Skiing Outside the Box: Learn from Mt-biking?
February 02, 2012
I just got the new issue of Dirt Rag and read the cover story on the new US rage for Eurostyle enduro racing. It's been booming in Europe, now it's here.
Enduro mtbiking is a combination of XC and DH. Typical riders have been finding XC to be too uber-fitness oriented and DH too extreme with big air and ultra-specialized robo-monster equipment. Neither type of event is meshing up with real everyday riders very well so promoters are changing gears and doing something really crazy: trying to create events that appeal to riders as they are and on what they're already riding.
I see some interesting quotes in the story that would seem to have some cross-over application to XC skiing along the lines that my pals and I have been trying to promote the past few years:
"He looked at what the majority of people were already doing, on the bikes they already owned, and designed a race to fit them."
"Only the downhill sections are timed, which means the riding is casual and relaxing. No jockeying for position... Riders climbed in groups and talked and got to know one another and took in amazing scenery."
"If you like friendly competition, but don't want to worry about heart rates or hucking big gaps..."
"It's not a traditional downhill race nor is it a XC sufferfest."
"Bikes designed for racing are a small portion of all bikes sold. When designing the format, he didn't ask anyone to go out and buy a new bike."
The upshot seems to be that many new bikes are designed to be light and also to absorb a lot of hits, and there are advances in armor -- it's much lighter -- so that the way everyday riding is now begs for its own kind of racing.
The big challenge now is reaching those who ride this way but who have tuned out the racing side because it's been irrelevant to them for so long.
I'm still amazed at how ski racers equate skiing with grooming. I'm still inclined to believe that maybe only 25% of "enthusiast" skiing is done on groomed trail. I can see how the folks who live near great grooming could tend to think that it's the best way to go. But my hunch is that this just plain misses most skiers. Is the potential of skiing, and growth of skiing, really tied to grooming? There have to be 10X as many ungroomed trails out there. And probably all the coolest and most scenic trails are ungroomed. So many great trails CAN'T be groomed. Grooming is so limiting. All it is is faster and easier for fairly mellow terrain. You can't even groom truly challenging terrain. OK, you probably *could* get a snowmobile pulling a packing sled through most singletrack trails.
I'm also still surprised at how people talk about how skating is faster than classic. Sure, on a mellow groomed trail it is. But go try skate on a steep narrow trail. You can't even do it, much less do it fast. Classic is faster once you're talking narrow, challenging trail. Once a trail gets hilly many people will find that the modes cluster together and are based strictly on the fitness of the skier not the mode itself.
Anyway, it's neat to see how the bikers keep thinking outside the box.
Off the topic, I'm kinda tickled to see that "packrafting" is big now in both biking and hiking. They have these tiny rafts. I don't know anything more, but it sounds fun.
Then there are the fat-tire bikes that are good in snow and sand. They seem to fit with the packraft thing.
What about a fat-bike version of a trail ski? What about a wide, light, long ski that can glide and float in deep unbroken snow? It exists, supposedly, in Finland in the Forest Ski, but those skis have never even VISITED the US of A. We don't even get the chance to see what they're like. They're like 70mm wide but 250cm long and soft. I have maybe the only pair to exist in the US but they're in a stupid 210cm length and so don't seem to do that much that's special.
It's amazing how out of the box the other sports are compared to XC skiing. Heck, tele, alpine and snowboards are far more radical, too -- what with all the crazy stuff out there, like splitboards.
Basically XC seems to ONLY be moving toward ever-more PRECIOUSNESS and ULTRAREFINEMENT. ...Gear is lighter and tinier and more specialized and fragile and useless for anything else anywhere else. Dudes are getting deeper and deeper into things like hot-boxes and grinds and waxes and chemicals and freak-training apparatus like altitude tents. Local people are buying "elite" skis that you can't even ski on around here! YUCK to all of it!
Here we have 20-year-olds having a blast on bikes and making bikes to have different kinds of fun on, with lots of crossover. Skiing needs to catch some of that!
What kind of fun could a young person have on Rossi Evos with NNN-BC bindings and Rossi X7 boots? You can stunt with them and blast with them and do turns and handle very technical trails. All they need is snow and some hills to have all kinds of fun. And it's all darn cheap -- half the price of the carbon jive.
Young people love to get technical with their sports -- but I don't think that means in a chemical lab-technician way!
And here we have Adventure Racing in a half a dozen popular types, where folks are sent off running where there aren't any trails, and splashing through the mud, and they love it. Skiers should be sent out for real adventures!
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