Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Stuff that doesnt fit anywhere else.

Moderator: Moderator Group

User avatar
JeffOYB
Ski Forum God
Posts: 1408
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:44 pm
Location: Williamston, MI
Contact:

Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby JeffOYB » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:49 am

It seems that in the USA that the XC market is weakened by some misconceptions. Think that's so? Maybe some regions moreso than others. Yeah, I know there are places with lots of XC of all kinds.

Do you think that wherever there's fairly regular snow there's a healthy variety of XC options and a sensible general public view of XC?

Downstate MI seems like a skewed market to me. I know that I harp about it all the time. I hope it's not a common situation in snow country but I worry that it is! And I wish our own scene could somehow turn around.

We lost our ski shops 20 yrs ago. So it seems that a knowledge base is lost.

We perhaps had low snow for some amount of time -- anyone know how that history went? This also probably causes losses ... and knowledge base loss snowballing.

I constantly encounter a strange relation of XC skiing to skate-skiing even among experienced downstate skiers. There's a "classic is 2nd-tier" feeling among outdoorsy fit people. Local fit outdoorsy people don't do much skating but they "know" about it. And seems to me that this kind of common knowledge might be problematic. There's a sense that skating is a lot faster and easier, and easier to go fast when you're a beginner, and it's what the racers do, yet we average people aren't fit enough for skating -- it takes a lot more strength than I have to do it. So there's a mix of contradicting feelings. And lots of misconceptions. But the common basis is that "where I am now, in my local skiing, is 2nd rate."

Sure, there's some truth in it: it's easier to go faster with skating as a beginner, but the idea of "horses for courses" seems lost. Once you get to intermediate skill, and some hills, one can easily end up struggling with either skate or classic. Lessons help both groups over the hump. Skating ends up waddling and with exhaustion from attempts to overpower problems, while with classic we slip due to lack of timing and lessons. But the first problem still begs the question: where do you want to ski? If the answer is "anywhere, trails" then skating isn't an option. Tour-skis are the IDEAL solution. Should one then still feel somewhat generically inferior to skaters?

Would it help the XC market if the main view of the sport were that "all skiing is one"? Or that all skiing is suitable for the general human body?

Sure there are exceptions to such a view but what's a better place to start?

I note in the famous (now) old Norwegian tapes that the same body positions and dynamics are encouraged for both striding and skating. And in telemarking the same holds true.

At the same time I recall Anikin saying that kids really love to start with skating because "the glide is the thing." ...Of course one needs grooming to do it.

Thinking of our possibly particular Michigan problem, downstaters in general feel inferior to "up north" in terms of natural experience. -- Yet we have tremendous natural resources down here, including TONS of public land and tremendous amounts of amazing trails. ...Which seem hugely overlooked by XC skiers. And which are basically mothballed year-round by the DNR. They are NOT actively promoted for any season. And the parks totally close up in winter.

So probably MI has even bigger problems. First, leadership would need to assert that outdoor recreation is a priority and then they'd have to fund and promote it at all levels and in all places, starting with putting the most $ into the most democratic modes: hiking, biking, skiing, canoeing on rivers, sailing on lakes, camping. And doing it starting with the schools. ...There's a reason why MI is a top obesity state and probably also a top depression state. (And a top casino and stadium state.)

I suppose skiing is a goner until that first level is dealt with.

But back to skiing.

Many people ask me about what skis they should buy. If they are carbon bike people they ask if maybe they should buy skate skis. I can tell they are pre-programmed that "skating is fast and serious." When I say there isn't anywhere close to skate ski and suggest they get a midlength nowax ski so they can ski anywhere they like, they may say "Ah-hmmm, yeah" I can tell their reaction is that I'm telling them to "take a step down" which they've never done in outdoor sport. They are fit and skilled: they want the best, fastest, coolest. What then usually happens is that they do nothing. Or maybe they get another kind of "serious" ski in a different direction: a heavy metal edged ski -- which doesn't suit this region either but which is "intense." Or maybe they get skate skis anyway -- then sell em in a few yrs coz they haven't used them. Coz there's no place to use them nearby...

