Hi Bob. I’ve scratched this out over coffee this morning for you to guest-post somewhere on your blog; to generate discussion hopefully. Thanks.
I’m going to opine about something here that not everyone may agree with, though I believe this is an appropriate forum and a topic that I hope to generate feedback from.
And that is the fate of cross-country skiing as recreation and past time.
I’m in my 40’s and bear witness in my cohort to throngs of once cross-country skiers, abandon their gear for ‘Costco’ snowshoes (as I’ll put it) and for the more ardent weekend warriors, to mounting on the saddle of the fat-bike craze.
Granted a few low snow winters haven’t helped excite those who relish in fresh tracks (who doesn’t!) but for those of us who grew up skiing with our parents in prairie cities: from Winterpeg, through prickly rose country (and elsewhere on BOTH sides of the 49th), in an era of cold winters from the 70’s through the 90’s, most garages in the neighbourhood had at least 2 pair of 3-pin wooden or new-fan-dangled waxLESS skis. Today, it just ain’t so.
Worse yet, is that the Gen X & Y’ers aren’t taking their Z’eds out and introducing nordic skiing the way depression era or post war boomers did but opting for hyper-organized sporting opportunities (of a variety that changes on a whim-per). I’m sorry to say, but having experienced the Jackrabbit programme as a child of the 80’s AND as a parent now, I feel it has become too focused on speed as per an “Own The Podium” mandate, rather than Nordic Skiing as a way to gracefully cross front OR back country whether a it’s on-track, or breaking trail -notwithstanding the benefit of family time and nature appreciation.
Thus, though local retailers may not have seen the loss of revenue (due to disposable income & our preoccupation with latest tech/fashion gear), bottom line is there seems to be fewer cross-country skiers proportionally in the larger population than in yesteryear.
Not to hasten a readers fate, but when the boomer demographic blip passes, will subsequent generations carry the (waxing) torch?
I fear this could mean the emblem of MY beloved pastime (eventually) becomes a mantle-placed relic of once SNOWY winters, and the ‘sport’ becomes an elite and esoteric game against the clock dependant on snow guns and skintec.
You grow the sport from the back end of the race, not the front.
In the Cookie Race last year…I did finish the race, but they took my bib just before I started down that singletrack trail. The conditions were very tough. I had no grip down below, but when climbing Whiskey Jack I had clumping snow on my klister covered with SkiGo HF purple -2 to -18. I was hoping that they would extend the cutoffs since it was such a lovely day (to be a volunteer)…but no. They didn’t.
I wish I had eaten more cookies. I only had 3.
The first year I did it, I started 15 mins later because I registered in the Touring 42 category..and then was held to the cutoffs for the racers. It was totally unfair. I was told by several volunteers that I shouldn’t be there, and that it was unfair to the volunteers, etc. etc..but then at the finish I learn that I was actually under the cutoff times, and did actually finish in 4:10…you can’t slag volunteers, but still…it is certainly NOT the way to grow the sport.
I almost swore off the race for ever. The next year they got rid of the 42K Tour.
The Norwegian birkebeiner has 19000 participants, and only those that believe they can finish in the top 1/3 of their age groups and get the medal, actually register to do the race. Sweden’s Vasaloppet has some 40,000 participants.
You would think that at 400 participants over 4 different distances, they could stand to grow the sport. You can only grow the sport from the back end…imagine if there was a 4 hour cutoff for the marathon. My last road marathon I finished in the top 1000 out of 25,000 participants with a 4:03 marathon. When I started running 30 years ago, running was elitist and distance running was lonely.
I am 31 and took up XC skiing 3 years ago after being a varsity track/xc athlete in university and high level runner for most of my life. I took up XC skiing as a way to strengthen ailing hips and activate under-used glutes. This is now my second year of ski racing and I skate. There are young people getting into it, and even wanting to do it at a high level, however, less young people wanting to classic from my experience. It’s not as good a workout and generally not as fast. If I were to classic ski all the time I would need to workout 1.5-2x the amount of time I would generally run for to get the same training stimulus. Skating technique is easier to master and easier to get a good workout in. I see lots of young people skate skiing at the Nordic Center (and biathlon training), and at the newly minted Confed Golf Course. I am confident you would see more young people skiing in PLPP if we were allowed to skate. I literally never go there in the winter because I can’t skate ski. Which is too bad because it is one of my favorite places in the world (I spend a lot of time trail running there during the spring, summer, and fall). I like skating and like skate racing much more than Classic skiing, so don’t really have a desire to want to learn Classic anytime soon. I also skijor with my dog and have started skijor racing with him when I can, although finding races is hard. You aren’t allowed to bring dogs to PLPP either so that’s two strikes against going there in the winter. It would be great if there were more places that were dog friendly because skijoring is one of the most fun things I have ever done; it is also a great way to build a relationship with my sleddogs. If you want to be competitive in skijoring you have to skate, so again, another reason why I would never end up skiing at PLPP.
