Earlier this fall, USSA announced a Masters division of the US SuperTour – the premier elite race series in the US. The announcement on FasterSkier generated some comments, and a more complete article from the Anchorage Daily News provided us with view points from both sides of the issue.
What issue you may ask? And I wonder the same thing. In my mind, this is an unequivocally good thing. It isn’t going to revolutionize the xc skiing in the US, but nor is it goign to cause any harm.
I don’t believe that the Masters SuperTour is an effort to generate revenue – thought long-running perception of USSA is one of money-grabbing – always asking, never giving. Whether this image is fair is a different subject altogether, and not one I will address here. This is about generating interest in the sport, and showing an oft-neglected group of skiers that they are noticed and are a valuable part of the ski racing community – for more than just their bank accounts.
Those interviewed in the ADN article don’t get this. Of course most Masters are not going to fly all over the country to participate in the whole series, but most elite skiers don’t race the whole SuperTour either.
The cost is negligible, so the risk is low. If a half-dozen people do enough races to qualify for the overall title, that is great. It shows that Masters deserve their own race series, and are fast enough to warrant it, and it shows that USSA cares about more than your membership check.
Several years ago in West Yellowstone, I was watching the Masters Heat in the SuperTour sprint (a great addition in my mind). As the racers came by a collegiate skier said, with obvous scorn, “here some the master-blasters.” And the blasters in the race? Included Factory Team skier and Olympian Justin Freeman, Fischer/Craft racer and marathon stand-out Adam Swank. Colin Mahood (XC Oregon/Rossignol) was supposed to start but didn’t know he qualified. Being a Master is about age, not ability.
The negative stereotypes of master skiers are a staple in this country, and are often good-natured and amusing. But they too-frequently cross a line to a level of vitriol that borders on malice.
Phil Bowen made the point in a comment on FasterSkier that such a series would better fall under the auspices of AXCS, and technically he is right. But given the low cost of this venture, we should just be happy it is happening.
And I think Dave Knoop nails it when he write:
“Hate and fear of a secret diabolical agenda vs. providing a venue to the larger portion of the skiing pryamid those so called ‘Masters Blasters’ who absolutely refuse to go quietly into the night. Many of us are the infamous “Baby Boomers” no introduction to that generation needed here.
“It may start small as you say yet if the message is consistent over time (year to year) then what is the problem with this.”
Not everything is a nefarious money-grabbing ploy.
Does this suddenly make USSA the organization of the masses, looking out for the needs of all? Hardly. But credit where credit is due, and this is a small but worthwhile step.