Not a single new-to-skiing but semi-outdoor-literate fit person has ever already had the idea that skating is good on wide groomed trails -- which we don't have nearby -- and tour skis are good for ungroomed hiking trails -- which we have thousands of miles of beautiful examples of, starting often from within literally one minute from people's homes, if not their yards. There isn't the equivalent sense that biking has where a road bike is known to be best for pavement and a mtbike is known to be best for trail. This view of XC does NOT exist around here. When I begin working with a new skier I have to spend a LOT of time just getting that idea across. The idea that ski-touring is fun anywhere there is snow is not a basic notion. Or that it can be used for getting and staying nicely fit most anywhere there's snow.

Touring skis are considered to be "novice" skis even at a great ski shop.

So there are 3 groomed golf course type places to skate ski in the 3-hour downstate region -- one each per east, central, west. They are all "green" skill-level.

Why a fit outdoor athlete would want to focus their time on such "babyish" places is beyond me. But it happens! Of course you can go as hard as you want at such places, just like at a running track. But in alpine skiing they'd never tolerate a place with only bunny slopes! Yet in XC they insist on it! Of course on some weekends they go "up north" to intermediate skate courses. ...There are really no truly challenging skate courses. Technical skills are rarely required. Sure, you can go fast, and there are occasional challenges, but there's a lot more that COULD be done.

The racing culture regionally fits into the misconception as well. Local racers will only ski/train at those 3 groomed beginner areas.

We have at least 1000 miles of hiking/biking trails of all skill levels. Many of course would be challenging to ski -- black diamond skill level. Nordic racers assiduously shun skiing trail since it might scratch their bases. Since they aren't groomed and aren't uniform and you can't really get an ideal workout in on them. They're more like track'n'field skiers who prefer the purity of running on an asphalt oval. Or, as I like to say, they're like Roadies.

They then often also quit skiing because there "isn't enough good snow or enough good places to ski." Even they don't see all the great skiing that we have. So few do!

If the stature of Trail Skiing were raised somehow, would that help the XC market? Or is there little potential there as well?
Jeff Potter
http://OutYourBackDoor.com
indie outdoor adventure, culture, heritage
...bikes, boats, skis, luggage, media & more!

osloskier
xcskiforum 40K
Posts: 252
Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:28 pm
Location: Oslo, Norway

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby osloskier » Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:18 pm

Classic technique is NOT inferior to skating. It's a different thing, like fly fishing vs trolling or road biking vs mountain biking. Even archery is not inferior to target shooting as a sport, even though the bow is completely obsolete as a weapon, because archery is still just as challenging and fun as it ever was.

Skating is about 10 % faster, but you basically need to build a road first, if anyone who is not an elite skier is going to be able to use it (i.e. someone who can't continue to double pole for hours). Classic skiing is a very technically challenging sport that you can keep getting better at for a lifetime, and it's extremely useful anywhere there isn't a four meters wide groomed trail, unless the skier enjoys doublepoling indefinitely. The idea that classic should be inferior to skating gets me fuming. BTW, skating is also really difficult to do right.

There's nothing wrong with touring skis, but to get the most out of good technique you want a full-cambered one. It's also more enjoyable if it's reasonably light. The exception is if the trail is so difficult that large parts of it are impossible to run (i.e. all weight on only one ski at a time). If you walk you need less camber to avoid slipping. One might argue that the trail needs improvement instead.

I personally hate no-wax skis because they make noise and don't grip very well when conditions are good and waxing is dead simple. Zero skis work when waxing is difficult and you can make any classic ski into a zero ski with some sandpaper and elbow grease.

Every skier should have a pair of rock skis! I have a pair of 15 years old full-cambered Atomic touring skis that are built like a Russian tank. They are heavy, but much lighter and way better to ski on than my rollerskis! I use them as soon as there's 3 cm of snow on the gravel roads. When they get too scratched up I scrape them. Next to zero cost and maintenance, lots of training and enjoyment.

I also have to say that there's nothing wrong with using skis for walking (i.e. softer camber and incomplete weight transfer), when walking is what is wanted. Most Norwegians ski as an alternative to walking and proudly plod along - skis are faster and more fun than snowshoes anyway. But walking doesn't win races.

