat and maybe unique bright point: the Silent Sports Lodge by Vanderbilt: http://www.silentsportlodge.com.
Our downstate snow cycle is not that bad. Can you grow a sport or at least keep it alive with, say, 30 local days a year? But let's keep it to its base and call it a PASTTIME not a sport. The "just going out" part has to be the base.
Our snow zone kicks into a far better mode just 1.5 hrs north of the metro areas. Clare used to have a semi-cute day-ski lodge. Perhaps the trails there just weren't inspiring enough, being surrounded by farmlands. The Corsair trails in Tawas are still GREAT and well-groomed (classic only). They had a shop and race associated with them that was popular statewide. Isn't this still the first good "up north" area accessible by Detroiters? How many have been there or to Gary Nilke's shop lately? The Cool Ranch (?) was just north of Grand Rapids.
I wonder if having "first stage" semi-nearby quality ski options---that are effectively promoted!---are important to a thriving ski scene as regards the very-dominant population centers.
Basically, it seems like our scene is marked by no support and no PR at all levels. Interested folks are on their own. They're driving to trailheads no matter where they overnight. And the places/resorts where they're staying either don't know about the trails or have them very subordinated.
Alpine ski resorts usually have a very-sidelined XC trail and service, but I question that paradigm, too. Perhaps the local mom'n'pop hills keep their "feeder" system going. But today the "anchor" resorts in Michigan are almost like casinos in their orientation to money. They also might be very vulnerable to a depressed economy. The Thousand Dollar Weekend isn't likely the answer to any ski or economic problem. But maybe I'm reading them wrong. They seem to have done better than XC anyway!
Oh well, who knows what the answer is. Being "family friendly" seems to be key. Trail systems connected to "social anchor" lodges with an emphasis on day-skiing would seem to be key.