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Archive for October, 2009

Climate Day of Action

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

This Saturday is the International Climate Day of Action organized by 350.org.  You can read more on the 350.org website, and also see some of the ways the Nordic community is involved here and here.

This issue is extremely important to the cross-country ski community.  We are highly dependent on the climate to participate in our sport, and while we may like to take brag about the low carbon footprint of the sport relative to some other winter activities – namely alpine skiing, we are certainly not neutral in that respect.  Grooming, travel, and snowmaking are all high-impact carbon-intensive activities.  The only skiing that is truly “green” is throwing on a pair of handmade woodskis and touring out your back door.  But this goes beyond being responsible for the environmental costs of our sport.  It also goes beyond needing good winters in northern climes.  If climate change plays out the way main scientists predict, the least of our worries will be a shortage of yellow klister.

The upheaval that will be caused on a global scale is nearly unimaginable.  It is our duty as citizens to stand up and take action.  The Climate Day of Action is a way to do this, to make your voice heard, and to do so easily.

There are still people who are skeptical of the idea of climate change.  There is nothing wrong with asking questions, and pushing for more information.  But it is also important to be willing to recognize sound science and be willing to accept it.  And even if you think climate change is not a big deal, what if you are wrong?  Wouldn’t it be better to take action and be wrong, then do nothing and be wrong?  Better safe than sorry in this case is the obvious way to go.  Too much is at stake.

FasterSkier fully supports the 350 Climate Day of Action and their mission:

Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.

So plan your action, whether it is part of a larger event, or just your own personal statement during training.  Take a photo.  Submit it to 350.org and FasterSkier.

The Magnificent Seven

Friday, October 16th, 2009

It recently became public knowledge that the US currently has only seven spots for the 2010 Olympics.  That is seven spots for men and women combined!  This would mean that it would be impossible to field relays for both genders.  Now there is a very good chance that the US will end up with more spots, so spending too much time worrying about our meagre seven is not time well spent.  As John Farra said on the USSA site when announcing the quota, the best thing to do is go out and ski fast.

But it is interesting to consider the seven spots within the overall picture of US skiing.  Is it really such a bad thing?  A disaster of epic proportions?  Not really.  In fact one could make the argument that seven skiers is a perfectly fine number for the US to take.

When you look at the US field, there are a limited number of athletes who have achieved significant sustained international success – Kris Freeman, Kikkan Randall, Andy Newell and Torin Koos.  The latter three have all stood on a World Cup podium, and Kris has twice been fourth at the World Championships.  If the US is going to win a medal at the Olympics, it is going to come from one of these four (though it is not outside the realm of possibility that a Team Sprint pairing of Kikkan and LiZ Stephen could also get it done).

Other likely team members include Stephen and Morgan Arritola – both skiers with great potential, and some fine results under their belts – but still a step away from the highest level.  On the men’s side James Southam has shown marked improvement, and is at the least, competitive in a World Cup field.  That is seven.  And at this point, there is not anyone else who wouldn’t be happy with a top 40 result.  This is not to take anything away from our athletes – there is no lack of effort and commitment.  But the results don’t lie.

Do we need more people at the Olympics to round out the back of the field?  Is it worth the expense, and the added burden on coaches and support staff to bring more athletes if they don’t have a shot to win a medal?

This question is certainly debatable.  On the one hand, the goal is to win medals.  Bringing back of the pack skiers to the Olympics does not seem to support this goal.  But it isn’t so clear cut.  Morgan and Liz both turned in impressive results at World Championships – performances that surely boosted their confidence and were an important part of their development.  If they go to the Olympics, they will do so with a World Championships on their resume, and all the associated experience.  If the criteria for Liberec 2009 was medal potential only, they would never of had the opportunity to step up.

So these events are an important part of an athlete’s development, and gaining experience and confidence through storng personal results is extremely valuable.

It is also important to reward US skiers who have put in years of work to reach the Olympics.  Just beacuse they haven’t reached medal-potential status, should not mean they are without value.  We need to encourage skiers to pursue the sport, and their dreams.  And helping them achieve those dreams is one way to do that.

Ultimately, as with so many things, I believe the middle ground is the best option.  The overall focus should be on the athletes who can win medals, but limiting the team so severely is ultimately not the best.  The 17 who went to Torino was probably too many, but seven is too few.  Ten seems like a nice round number, with enough men and women for full relay teams – if a competitive team can be created.  This number will ensure starters in most events, and enough depth if one or two team members fall ill.  The number should also be manageable for the coaching staff and support staff.

Hopefully US skiers will be fast this fall and early winter, and pick up three more spots for Vancouver.  And even better, in the future, it would be great to see a dozen skiers, all vying for top spots in the international field.

Cross Country Snowboarding

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Looking for a little humor to get you through the day? Check out this video and appreciate our sport even more….

Thanks to Rick Kapala for passing it on.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/4w7sVSMbjyM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]