User avatar
JeffOYB
Ski Forum God
Posts: 1408
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:44 pm
Location: Williamston, MI
Contact:

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby JeffOYB » Fri Dec 12, 2014 11:05 am

Thanks for the co-rant! :)

Today's tour-skis seem really nice. Light and lively. Yet they're sold as "novice" skis.

For a hundred miles around here, "rock skis" would be everyone's main ski.

It's more the rule around here that enthusiasts might have a sweet race ski they keep for the rare special times they visit groomed areas. So it's the reverse of the rock ski logic.

My impression is that most regional racers, tho, are even afraid to use their rock skis for local action -- and as a result they just don't ski in our region. They all drive hours north. ...A retired modern race ski is indeed perhaps still too fragile to be well suited for trail skiing. As bad as the scratches they're likely to just collapse or crush when pivoting on a root, say.

...Hey: how is race ski ruggedness these days? Are cap skis stronger than the older style? Is there a new way of manufacture now beyond cap skis? Are today's race skis still fragile? (When I last raced seriously was just prior to caps. My skis were featherweight and fragile beyond imagining. I'm still using those skis but I can push my thumb well into the bases of some of them. They've crushed internally.)

Anyway: it's one of our regional Trail Skiing goals to destroy the 'rock ski' mentality. Around here a thin snow outing isn't an exception: we need to build our ski consciousness around it and embrace it. We don't use our 'bad skis.' Our BEST skis are those which work best on our trails. It would be nice if makers catered to the new climate. ...Unless very few places are like ours.

I question that incomplete transfer is "ski walking." I think we need another term. It's a definite technique with advantages. It has a lot of glide and uses plenty of arm and kick -- so is unlike walking. It lets you sight-see and be upright as anyone would when carrying a pack. It's NEEDED for casual uneven trails with unstable, changing snow. You can't entirely commit but need to stay ready for anything even as you enjoy the scenery. We also do not commit totally to either foot in downhill technique, nor do we always equally weight both: you assume the ready stance to tackle anything the twisty dropping trails throw at you. Stay light on the feet. Commitment to either foot isn't part of the vocab. Altho you do have to be *gungho.* I think we also need to embrace all this and teach it. "If you're not going to race groomed trails you'll find the following techniques to be essential..." Indeed, that would apply to 90% of our regional skiers. I really don't think we should tell them that they're walking! I see what you mean by walking tho: shufflers, plodders. That's what you do when you've stopped skiing.
Jeff Potter
http://OutYourBackDoor.com
indie outdoor adventure, culture, heritage
...bikes, boats, skis, luggage, media & more!

User avatar
JeffOYB
Ski Forum God
Posts: 1408
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:44 pm
Location: Williamston, MI
Contact:

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby JeffOYB » Fri Dec 12, 2014 11:37 am

OK, to make it short I suggest that the following are common regional misconceptions that prevent XC popularity here:

*Classic/tour skiers consider themselves 2nd rate as compared to skaters.

*(related to the above) Recreational Skis are "novice" grade -- like the Rossi Evo Tour. "Touring" is a novice activity.

*XC is comprised of Racing, Touring, BC and Telemark. Touring is the most casual of the four. (To me 'touring' seems inadequate, inaccurate.)

*Bad old "rock skis" are what a "real skier" uses around here on trails.

*Trail Skiing is bad skiing. Up north, far away, on groomed golf courses is good skiing.

*Thin snow is bad. It doesn't matter if there's a firm 1" base with 1" medium-packed fresh on top -- that might be technically still "thin" but it's heaven to us. Downstate snow is generally "bad snow" all the time, even when it's deep, etc. -- no real reason is given but it's the impression of the general outdoorsy public -- but "real skiers" would say that it's bad because it's not groomed.

*Snowshoeing is cool and fun. (Most outdoor stores sell em, outdoor centers rent em. ...Even though conditions favor shoes perhaps ONE DAY each winter. The reality that shoes are good for deep snow is totally lost on the public. Shoes are a marketing success despite their local stupidity. "I don't know how to ski, so shoes are a good option for me." Even tho shoes aren't needed or helpful. Score a win for those marketers!)