Those are nice rants folks, keep it going. It’s definitively more engaging than the fake news on the national broadcaster. Although I don’t have a lot of skiing experience I do see more skiers including youngsters with families on weekends, on Christmas brake and Family day weekend. Snow conditions plays a role too but other factor is free time. Kids can’t drive themselves to the trailhead you know. They need you and you need time off work. Comparing Canada to the rest of industrialized countries we lag behind in worker benefits, statutory holidays and vacation time. The only country worse is USA. So how do we change it? Well, instead of voting for the corporate lackeys every four years please cast a vote for somebody who cares about human rights, increased minimum vacation, healthy food, free time to engage in sports and well-being of Canadians. Good luck to us in 2019.
All interesting comments.
BUT LETS KEEP POLITICS OUT OF THIS…ieb
Sure thing Emry, politics is bad more free time is good. It converts to more skiing time. Lets write a petition to the government for more statutory holidays. Do you know who is the minister in charge of holidays portfolio nowadays?
Back in the day…touring was king…where touring programs would go out on easier hiking trails…and it was accepted that inexperienced skiers would lag way in the back, while the more hardy weekend warriors would break trail up front. This concept worked well so long as their was a strong component of mid 20s skiers willing to head out…with the concept of try it you might like it
This culture aged in place, and gradually resulted in a decline in touring activity. Several outdoor clubs got out of touring altogether, while some switched to snowshoeing. A few touring programs sought to reposition themselves, finding limited success in switching to more track skiing activity. We placed an emphasis on skiing quality groomed trails with a peer group who had good skiing skills. As a result it was much easier for skiers to get out for the first time and enjoy their sport. This shifted the culture away from touiring onto track skiing.
What is the future of cross country skiing. To me it would be take a step back and look at the big picture. Many of the trackset trailsystems are in need of a serious upgrade as they were designed for those destined for touring. Case point is the Elk Pass trail at Peter Lougheed which was designed in an era where even CANSI advocated, if a trail is to difficult take your skis off and walk up. At one point Pocaterra/Peter Lougheed Information area was a great place to take novice skiers for their first outings, gradually that has eroded . Todays new skier wants a warm day lodge, good quality trails and a friendly social environment. We see that at the revamped Canmore Nordic Center, but that concept needs to be applied to other trail systems in both K country and dare I say it…Banff National Park. Cross country skiing is a social sport and grows when someone who is new is able to say…I had fun skiing last weekend, why don’t you come with me this coming weekend.
I agree that K-Country and Banff Park need more beginner XC ski areas, particularly due to the floods of 2013, where some flatter tracks had to be abandoned (Pocaterra, Ribbon Creek)and rerouted to higher ground, making them more difficult to ski. And yet…there are plenty of us who like the challenge and exercise afforded by steeper trails. I don’t see all that many people who have to take off their skis and walk up Elk Pass Trail. Maybe a longer, looping ascent trail would be nice, but please don’t take away the glorious ups and downs of PLPP!!!
I think Jeremy makes some great points here.
As someone who is 30 now and took up skiing in his mid 20’s I am fully aware that XC skiing is considered to be dorky and boring by most. I love it because of the physical aspect and the ability to get out into the wilderness, and also because it is very very cheap compared to downhill skiing.
I think one of the problems with attracting millennials the sport is it can get really pretentious and come across as inaccessible. I ski in jeans, have never owned a waxing iron, and own second hand skis I bought 4 years ago, and I can guarantee I have as much fun as the next person. Sure – I’m a bit slower than those with the fancy stuff, but for me thats not the point. Im getting a great exercise and having a ton of fun at a very low cost. I hope to see more people in their 20’s taking up the sport for the same reasons I do – as a frugal way to enjoy nature and get some cardio in. Strap on those old 3 pin skiis you found in your grandmas garage and get out and have some fun!
