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New idea for exposing kids to xc!

Thu, Dec  2, 2010 - By Jeff Potter

It's a perennial topic, I know.

But I just had an idea... One way to get more kids into XC skiing would be simply to do XC skiing around more kids!

How many kids have actually seen much good, proper, fun XC up close and in person? I'm talkin' dyno ski action that makes it look as fun as any other snowsport -- maybe moreso. The other sports need *stuff* and *facilities* and *special conditions* (hills, lifts, heavy, expensive equipment, heavy clothes, even ice). With XC all you need is snow and you're good to go! A kid would understand that if they ever SAW it.

I had a chat the other day with some Boy Scouts and their parents about XC. They were fairly into it. They said "Why, it's the most fitness in exercise that you can get! It works out your whole body! My daughter just did a report on it." --But none of them mentioned that it's just plain FUN. Sure, I've long heard about its miracle fitness properties, but I was somewhat embarrassed to hear that being the only way it was known or touted. It's a bit forced, in a way. I mean, you'd get a lot of fitness if you tried to swim in a suit of lead-weights. Actually, it's totally forced: what it's saying is that snowboarding is fun but XC is a good workout. Argh! XC is pure fun with nothing in the way. THAT's its MAIN benefit. Obviously such a sport will have fitness as a main side effect. Good things have good results. How can ya go wrong playing in a field of snow?

Anyway, it struck me that these kids and parents simply had not SEEN xc skiing up close and in person. ...Except maybe for shufflers or Olympians on TV -- and that doesn't count for really SEEING.

Kids have it better up north where some schools have teams. But even there I suspect that skiing nowadays has a "special place, special equipment" vibe more than it used to have, with somewhat of a barrier between the "fitness" kids and the just plain fun everyday neighborhood kids. XC tends to get sucked into being a specialized minivan organized sport like any other -- with too many grownups around. :)

New idea

So...if a group of frisky skiers -- or even just ONE -- were to go out and ski around at a school playground while the kids were having recess... think of it! It seems like it would be best if the skiers were teens and other young people, but anyone with some zest would do. It would be best if the clothing was COLORFUL but not revealing -- lycra is not the mission here. The equipment should be simple, not exotic. It shouldn't look hard or expensive or over the top, not too intense. A small loop with a few rollers and berm turns, a couple little jumps -- the right half-acre in most side-lots would do the trick -- that's all it would take. Then ski around and around.

A college campus where young people could see the skiing as they walked between classes: that's the ticket!

Our local middle school has their cafeteria overlooking a perfect rolling meadow, pond and woodlot and part of the XC-running course. Someone XC skiing around there (in a zesty way) about noon would show those lunching kids a real thrill! ...It would show them that anyplace that's pretty and curvaceous in the wintertime IS STILL THEIRS.

I bemoan the fact that at the half dozen local places that I ski that I hardly ever see other people except for a few middle-aged trundlers. Well, it's time for a change! I think I'll make some forays to where the kids are this winter! ...And I'll see what I can do to get anyone else to join in.

Boy Scouts Snow sports merit badgeI'm in the process of signing up to be an XC Ski Badge Counselor for the Boy Scouts. I just read through the badge requirements. They're a bit pitiful, in a way. I see their point, to a very small extent. They treat XC skiing like mountaineering. I guess I need to talk to some higher-ups there. Do the rollerblading or ice-skating badges make kids demonstrate orienteering, survival and broken-bone splinting skills? XC skiing should be presented to Scouts as a fun skill, good for an hour or so in any snowy neighborhood. The wilderness expedition angle should be for the winter season option of a expedition/mountaineering badge. OK, it's not TOO far off, but there are a few unrealistic requirements that reveal common misperceptions. At least they don't mention ice-axes. The less-needed requirements can be covered with the basics quickly then we can move on to the fun stuff. The reality is that XC is the best winter activity ANYWHERE THERE'S SNOW. It's the BASELINE outdoor snowsport. All others branch out from it. And the pure fun is concentrated most potently there, too. So there! :0

Another kinda sad thing is that when I talk to teens about winter fun they often come up empty. If I press harder and ask if they like skiing they tend to say Sure! Then it turns out that they like going up to Boyne. That's a 4-hr one-way drive and a $1000 weekend. That is NOT what kids should be liking about winter! It's like hearing from a kid that what they like about football is box-window seats and catering. It means they've been CUT OFF from THEIR HOME! The reason why they come up empty when I first ask them is that as young teens they don't really go sledding anymore so when they think of what do they do for fun IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD in the winter, they draw a blank. That's sad!

My goal is to give them back reality. XC itself isn't my mission. XC is simply unmediated winter fun. It's eating low on the food-chain of fun. My main point is the unmediated part. Every season and region has its fun that is cheap and close. Kids must have unmediated fun or they wither and turn into zombies and become prey for exploitation -- both as kids and later on as adults. And I ain't kiddin'

Jeff Potter
OutYourBackdoor.com