Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

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Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby JeffOYB » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:36 am

If flex were built into a race schedule, would that help? Maybe instead of having tenuous events scheduled every weekend of the winter regional organizers need to bite the bullet and cut their line-ups in half and give each race TWO weekends: one prime and one rain-date.

It's hard enough for a big race to be postponed a week, but what has happened is that entire race projects, with all their overhead, get outright cancelled willynilly depending on weather ...and then the next weekend a different race happens if there's snow. (Often if we lose out one weekend then have snow for the next.) Result: a much weaker race project, if it survives to try again the next season.

Right now, because of the risk, EVERY event ends up functioning at a lower level relative to where it'd be if they could be weather-confident. (Sure, events are "pro" now -- all praises to anyone putting out the kind of work needed! -- but we'd see a big natural step up if there wasn't risk of total cancellation.)

Yeah, on the racer-side it's hard to do "plan-cancel-plan" travel, but that's what is happening already!

Whattaya think? ...Fewer but stronger races compared to a full-but-shaky lineup. Or, has everyone already adapted to weather-risk and it's a passe' topic? I wouldn't know, I'm outta the loop.

Anyway, that's how we handle the MI BC Series -- each event has 2 dates. We have 3 events a season and have had one cancellation in 3 years. An 8-outta-9 success rate with today's weather pattern -- not bad!

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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby PortlandORXCER » Sat Nov 23, 2013 2:34 pm

Good idea but how would that would work for City of Lakes, Mora or the Birkie?

Querstion for you while I have your attention: does lower Michigan, especially the southern part, have a sustained snowpack every winter? I know that the Twin Cities typically have skiable snow from mid to late Dec until the end of Feb. Is that the case with Michigan? Seems to me that there would be a lot more melt-off (I was very obsessed with the weather during the 1990's when I lived in MN. I noticed that predictably, temps werewarmer the farther south you went, so if it was in the upper 20's in the 'cities, it was thawing in southern MN and southern WI, and points south. Based on that, it seems to me that southern MI would have a lot more days in the 30's and 40's.).

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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby JeffOYB » Sat Nov 23, 2013 2:58 pm

Big events -- maybe a two-date set-up could work with them, too -- it would be tough but frequent cancellation would be worse. The key is weather reliability: if your location seems to be caught up in a sketchy pattern, could a change help the event adapt?

The Lower Peninsula has two halves. Up North and Downstate. Lots more snow above the half. And more yet in the uppermost quarter.

All of Michigan lately seems have winters that do a see-saw -- we get snow, we lose it, get it, lose it. More or less. Even the UP suffers. Typically none of us are without snow for more than a few days, but the further south you are the more your base is likely to get nuked. In the middle where they still keep a bit of their base it'll often still be too thin for grooming, so races get cancelled even when I, as a skier of thin snow, am still skiing

The west part of the upper lower is where most skiers live -- the home of the Vasa Trail -- and it's near the lake. Sadly for them, some years their lake effect ends up too warm and so we in the South might end up with more snow days than they do! Lake effect makes a good snow-pump, but it can also bring melts if it's just a few degrees warmer.

Winters have been varying but worsening. I'd hazard that 3 yrs ago we had maybe 75 skiable days in the South, 2 yrs ago 25 days, last year 50 days.

How to adapt?
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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby jt10000 » Sun Nov 24, 2013 12:40 pm

Jeff, what are the biggest events you've been key in putting on, in terms of numbers of participants?

Did you have people travelling from far for those events?
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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby MN Hoser » Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:54 pm

So let's take extremes. You have a local "training event." It's 20-30 people who regularly train together at some point during the season and they generally get together for a 'time trial.' There's no snow, so you say, instead of having the race at the golf course, let's race at Lake Skibob next weekend. No problem, everyone drives over to Lake Skibob next weekend and does two laps. It works because there's no problem with parking, transportation, food stations, road closures, lodging, etc. Also, there's no real money at stake.

So, the Birkie trail doesn't have enough snow for the Birkie. You say, hey, let's hold it two weeks later. Now there's a problem for the sponsors, all the vendors, the volunteers running bib pick-up, food stations, etc, the skiers can't get time off work, the Sheriff can't provide patrol, the school busses aren't available, groomers have scheduled vacations, and the list is endless. The bigger the event, the more you're locked into the date for various reasons.

I was really hoping last year that the Seeley Hills Classic was small enough to change dates, but no, they too are too big to switch (I assume). I'm not sure if it's the skiers who b$## (about conflicts in schedule), or if it's volunteers or a combo of reasons.

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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby JeffOYB » Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:48 pm

I'd think it might be possible to build an organizational structure to accommodate a two-date possibility.

You don't change a date on the fly. You (somehow) arrange to be able to do it the next weekend if need be. Sure, maybe you have to reserve things all over again -- at likely a reduced negotiated rate.

This might be how winter snow based events HAVE to be done in areas with sketchy snow. A model needs to be built, or attempted to be built.

You have to analyze it. Which would have the bigger $ impact: Negotiating the rights for a 2nd swing at the property, etc., plus devising a 2nd-date plan for volunteers. Or, shifting your event model to be located around man-made snow at an alpine ski resort with a spaghetti of course laid out so you're not at risk of cancellation. And even that gets nasty when it's warm for a few days.

I agree it would be hard, expensive, complicated: but if a repeatable model could be developed it might still come out ahead of the frequent entire cancellations we see now in these shaky-snow regions (which shakiness seems to be spreading).

Yeah, changing flights is a pain. I don't know at what level a 2-date model could be developed.