That’s the second winter in a row that I spend a month in Canmore. Must be a bit crazy to come here this year because back home in Quebec City, already got three meters of snow and more coming next week. Back to the question, I notice more skiers now than 5-6 years ago in Quebec City area. I attribute this (without any proof) to our home grown champ Harvey. For 4 years now, we have in november a 2.3 km arficial snow trail (Foret Montmorency) where I can see many young athletes from eastern Canada and US training there. XC ski must be popular in Quebec because we have to pay everywhere……between $10 and $15 per day….unless we ski at the gem in Canada (St-Férréol-Les-Neiges) for $30 (or $400 per year for members). Oh….I’am a boomer of 59 years old who got back to XC ski 10 years ago and now could’nt live without it. To finish, thanks skierbob for your site
I’m 44 and just took up cross country and advised my 7 year old son he would be taking it up too! As a novice, however, the lack of snow/existence of Chinooks has been a real issue here in Calgary. Getting out multiple times a week would be no issue if there were somewhere we could go in less than 1.5 hours. That, coupled with the cold (about 1/2 my son’s lessons have been cancelled), have made it difficult to gain some momentum in this new sport. Finally, going out to some of the more “serious” cross country trails can be a bit intimidating when one is new and has a young child. A number of times I have felt in the way, as has my son, when more experienced skiers want to get by us. So one thought is to congratulate and encourage any obviously new/inexperienced skiers you see out there on the trails, and make it as inviting as you can for kids who are out there trying to master a new skill!
Thank you to Jeremy for this guest post, and thanks for all the insightful comments. Does the increase in popularity of this blog mean anything? Check this graph of the visits over the past five years.
I have teenagers who are more interested in cyber-socializing through their smart phones, so I do understand where the concern is coming from. Being part of the ‘new Canadians’ who got into XC a few years back, I tried my part introducing this fantastic sport to my kids, but they would rather stay home and play video games instead. I wonder if they would’ve been more willing if I did my part sooner… Hopefully they will come back to it sooner than when I did.
My other concern is the fact more diverse groups are now sharing the trails, and we all should be more considerate of each other. Whether it be equipment, generation, skill level, or culture, not everyone had the fortune to enjoy the norm one may consider. Effort needs to be made by everyone to help/understand each other, with humble mindset rather than entitlement.
I have seen wonderful kid’s programs at Hardwood Hills, the children from the school in Field out with coach Jessica, not to mention our trips to Norway where many generations are out skiing together. I will keep the faith, as my Dad would say, that there will always be cross country ski enthusiasts! I will do my part when I teach my niece’s children to ski next month!!!!
To give some encouragement… my spouse and I are in our mid 20s, moved to Calgary from New Zealand. Having never heard of the sport, we tried out XC skiing and were so impressed with the facilities (Nordic Centers) and maintained trails (Bragg and Peter Lougheed) we became hooked. Bought our own gear, attended courses on waxing and ski technique and often get out with our mid 20s friends. Fear not, XC ski is alive and well amongst our age group and will continue as we someday raise our kids to become familiar with these trails. The friendly folk that stop to say hi or assist with waxing make it all the more enjoyable.
I grew up on skiis, mostly in PLPP. Even taught a few friends in university to cross country ski. Then I moved away for 15 years following career opportunities. I cannot get over how busy the trails are now! Yes Calgary has grown, but my impression is a much larger growth in cross country skiing. We used to ski Elk Pass and see maybe one or two groups outside the picnic tables. Now there’s people everywhere! How am I supposed to tuck down hills with all these people?!? (jk) I’m so happy to see others out and enjoying winter. And I agree with the other writers – families with kids are at CNC and who can blame them?
I don’t think,you need to worry, friend. I am 35, and just started x-country skiing this year through sheer will and determination. I look forward to getting my “Z’s” out as soon as I have some inkling as to what I’m doing! Ebb & flow, like everything else in this world.
