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How Should the U S Fix Their Nordic Ski Team?

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Old March 3rd 06, 11:45 AM
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On 02/24/2006 04:40 PM, in article
, "Camilo"

My opinion: The US is unlikely to be a Nordic skiing power for two
reasons. First, there is so little of the nation that has a climate
for true winter sports. Yes, geographically there is quite a bit, but
in terms of population, very little of the population lives in places
where true winter sports, on snow, is part of the general sports
culture. Even the major northern cities like Chicago and
Minneapolis/St. Paul - from what I hear, true winter, with reliable
snow, is less and less common. The reliable wintery places are fairly
remote from most major population areas.

Skiing is pretty reliable in Utah. Ten alpine resorts within 1 hour of the
SLC airport, and a number of Nordic Centers as well, including Soldier
Hollow (site of the 2002 Olympic XC races).

I'm just learning to XC ski, as a way of staying fit for cycling season, and
to do something different than lift skiing every weekend ...

The Solitude Nordic Center lives up to its name ... Very few cars in the
parking lot; very few people on the trails.

And this is just a 20-minute drive from my house in mid-Salt Lake Valley.

I'm talkig about the ability
to ski on snow in your own town, around the block or just outside of
town. Not traveling somewhere for the weekend. To get an entire
population living and loving snow sports, there has to be regular and
easy access to snow. People aren't going to have an overall culture of
Nordic skiing by training on roller skis - it will only happen if it's
like Norway where people just ski for fun, everyone. From that the
serious competators come. So the motivation and opportunity for the
general population base that enjoys snow sports just isn't there.

OK that's the overall problem: you need the large base to produce a few
talented individuals. The next problem is that those talented
individuals have to be motivated for one or both of two reasons: reason
one is fame and glory, reason two is financial gain. Personal
achievement motivates very, very few people (relatively speaking) and
not necessarily the most talented. In the sports culture we have in
the US, neither fame and glory nor fortune is there- because our
general population neither skis nor cares about it. They care about the
sports they grow up watching or playing: hockey (because it's an indoor
sport now, isn't constrained by the winter factors I mentioned), golf,
basket ball, baseball, tennis, running, swimming, etc. Nordic skiing
because of the climate/geographic factors I mentioned above, just isn't
a sport with a mass following. Fame and glory is very obscure for
successful skiers and fortune just isn't there in a meaningful way.

So, as a life long skier from a northern state, I do not think Nordic
skiing will ever be world class in the US.

Steven L. Sheffield
stevens at veloworks dot com
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