*Fatbiking is the best thing to do in winter! (Another marketing win! Fatbikers are in discussion with park managers across the state, including the downstate region -- they're bringing their summer relations into a new way to play in the parks in winter. They're building singletrack groomers from scratch. They're serving a wide sector: "Come bike, ski, run on our trails!" ... By contrast: XC ski reps don't work with any of the big downstate park managers. Why would they? There's no skate-grooming in any of the big parks. XC has no region-wide plan for broad growth or outreach. The regional focus is on one golf course where $100k was raised to buy the one skating groomer in the region.)

*(a weird regional/American undercurrent subconscious mentality of "I don't know how to do it. I don't see how it works. It don't want to fuss with goofy stuff. I don't want to look awkward. I don't want to learn something new. I will inject my MTB tires with goo, and will learn to overhaul a suspension system, or pay a shop to do it. Complexity in my bike is fine. I will also drive an hour 3x/wk to a rock-climbing gym and slowly learn a difficult skill that has zero regional application. Score huge marketing wins for rock-climbing and MTBiking!)
Jeff Potter
http://OutYourBackDoor.com
indie outdoor adventure, culture, heritage
...bikes, boats, skis, luggage, media & more!

Blah
xcskiforum 40K
Posts: 403
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:43 am

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby Blah » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:01 am

Jeff I think your experience with classic skiing being judge as inferior is more a regional thing than it is a US market thing. In Minnesota classic skiing is very much alive and if you are any good at ski racing you know how to classic ski as well. Same goes for skiing in the East and skiing in much of the West.
I think what you are describing is more an example of the low popularity of skiing in your region and the lack of more structured junior training programs. Teach juniors proper classic technique, incorporate it into training and racing and you will get a trickle down effect to parents, adults, racing, etc.
Beyond that if you truly want to be a good and efficient skate skier you need to learn proper weight shift and you can't fake that on classic skis.

User avatar
JeffOYB
Ski Forum God
Posts: 1408
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:44 pm
Location: Williamston, MI
Contact:

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby JeffOYB » Sat Dec 13, 2014 11:49 am

So this respect for classic is solid in the touring casual groups as well?

See, I'm not talking about the attitude of racers or skilled skiers at all. But about the big lump of the market potential, the casual tour-skiers.

The race schedule for our aging race scene is half classic -- seems to work great. Most of our regular racers know how sweet classic is.

It's our regional casual outdoor enthusiasts who do tour-skiing locally that think of themselves as 2nd rate for not skating. Who think of skating as this mysterious 'better' way to ski that's out there 'up north' somewhere. Those who are skiing for winter fitness wish they could do the 'real thing'.

I've also encountered young collegiate racers who come to this area from somewhere else and who have had Jr racing experience who also assume that skating is the 'real way'. They've disputed my assertion that top racers do a lot of classic. The Jr scene may be largely skating, at least where they've come from (both East and West). Maybe once they get even higher-up yet they include more classic.

A side effect of collegiate attitude here, in addition to attitude, is that they show up for their 4 yrs with only skating gear. This has been almost the rule for students who know how to ski and have some racing experience. As a result the student XC ski club has died. There is nowhere nearby to skate. So they don't ski at all. They pine for vacations when they can go home and do some 'real skiing.' They might do a few one-hour drives to our one regional skating golf course but it's not enough to sustain a club. ... And they TOTALLY reject the pleas from we local skiers to join us for Trail Skiing. We tell them they can rent tour-skis and have a ton of fun. This is totally beneath them. ONE student joined us once. They've gotten peeved at us for constantly posting our outings and inviting them to ski. They've said "We're busy students!" They just don't get it: we take an hour to get in a buncha local ski fun. We take a lunch break to ski then we go back to work. We grownups have less free time than students. It was a mind-bender while it lasted but now it's dead. There are 40k young people here in Uni ... and basically none will ski. Esp locally on trails. If there's a snow day on campus we old-farts will ski around hollering at the kids to come out and play. I assume they're on couches using their thumbs or maybe doing a climbing wall in a gym somewhere. ...That's popular. The local outdoor gear 'pro shop' that serves the students sells a LOT of climbing gear. There's no real climbing within 1000 miles of here. If 'mountaineering' can be a marketing success despite being nonexistent fantasy one would think XC might have a chance since we're surrounded by fun trails and snow -- it's worldclass even within the city limits. (The students bring the Banff film-fest to campus every year, a celebration of everything our region is NOT.)
Jeff Potter
http://OutYourBackDoor.com
indie outdoor adventure, culture, heritage
...bikes, boats, skis, luggage, media & more!

