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The Ski Industry's View of Itself

December 14, 2016


Some food for thought that relates to downstate Michigan trail skiing...

The Nordic ski biz has apparently never considered itself as having parallels to biking, much less the different kinds of biking.

The only nuances XC acknowledges are: track, out-of-track, and backcountry. The cultural impacts and potentials of each of these aren't explored or developed or tied-in with any other culture. There is no attempt at demographics. There is only vague sportiness with lycra or vague dudeness with mountains. Maybe an occasional ad photo of a family pulling a Xmas tree on a sled -- no, wait, that would be snowshoeing. Or a ranch resort ad.

But a few of us see more potential. We see the parallels and tie-in's.

We see road, mtbike and other kinds of biking mirrored in XC skiing.

For instance, when viewing XC through the lens of biking, it seems like the ski industry considers a proper trail to be the equivalent of a velodrome in smoothness.

Some of us have expressed the situation as being like roadies vs. mtbikers. But it might be more nuanced or restrictive than that. (Heck, roadies might be more accepting of roughness in their cycling than XC skiers will admit to enjoying an unevenly groomed ski course.)

Actually, the mtbike world plays off of alpine skiing with its All-mountain, Downhill, and Slalom concepts. It also ties in with motorcycling with its Enduro variant. Mtbike -- and other bike marketing -- is probably considered pretty nimble with its tie-in's.

XC skiing is in the tank and is doing zero marketing of itself. Except in a few scenes with lots of snow and ski-resort funding, it doesn't even have a viable roadie-like culture. It is aiming even smaller and less relevant than that.


Roadies will accept cobbles or chipseal or gravel on occasion, but the ski biz considers a rough or imperfect ski trail surface to be a serious problem. Really, the ski biz seems oriented to only one kind of skiing. It's like it neglects the realities and positives of even a roadie kind of skiing, much less a mt-bike type.

And it's letting the BC and earn-your-turns side of the sport totally separate itself from the trail-side, much less the grooming side.

How does the ski trade view skiing?

(First off, it considers downhill of any type and XC to be separate sports rather than a continuum. So that saying "skiing" even in an XC context is confusing. The trade has given up nearly all rights to its own word.)

But what conditions are needed to ski? I might ask what are the minimum needed conditions, but that doesn't really seem right and it's not how it would be best expressed, certainly not by a marketer. As far as a ski is concerned, conditions are an on/off switch. The "minimum" is not a LESSER or lower-grade situation. It kind of seems that if the ground is frozen and there is, say, a 1" base with a 1" cushion on top then a ski could achieve, say, world record results. Skiing is then in a 100% top quality situation. That is, as long as a ski can glide it is in perfect conditions. Right? Anything else brings us into the areas of types of skiing, such as powder skiing, etc.

Yeah, the ski biz labels models as suitable for in-track or out-of-track skiing, but it doesn't really seem to take charge of describing what's really going on here in terms of demographics or potentials, nor does it seem to care. It applies a label then drops the subject.

I don't recall ever seeing the ski trade suggest that out-of-track skiing is comparable to mt-biking. Why wouldn't such a declining sport reach for such an explanatory tie-in?

So... Are obstacles in trails always bad? To a velodrome-like viewpoint, yes. What about to a trail-skiing style? What if there is a mt-bike like type of skiing? I would then say that obstacles would be part of the appeal: one would enjoy using ski skill to handle the obstacles.

Why has biking been able to create thousands of new enthusiasts in a sport which celebrates marginal conditions such as cyclocross or gravel grinding, while skiing has not even been able to admit that it has different styles?

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