Justin skis and writes for XC Ottawa
Any activity performed extensively tends to not only affect someone but define in many ways who they are. Serious sports enthusiasts and competitors have characteristic physical features that set them apart from the general population and even between themselves. Our physiology is greatly affected by what we do or do not do in many cases. There is no mistaking a runner for a football linebacker. It just doesn't happen. All of this is obvious, but activities also affect our way of interacting in the world.
Let me explain. First of all, our perception of the world is affected by what we do. Such is the eternal root of the clashes between the motorists and cyclists. Different perspectives lead to different expectations. For example, there is the question of how we choose to go about our day to day activities. For a typical ski racer, walking or biking a few kilometers instead of driving a car is usually no big deal despite occasionally being a logistical inconvenience depending on the reason for our travels, or possibly not the best way to do quality training at particular times. Obviously for many out of shape people, walking or biking a few kilometers for an every day errand is unfathomable.
When it comes to where to live, to a cross-country skier for example, Toronto, New York, Shanghai, Kabul, London and Cairo could be described as dystopian cities. Toronto's climate, for instance, does permit skiing in a reasonable fashion provided one has a love affair with driving and the lifestyle that some people in the GTA abide and swear by. The other cities are most notably unacceptable because of the lack of consistent snow.
Instead of going on at length about these places I will take you to a nameless utopian city of my imagination. I admit that it is possible that this city may accidentally bear resemblance to a place that exists in this world. I forewarn any reader that should any resemblance lead to some kind of association between the real world and that world, it is not meant as a means of criticism but more as to permit dreamery and possibly an alternate vision to the American Dream that has dictated city planning on this fair continent. All of this being said, any place good climate ( meaning suitable for skiing) with moderate rolling hills would be an acceptable compromise for me.
The population dynamics are critical to Skimilton being a utopian skiing city. A population ranging from 200 000 to 600 000 inhabitants would allow for most responsible industries to be present in the city and therefore include the whole spectrum of society. Sandwiched by the mountains, the town would make up the lack of vast expanses of space by creating a compact city with very limited high capacity personnal transportation infrastructure. Because everything is so close togehter, there would be very little need for what I call Personal Fossil Fuel Powered People and Stuff Movers (PFFPSMs - you probably call these "automobiles")
Such a city would require excellent sporting facilities. A local park with roads for cyclists and rollerskiers that would not be open to PFFPSMs would provide a safe environment for beginners and experts alike. Varied terrain would allow for a change of scenery and the possibility to work on certain aspects of one's training. On an urban level the concept of a bike path should be kept but renamed a jogging path because any other road would be destined primarily to what I call Personal People Powered People and Stuff Movers (PPPPSMs - like a bike, for example). The building and planning of these sporting facilities should be stategic as to prevent over capacity and waste of ressources. Using the example of ski trails, there is a need for tough FIS accredited courses and easier trails that are wide for loppets, racing, big groups and beginners. Building these trails over summer roads for instance would make for a perfect combination as early season skiing would be feasible. In the event that a glacier is too far away a ski tunnel could be built under a small racing loop. Appropriate design could make the facilities self sufficient. In the extended winter period, the tunnel could suddenly turn into a running and cycling track with temperatures only changing by about 10°C, all close to the natural temperature of mountain rock and its caves.
The lifestyle of the city would complement its characteristics. A lesson would be learnt from the French and so a normal work week of say 30 hours would be standard practice. The city would cultivate a certain Art de vivre, without falling prey to serious vice. The locals would be keen to sustain a reputation of boring livelyhood as to prevent an influx of rich master characters parading away on aerospace inspired steeds, feigning weekend wars for lack of capacity. It would simply be too onerous to sustain a special rescue crew that would specialize in bringing back to earth those whose inflated self assurance took them to new heights. Helicopters have difficulty operating in thin air.
In the end, we all wish we could at least visit such a place. The truth is there may not be a Skimilton anywhere and if there were, we would probably not hear about it very much. The only option we have really is to build it. Step by step, inspire the people around us to make good choices and let ourselves be inspired when the case presents itself. Momentum is key and there is a fair amount of it hanging around in these times.
PFFPSMs would simply supplement the abundance of personnal people powered people and stuff movers (PPPPSM). The transportation grid would be built for PPPPSMs and subject to strict regulations and permits for deliveries and emergency crews that must use PFFPSMs.
As any real estate agent, reasonable or not, hence the universality of this statement, would say it's all about three things: Location, Location and Location. The same goes for Skimilton. The climate must allow for an abundance of snow and the terrain must lend itself to the construction of ski trails. Temperatures should not go below -15°C or above 0°C in the heart of winter but the spring skiing season should be extensive and warm. Summers should be relatively warm for the lower mountains yet cool enough to prevent massive insect propagation from the lower lands filled with warm still water bodies.
So there it is my friends, Skimilton.