Blah
xcskiforum 40K
Posts: 403
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:43 am

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby Blah » Sat Dec 13, 2014 1:06 pm

Again you are talking about regional problems. ANy junior racing I know would require kids to be able to skate and classic. Even at a pretty basic level. Our youth program in MN, MYSL, and Bill Koch teach kids to classic ski first. WE are talking 3 yrs and up.

As for touring skiers. If they are doing the shuffle around, ski walking type thing I wouldn't even think to recommend skate skiing. First they may lack the fitness to skate and second it is a real commitment to skiing. Skate technique is not easy to learn and you really need to work at it to move efficiently. I think that alone is the reason you don't see the sport as big. Everyone can run, almost everyone can ride a bike and so it is easy to pick up those sports. You can take great runners or cyclists and put them on skis and they suck. Nordic skiing takes time to learn and many do not have the patience for that.

User avatar
JeffOYB
Ski Forum God
Posts: 1408
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:44 pm
Location: Williamston, MI
Contact:

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby JeffOYB » Sat Dec 13, 2014 1:29 pm

It's amazing, tho, how popular climbing gyms are in our region even though there is zero real climbing. I would think that climbing is also a skill sport that takes awhile to learn the technique.

I would never suggest that tour-skiers learn skating. I'm saying that they all feel inferior to skaters. And these aren't just ski-walkers. Tour skiers in general around here: people who enjoy skiing the trails. They think they aren't the 'real' skiers. The real skiers skate.

We have no regional xc programs. We have only one groomed golf course -- not enough background to build any kind of culture around groomed skiing.

If our region accepted that it is a Trail Skiing region and was proud of it and proud of the skills they have to do such skiing then maybe we could build something.

Here we have Trail Skiers who actually have to handle their skis. They enjoy skiing. But they think the real skiers are the skaters. ... Who are using the one beginner golf course an hour away. Our trail skiers have better skills than the skate skiers! A market is confused when the skilled skiers think they are "lower" than the unskilled ones. It's true that the skaters use more expensive skis and wear lycra but in many cases they aren't any more fit. They are usually intermediate in skill -- just like the trail skiers. Trail skiers are intimidated by skating, say it's too hard to learn, takes too much fitness -- yet they've already achieved as much technique as the skaters have. Skating does give a misleading impression -- and the lack of info and marketing ends up encouraging this illlusion. It's easy for a beginner to zoom around a flat course on skate skis. Once they hit real hills they start to waddle and struggle then decide that it takes too much power for them and they go back to their trail skiing. But then they always have a sense of awe about skating. And as they chat with even newer skiers I constantly hear them saying: "Skating? Oh yeah, it's fast. A lot faster than striding. But it takes so much fitness. I'm just not strong enough." Then they both sigh and head off to do their trail skiing, feeling inferior, even though they're fit and have plenty of ski skill.
Jeff Potter
http://OutYourBackDoor.com
indie outdoor adventure, culture, heritage
...bikes, boats, skis, luggage, media & more!

hegel
xcskiforum 30K
Posts: 109
Joined: Sun Nov 21, 2010 2:42 pm

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby hegel » Sat Dec 13, 2014 8:54 pm

Around Tahoe, where I ski, the locals tend to prefer skating. But then they grew up skiing--downhill and nordic--the local schools have programs where the kids start skiing when they're in first grade!

The good skiers tend to be local, and they're skating more often than not. the classic skiers are mostly from the flatlands, and they mostly shuffle. I'm a flatlander who skis classic pretty well, perhaps better than many locals who grew into skating as kids and left classic behind.

I know locals who also classic, but I think they do it when they want an easy day...that said, I think that they appreciate a classic skier with good technique, maybe because it's more of a rarity than a skate skier with good technique!

DMK
xcskiforum 30K
Posts: 106
Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2006 3:38 pm
Location: Anchorage

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby DMK » Sun Dec 14, 2014 12:30 am

Maybe you should move. I am not really serious but it seems like you are constantly disappointed in your neighbors.

