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America's Cup is to Sailing as Skate Ski Racing is to Skiing...

January 17, 2012


I just saw a video about the America's Cup. I hadn't heard tell of it in decades. Didja know it's all about catamarans these days? They don't have sails, they have carbon wings. They go 40mph and are staffed with about a dozen body-builders who are all wired into the craft. There's not much boat there. All the cats look about the same. It seems like there are quite a few support boats among them. So they're not self-sufficient. When they flip, it looks like the support boats clip into several 100-yard-long tethers then pull away and re-right the cat and away they go again. ...So how much do such craft relate to sailing? ...How much appeal do they have to national pride? I remember when "grand" and "glorious" were terms that came to mind when I looked at America's Cup yachts. Are they cheaper or more expensive than they used to be?

I do think they're cool and that things can be learned from them that other sailors can relate to or can use. Maybe. There's fringe then there's fringe.

It kinda seems like XC ski racing (maybe all ski racing?) nowadays relates to skiing in about the same way as the America's Cup relates to sailing.


XC ski racers use expensive poles that are hardly poles anymore -- no real basket and eggshell fragile if used in any way, vector or direction other than as designed. If the expensive skis were used on ungroomed terrain they'd be ruined in an hour. It takes hours to prepare the skis for competition, using wax that isn't wax (don't breathe the fumes!). Walking in a skating boot is like walking in a broken-leg cast (OK, you can unclip the top), but you're not going to walk a mile in any of those. Races are on courses that have no relation to trails. There is a large amount of overhead, resources, impact and pollution generated in their creation, maintenance and prep.

Groomed-type, FIS-style ski racing relates to regular skiing like a velodrome relates to a ride --nothing against velodromes, and maybe it's a bad parallel as velodromes just need occasional carpentry. A ski race course is a neat thing. I just wish the bulk of real ski opportunity was given more respect. It's where the people are, or could be, after all, since there are 10X more trails than groomed ski courses...and they're just so much fun.

For 1/3 the price you can get a ski rig that lets you ski everywhere -- up, down and all around -- and is nearly as lightweight and fast as race gear, and is totally supportive of your bodily (ankle) needs, and is almost indestructible.

"All skiing is one" -- but some kinds are bigger, more suitable, more welcoming, than others. Those others can specialize themselves almost to the point of irrelevance in many locales.

Yeah, I'm "Johnny One Note," but it seems to bear repeating...

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