I have some numbers for comparison. West Bragg Creek in 2009 had 45,000 visitors. In 2016 the number of visitors was 180,000. This, despite the complete absence of snowfalls after mid January 2016. Many of those trail users were not XC skiing, but that does not mean the number of nordic skiers is down… merely that lots of people are enjoying the outdoors in a wider variety of ways. There are many people who show up at WBC with XC skis and a fat bike, snowshoes or ice-studs for their boots. If conditions are not good for XC skiing on a particular day, then they simply switch to another activity, but they still get out and enjoy themselves.
I know many people who have switched from XC skiing to snowshoeing due to declining ability and balance. I’ve also seen an even larger number of snowshoers take up XC skiing after becoming comfortable with being outside in the snow. Certainly, there are lot’s of keen cyclists, who used to XC ski as their winter alternative to mountain biking. But now, with Fat-bikes, they have a way of enjoying the sport they really love, which is cycling.
I have been impressed by the large number of new Canadians, families with kids and young people who have been taking up XC skiing. Many younger XC skiers prefer to skate-ski vs classic style, which is why you’ll see more of them at CNC or WBC, or even Moraine Lake Road, where there are more opportunities for skate skiing. If they go to PLPP, they’ll just get yelled at.
The lack of snow this year and the second half of last year is not unusual in this part of the world. I remember many iterations of trying to run XC skiing in Calgary parks and golf courses. There were some successful, snowy years, with many awful Chinook tortured years in between. Sandy McNabb, West Bragg Creek, Ribbon Creek and the Canmore area have always struggled with low snowfalls and the ravages of snow-eater winds. In an era of ever warmer average temperatures, we will be faced with the choice of working harder to capture and harvest snow or make snow at the marginal areas… or move the ski trails to higher elevations, where snowfalls are naturally higher.
Sure, backcountry skis and boots have changed over the years. I used to telemark on floppy leather boots and skinny metal skis. You won’t find me head-planting in that gear any more. The new wider skis are far superior for floating in our bottomless faceted snow and are a heck of a lot more fun. Those alpine touring boots are generally lighter and easier to tour in than any telemark boots that have been made in the past 10 years. Yes, there are backcountry skiers and boarders who look for cliffs to huck off of and steep gullies to ski, but there are many times more who just enjoy a nice tour with the reward of some powder turns. Every single backcountry route and bowl sees way more skiers than they ever did 15 or 20 years ago.
And yes, XC ski equipment has evolved to provide better performance on the high quality grooming that exists today and it has specialized fro classic and skate skiing.
The standard XC equipment may no longer be a pair of 215cm wooden Asnes skis with Rottefella “rat-trap” bindings and dish-rag 75mm boots. But that doesn’t mean that the enjoyment of nordic skiing is disappearing.
Alf I’m an 73 old fossil who has returned to those “215 (210 cm in my case) cm” wood Asnes skis with Nordic Norm bindings and old Swiss leather ski mountaineering boots. In fact, for the last 20+ years I have searched and collected old wood skis in great condition. Good leather boots are a challenge. But I’m no novice or newbie. I’ve been skiing backcountry, downhill, cross-crountry etc. for over 50 years, 48 with the ACC. While stuck living in the US for 20 years (thank Pierre Trudeau’s NEP) I lived around and skied in the Colorado Rockies, Sierra Nevada and North Cascade mountains. In 1969/70 I skied Rogers Pass powder with the ACC on my 210 cm Toni Sailer skis with Swiss Gersht AT bindings and downhill boots before the term AT was even invented. I did the Wapta Traverse in 1970 with the ACC on those wood skis you find quaint. After all those years of skiing in different places and on different equipment I prefer classic wood skis, 3-pin Nordic Norm bindings and leather boots. The main reason is weight and comfort. From Canadian Army ski school and teaching mountain warfare to the Calgary Highlanders Infantry Regiment, I remember a rough rule of thumb used by the German Gebirgsjager (mountain warfare soldiers) in WWII. Adding an extra pound of weight on your feet will consume as much energy as adding 10 lbs to your pack. My old wood skis, bindings and boots weigh less than most of those new surfboard wide, backcountry skis before adding any bindings or boots. Even with the technological advances over the years and outrageous prices, AT equipment is still really heavy compared to the old gear. And with the proper wax and ski technique, I can climb fairly steep slopes without having to resort to my skins. So I am willing to sacrifice performance for the light weight and fun of my old wood skis and the comfort of my leather ski mountaineering boots. I don’t like telemark technique, so I am content making gentle parallel turns in deep powder with my leather boots and just my Nordic Norm bindings with no cable. Sorry, all you retailers who want me to buy all the latest and best new stuff.