When you say inferior do you mean in the way I feel inferior to the college runners and elite skiers that regularly pass me on the trail summer and winter? I know touring skiers who love what they do and have no real interest in skating but do look at skaters and say 'that looks like fun'. I would not call that feeling inferior but maybe that is what you are talking about. In all the areas that I have lived that have reasonable snow, there is a large contingent of touring skiers. They like getting out in the woods and moving through the snow. I am sure there are some that have felt inferior to skaters but I would say that those are the vast minority.

I agree with Blah in regards to jr skiing and development. I have worked with jr skiers in MN, MI, MT, and AK. In all of those programs, kids start with classic and once skating is introduced, it is 1/2 time until they either drop out of the program or age out. I am not sure where the college skiers you know come from but it sounds like their experience is not the norm.

Rock gyms are their own beast. It's like a spinning class. Many people that spin do not ride bikes outside. Many that go to climbing gyms, rarely put their fingers on a rock face.

I still have not quite figured out what it is you are getting at with many of your posts. It sounds like you believe you have all these great trails that are great for classic skiing and yet no one around you wants to ski on them. Is it your hope that soon you will have bunches of people out skiing with you or on your local trails? Are you not wanting people to miss out on the fun you are having? Just curious.

Dave

User avatar
JeffOYB
Ski Forum God
Posts: 1408
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:44 pm
Location: Williamston, MI
Contact:

Re: Anyone think the XC market is confused?

Postby JeffOYB » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:27 am

DMK wrote:Maybe you should move. I am not really serious but it seems like you are constantly disappointed in your neighbors.

When you say inferior do you mean in the way I feel inferior to the college runners and elite skiers that regularly pass me on the trail summer and winter? I know touring skiers who love what they do and have no real interest in skating but do look at skaters and say 'that looks like fun'. I would not call that feeling inferior but maybe that is what you are talking about. In all the areas that I have lived that have reasonable snow, there is a large contingent of touring skiers. They like getting out in the woods and moving through the snow. I am sure there are some that have felt inferior to skaters but I would say that those are the vast minority.

I agree with Blah in regards to jr skiing and development. I have worked with jr skiers in MN, MI, MT, and AK. In all of those programs, kids start with classic and once skating is introduced, it is 1/2 time until they either drop out of the program or age out. I am not sure where the college skiers you know come from but it sounds like their experience is not the norm.

Rock gyms are their own beast. It's like a spinning class. Many people that spin do not ride bikes outside. Many that go to climbing gyms, rarely put their fingers on a rock face.

I still have not quite figured out what it is you are getting at with many of your posts. It sounds like you believe you have all these great trails that are great for classic skiing and yet no one around you wants to ski on them. Is it your hope that soon you will have bunches of people out skiing with you or on your local trails? Are you not wanting people to miss out on the fun you are having? Just curious.

Dave


Apologies for the confusion!

Yes, it's a personal thing for me: I'd like to see more people having fun on all our local trails. The trails are there, they're worldclass, and they're hugely under-used.

Yes, I wonder about moving, too. But I also like a challenge!

It might be that our region just isn't all that naturally pretty so it doesn't fuel much outdoor fun pride. Our local social modes might also play into it: major employers are gov't, univ and insurance (followed by lobbying, law and real estate) -- thus a "fussy" cubicle careerist-type may dominate. Local main activities are stadiums, ballsport, TV. The main 'outdoor' sport would be golf. Chainstores rule. There's a lot of modern America here without many offsetting natural amenities. You have to dig a bit for truly local fun. So I'm on the outside culturally but my friends and I do have a lot of fun. So it's hard to give up and flee.

As per the thread title, I'm also thinking the lack of popularity for our local scene might be a marketing problem.

If the trails were promoted and used that would mean more tour skis being sold and we could have a local ski shop. ...Rather than a local *mountaineering* shop with mountains 2000 miles away. Yet it shouldn't be a local race-ski shop since we have no local grooming. Selling groomed course skis would be almost like selling climbing: irrelevant locally. But we do have groomed skiing here'n'there within a few hours, which can't be said for our climbing. But race skis do have "coolness" so what would be really ironic is if a race ski shop DID open locally and did well! Image is king, eh? ...And our local trails would STILL go unused. So the challenge is to both promote our local amenities AND to raise the perception of coolness for tour skis and skiing. I suggest among many problems that we have a name issue. "Tour ski" seems like "shuffling." So we wonder if Trail Skiing isn't better for marketing perception.