Hotels are a different story than airlines: I've known them to be open to price negotiation, especially during a slow time of year. So instead of paying $80 for a night that you might end up cancelling on and it being a downer for everyone maybe they'd let you go with $100 for one of 2 consecutive weekends.

If they planned ahead are we sure that the Seeley Hills couldn't become a two-date event?

Who knows, maybe events don't mind the weather lottery.

It's just an idea.

Maybe another option would be more events... Back in the day in the LP of MI we'd have several races each weekend in different parts of the LP. We didn't worry about weather back then, but I guess the organizers in the end decided they didn't like not knowing where the crowds would be or they didn't like the "usual suspects" being diluted among several events, or maybe skiing just became less popular and couldn't support so many events. I recall our key organizers deciding to streamline the schedule but I suppose there were several factors for doing that. One side effect might have been, though, more vulnerability to shaky weather.

Nowadays there's usually decently skiable snow somewhere in the LP starting about now. Maybe one solution -- which probably nobody likes -- is to go to more events, regionally scattered. When weather is good, sure, the racers might be 'diluted' and stay close to home. But if weather is bad in one sector the gang could swing over to another as needed and the weekend isn't lost.

The funny thing is that such a scene -- by being more local and more overall reliable -- might not end up with each piece of the puzzle being smaller. The model might grow the sport. The localness might help, too. Indeed, it might be asserted that back in the day of 3 times as many races each winter, in many more places, that the localness and frequency didn't dilute things but was key to the boom-times of that era.

It seems as unlikely as a two-date model that more little events could spring up even to test the theory. It's likely that overheads are greater in a variety of ways to prevent that -- not enough Piston Bullies and perfect corduroy to go around. In that case, could skiing ever again develop a simpler model? ...More singletrack classic! But who would bother. You'd need a big influential company like Rossi used to be around here. I heard they were the ones who funded and pushed LP MI's early ski race boom.
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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby Chris » Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:22 am

One challenge to switching dates is some of us sign up for events almost every weekend ahead of time. Delaying City of Lakes Loppet a week won't do much good if you are already signed up for Mora. There aren't nearly enough weekends for events to claim two weekends.

At the local weekly race level we are flexible with race dates. Often times a race will be moved to later in the week.

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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby jt10000 » Tue Nov 26, 2013 3:54 pm

JeffOYB wrote:I'd think it might be possible to build an organizational structure to accommodate a two-date possibility.

You don't change a date on the fly. You (somehow) arrange to be able to do it the next weekend if need be. Sure, maybe you have to reserve things all over again -- at likely a reduced negotiated rate.

Here's my thoughts from experience in helping put on medium-sized bike races (200-450 participants). Kkey resources for the events are permits to use public space, commitment of volunteers, commitment of race timing providers, commitment of local EMS and police, and cars and vans. With this "flexible date" idea we'd be asking those people to block out twice as much time on their calendars, even if they only actually show up for half. That's a lot to ask, and in some cases involves those people forgoing other jobs. So I'm not sure about this "reduced negotiated rate." To say nothing of individual travel and lodgings arrangement for participants and conflicts with other events.

Oh, and we've had to cancel events due to weather, road construction/activity, and police/security activity. Some at the event, some in the last few days before the event, and some a few weeks out. Never rescheduled, though we usually held the events the following year as usual.

Jeff, your comments remind me of discussions on some of the local bike racing forums where I live. There are always people with great ideas about races saying "they ought to do this" or "it would work better if somebody did that." Unfortunately, not many of these commenters step up and say "I'm doing this" or "I'm helping my club do that." And then follow-through. It's all about "they" and "somebody." And those of us who put on races, or have put them on, always chuckle with a bit of annoyance about how busy "somebody" must be. Somebody should do a lot of things.

Ideas are nice. A few times good, feasible ideas come from those kinds of people. It happens, but rarely.

But maybe you actually are helping put on medium or large events. Are you, or at least have you done so in the past? Yes?

One other thing. In my state (New York) there is one big ski race that has a postpone date. That date is a few weeks out. It works OK, though the postponement messes up the schedule for another race. And frankly, our calendar is not full enough in terms of quality events. It if was, this system would not work at all.
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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby SpecialGreen » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:56 pm

At the "small, local" end, there are definitely some flexible races. They're really more like club outings, where everybody agrees that "today, it's a race." It's still fun; just no pageantry.

For the high-pageantry races, it would be interesting to try to build a "follow the snow" season race schedule, where locations with (typically) the earliest snowfall get the earliest races, and the coldest locations get the latest spring races. In Minnesota, the area 20 miles east of Biwabik gets early snow (say, along the Superior Hiking Trail). Ironwood gets early snow. Biwabik and Bemidji keep the snow later in spring. Some of this happens today (e.g. Sisu ski fest early, Sleeping Bear late), but it would be interesting to gather some snowfall data and do it intentionally.

Jeff, where you are, I'm afraid you'd need to cross the bridge. I used to drive between Marquette/Traverse City every two weeks, and that wasn't too bad.

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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby kuan » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:13 am

One thing that we could do is form a midwest marathon series co-op. Get five for the price of four just in case one fails to happen.
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Re: Flex = Prosperity for today's race schedule?

Postby jt10000 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:44 pm

kuan wrote:One thing that we could do is form a midwest marathon series co-op. Get five for the price of four just in case one fails to happen.

That's interesting.

There an early season bike racing series in NYC where you get a discount equivalent to one or two races (our of 8 or 9 total) if you register for all the races, but no refund if just one is cancelled. They're all promoted by the same entity which makes things easy to administer.
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