What a great background and wonderful description of how you enjoy your skiing. What I see is that it’s not the equipment or the technique or how trails are groomed that is important, but rather the love of skiing that keeps us going. Just because gear and styles change over time, it does not mean that nordic skiing is disappearing.
I began skiing in the early ’70s on equipment like you described and regretablly no longer own it. If you are interested in selling any of your gear
(210-215cm, size 10-10.5 boots) I would like to talk to you about that.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
I love the stories of using the old wood skis and gear. I still have my Dad’s old wood skis and find them lots of fun in soft snow. Watch this clip and show it to your kids to show them how much fun skiing can be using just the basic equipment.
OMG- dude, you just made my day. That was freaking awesome.
Millenial (sigh) checking in. Backcountry skiing is probably stealing plenty of prospective skiers – although the good news is they prime for adaption (although the snow at higher levels is probably safer than valley bottoms).
I think something generally lacking is real-time web presence – both conditions and community. On this point I’d like to say how fortunate we are to have skierbob! I imagine many communities are not so lucky (thank you Bob et al!). There is a plethora of info available for most other outdoor activities, but it’s great to see sites like this and live grooming reports emerging.
It’s great to see the community growing as fast as it seems to be (at least from my perspective – I’ve been vaguely aware of this site for the last few years when I was skiing only occasionally)…I don’t think there is any coincidence between my visits here and increased time on the snow. It’s inspiring and motivating to always see new locations to check out based on trip reports.
Just had a great evening ski, but rather cold -15’ish, at CNC. Awesome snow.
Anyways more kids and teenagers there tonite than adults. Yes the majority ina program but clearly the coaches were working at making their experiences a solid mix of social and performance.
Btw – nothing wrong with telemark. Just took it up last year so I could do dh same pace as my kids. It was easy learning coming from a dh and xc background. No I won’t do backcountry but now at least my kids have seen another sport and think it’s normal. Too many kids and people are never exposed to sports and activities and so are hesitant to try them. Scared of failure perhaps?
Those that want to be outside , you will find them outside doing the things they like . And if they where exposed to XC Skiing , it might have taken root and is ingrained in their DNA . I know for me that’s the case . I started out as a recreational XC Skier and that’s where I think I’m going to stay ( most fun in that group , but don’t get me wrong I push myself to my limits and strive to excel from a recreational perspective.
I remember when I first got into XC skiing , did the retail rental thing . Then bought a set of waxless . Volunteered with some blind XC skiers . This season I bought a set of skin skies , love them . Eventually I’ll be getting some waxed skies , sooner rather then later . For myself it’s the trill of being outside with others that know what the magic of XC Skiing is all about .
This is my first full winter of skiing and the majority of people I see skiing out at PLPP, Lake Louise and West Bragg are of an older generation. I have also skied four times at the Nordic center this year and it is full of families with young kids of all ages! Perhaps that’s where they are all hiding. I don’t think we have much to worry about in passing the torch. 🙂
JeremyN-fantastic subject for discussion, extremely well-written and I would not call it a rant but rather a pleading for the younger generation to carry the (trip report) torch. Before next ski season, I will become a septuagenarian and am therefore part of the boomer demographic blip, sporting new joints, and trying to pursue my passion for playing in the snow as Alison’s quote at the very top of this blog portrays. My friends who Ski Host up at CNC note there is no lack of young families introducing their children to this sport. I am thrilled to hear of all the golf courses available now in Calgary for skiing. Bragg Creek has done an outstanding job of creating its own Nordic Centre. Many of my friends who are REAL snow-shoers (not to be confused with “track-shoers”) are frustrated with the lack of snow depth out there. I think buying stock in Yaktraks, Microspikes, and Stabilicers might be the way of the future if we continue to have such low snow volumes year after year. It is depressing reading the majority of trail reports currently that are defined as poor, fair or good. I noticed a great deal more walkers while I was skiing out from Boom Lake last week. I keep wondering if I bring my bike out of storage, then we might get some snow…..wishful thinking? It seems even the downhill ski resorts have to learn how to do “more” with “less”. Maybe roller-skiing and skate skiing is the way to go? I could not survive either, but love watching those who do skate ski and roller ski so gracefully and fearlessly. I believe that the fate of recreational X-C skiing is “alive and well” (as we nurses used to chart) but it is snow dependant.
Where Would Nordic Be Without Grooming
As I read Jeremy’s comment it reminded me of my own past when it came to cross country skiing. I had a job with a group of thirty 19 -21 yo in Timmins Ontario. Our job was to “groom “a network of x- country ski trails at a place called Kamiskotia mountain. Grooming consisted of 20 of us walking around in snowshoes and the last 10 skiing in a line to form a nice ski track. The track was wobbly, always full,of debris and not very firm but it was the most fun I have ever had on a pair of skis. Fast forward to today and look at what it takes not only to make a track but to keep it up. Wether it is paid groomers or volunteers there is a tremendous amount of expense and labor to maintain the pristine track everyone seems to love. I really get a kick out of reading some trip reports where people say they had to break trail in a few inches of snow with a perfectly groomed base underneath. Comments about a few lumps or some needles in the track or conditions are so so because the snow isn’t perfect really makes me wonder what we have turned x- country skiing into. The pure sport of x-country skiing is being replaced with a controlled gym like mentality where we have to use snow making, snow farming and more and more technology to keep growing the sport.
I have seen lots of kids out skiing and watch as they get out of the track and explore the meadows where it is ungroomed. I don’t really think the problem lies with the future as much as we have to find a balance that allows them to ski outside the lines.
Sorry Jeff! My so-so was not about your track setting! LOL, it was actually pristine. Just not as good as the snow conditions reported in other areas. That’s all. ?
Well we used to be able to ski quite happily on many of the hiking trails, with no need for grooming, etc. Unfortunately, those have been taken over by snowshoers, and lately the huge increase in winter hikers, which make the trails practically unskiable. It is a huge loss for us! Also increases the need for grooming……..
Two of my three progeny love xc skiing. We are working on getting the third just as enthused, although he claims he is not the outdoorsy type.
My partner and I are millennials (writing from my smartphone obvs) and we just got into Nordic a couple years ago. For us it’s a great activity to do on the days that you don’t want to spend the whole day on the skin hill. We’ve also been preaching the gospel of Nordic to our friends and have even recruited a few converts! Also eff snowshoeing.
Record participation at the past weekends loppet at Nipika. Lots of kids racing as well.
Fat bikes can exist next to tracks, and indeed may become allies when it comes to supporting trail maintenance.
The end is not nigh!
I completely agree. There are plenty of jocks in lycra out there, but families on xc gear are a rare sight nowadays.
Rarer still are ski tourers. Good luck trying to find metal-edged touring skis and skinny skins. Telemark is a thing of the past, and retailers like MEC will order tele bindings if you discreetly ask them, but they’re too embarassed to put this ancient gear on display in their showroom.
These days, backcountry is about big air and putting gopro videos on youtube. Gone are the days of skiing through the woods to a viewpoint, eating your lunch, and perhaps getting a couple of turns on descent.
It’s really too bad. I really enjoy the kick-and glide motion, double poling, and gliding down on descent. I feel sorry for all those poor snowshoers who hike up to the lake and then don’t get a run down. Poor saps with four-buckle boots and nine-inch wide skis, slogging up Healy or the Burstall logging road, hoping for Bugaboos-type snow and terrain at the pass.
I disagree, I was in recently and MEC have 3 pin and tele bindings (no less than 6-8 differnt options from simple Voile and Rotte Super Tele’s to the fresher G3 Targa’s and Rotte NTN freedom bindings) as well as metal edge ski’s down to 59 from rossi on their racks right now.
I’m 60, I ski and fat bike. In my opinion they are complementary. I ski when when we have fresh snow and good conditions. I ride my bike when the ski conditions aren’t so good. Love both activities. We are lucky here as there is enough space for both to coexist peacefully.
As far as the future of XC skiing, it’s been around for very long time and will be around a long time after we are gone.
Just based on the amount of new XC ski setups I see leave the shop I work at daily, with the majority going to recreational or new skier’s, I can tell you that unless people are buying ski’s and never using them that nordic is pretty healthy. Also last thursday at Confed there were dozens of people out for the evening, from adults who seemed to be getting lessons, kids on skate ski’s flying by me like i was standing still and people out in groups.
This is through my eyes being new to the sport. I had no idea it had this big a following until I got into it this year and heard very little about it until a few years ago when it seemed like everyone I knew was jumping into it.
Just got back from skiing with my daughter.
“bottom line is there seems to be fewer cross-country skiers proportionally in the larger population than in yesteryear.”
Any evidence of this? Actual numbers? PLPP and Canmore trail usage counts? Something? Anything? My personal experience suggests otherwise, but I don’t have numbers either.
In any case, there seems to be more cross country skiers now than there was when I started 6 years ago. I think there are more programs for adults. There’s public skiing on golf courses, which is even promoted by city of Calgary on their website now. That’s certainly an improvement.
To expand the sport, exposure is key. Kids aren’t going to magically think of cross country skiing themselves. Whenever I roller ski past some kids, their reaction is always, “Wow, mom, what’s that?” or “wow, that’s amazing”. You get the feeling that this is the first time it has registered for them that skiing could be done on flat ground and that it could be fast and fun on flat or even uphill terrain and even without snow. Skiing in confederation park is wonderful. There are kids sledding on the hill by hole 5. Hopefully some of them will want to try skiing after seeing it. Same goes for walkers, etc. on multi use trails in Bragg Creek, Banff, etc. Getting people exposed to the idea of skiing is pretty key. If TV covered Olympic sport outside the Olympics, that would go a long way too for exposure. Alex Harvey should be a superstar in this country, but I would bet most kids don’t know who he is.
Next, IMO, winter sport is more fun than winter activities. It is more engaging anyway. You might go snow shoeing or tubing once or twice a season, and while it’s fun do do that stuff, I can’t picture anyone doing it several times a week. Competition, training, self-improvement are the elements that keep me going back to skiing. Of course, lots of people ski purely for recreation without worrying much about getting stronger, faster, more efficient, or improving their technique, fitness, endurance, etc., but I would venture a guess that without any of those elements, lots people would eventually move on to something else.
If skiing was part of the phys/ed curriculum you could get exposure and lessons all in one shot, but for that you would need better infrastructure. I am really hoping that skiing on golf courses works out on a permanent basis. Hopefully, in the future, the city will have rentals and lessons in the club houses, just like they do for golf in the summer. Then, schools could easily use the facilities for classes without up front costs of their own. Also, at the end of the golf season the courses could promote the upcoming ski season and vice versa to get even more exposure for the sport.
So true Jeremy.
Brings tears to the eyes…E
That was quite the rant…waxing poetic.
Like yourself I’m mid-40’s (already!! sigh…) but highly active. We believe it’s very important for our children to be exposed to many activities, both sporting and artistic and not necessarily competitive. I was the child of competitive parents and let me tell you there comes a point of rebellion. On the flip side my wife’s side is the opposite – no pushing whatsoever. Perhaps that’s the attraction there?? My wife pulls away from anything competitive now.
Both my wife and I recall classic skiing being included in most school curriculums. These days however anything involving equipment or movement outdoors is approached by the school boards with much trepidation and lawyer focus. Never mind actually leaving the school yard in a bus and going somewhere. In this world of excessive all-inclusiveness our school systems continue their downward spiral in every area, including the exposure to sports and integrating it within a social culture.
What does that leave? It leaves the parents to find a way to expose them through limited options: 1) parental guidance; 2) activity club; 3) do nothing (too much trouble, too much time, to much $$$).
Many club or activity group membership and events come at a hefty cost – both time and $$$. That leaves those with disposable income, ie those often in higher paying positions or with a very strong sporting history themselves. IMO those folks also tend to be “A-types” who push for results… so the clubs become results oriented. Some folks thrive on being pushed hard whereas others back off entirely as they’re socially -driven; and this ratio changes by age and maturity. As parents we need to recognize this and hopefully find appropriate avenues for our kids. As such we try to do FAMILY activities and where possible make social outings with like-minded friends and their families.
I sincerely hope that our kids will continue to experience the joys of outdoor living… which includes XC skiing too.