I'm trying to apply the national rage for "local first" to our local outdoor sports. To see if there's an op for both fun and profit that is being overlooked in XC ski. My efforts to do this for biking are working quite well. There's also a big movement to highlight social fun in cycling -- as with the various "bike parties" nationwide. So I'm trying to apply that, too. As with the localness, the party angle is working well in cycling here. But they've both been kind of a flop so far for XC ski. Very slow growth. It IS catching on, but we're getting resistance from various sectors, like students.

I'm trying to sort out what might be the various reasons for resistance.

I'm pushing a "be here now" angle. I live around here, grew up around here, in mid-Michigan. It's a scenic region with tons of great trails. So I'm pushing for trail-use to be our base and for the more exotic aspects of skiing to be for special times, the occasional roadtrip. That seems like it would be the natural order, to me.

I have a theory that a partially subconscious labeling of tour skis as "novice" skis is one barrier. (Outdoor people like the "good stuff.")

A sizable part of our local potential skier base might be with folks who are fairly advanced in bike skills. But they feel like they're kind of 'stuck' with nowax trail skiing around here. I theorize that's a bad marketing position. They've seen ski-skating on TV/web. Maybe they've seen it once in person. A big sector of our local outdoor folk at this point are somewhat Type A. A little part of them wants to do skiing for the fun, but a big part of them wants to do it for fitness. I notice a common tone pop up when discussing skiing with them that they consider ski-skating to be "the best" and that it is really what they should be doing. When I tell them "horses for courses" and that trail skiing is great, that it's all around us, and we have the right gear for it, I can see that many don't quite buy it. ...They don't want to spend $300 for a "beginner" ski package.

The Vasa trail is a sweet famous facility 'up north' where the cool people are, and they're skating. Many of our locals do the Iceman Mtbike race on the Vasa Trail. It's something they train for. They know the Vasa *skating* ski race is the cool winter counterpart to the Iceman. (Even tho the Vasa ski race is at about 200 skiers and the Iceman at 8,000 bikers.) So these folks both struggle to learn to classic ski on our local trails AND they have a sense that it's not even the best kind of skiing. ...And they're not used to settling for 2nd best. ...And so I sense a marketing perception problem.

Now, some of these folks might not be a good "new ski scene" demographic anyway. Type A might not be the future. -- Even though they're a serious "big bucks" sector in biking and also in XC skiing! When these folks live near groomed trails it's the perfect storm: the cool skating is nearby, and they love buying race gear and paying for fluoro wax treatments. But because we don't have grooming in our downstate region, the paradigm is disturbed. There's cognitive dissonance.

I note that the Type A demographic isn't fueling the current boom in bike party, urban biking and such. They are in the Iceman sector, though, which is huge. I suppose today's bike boom might be divided in some ways. Yet it seems like boht sectors in biking are winning -- both also seem to be embracing localness and sociability. One does it with basket-bikes, another does it with power-meters. "Local first" food trucks and microbrew vendors are at all the big bike events -- both the parties and the races.

The ski scene isn't quite there yet, even up north.

And downstate we have just one golf course race. It's skating, and it's fairly popular, with a few hundred people. But it hasn't tapped into the same spirit that the bike boom has found. ...And after that one event the ski scene drops away to nothing. My friends and I host a few small trail ski events, tho. We sense they have potential but that there are big hurdles in the way. What do we have on our side? Fun, low overhead, and all the diverse local natural features. Is that enough? We'll see!

Maybe part of it is that the big ski makers don't consider the US market to be very impt. I've heard that. So they hardly push their stuff and certainly don't put much PR into pushing all their niches. Some $ goes into the race gear then it drops way off.
Jeff Potter
http://OutYourBackDoor.com
indie outdoor adventure, culture, heritage
...bikes, boats, skis, luggage, media & more!


Return to “General Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests