I recently did a column for Ski Racing about the ways some people have been able to manage the high cost of ski racing. Below is the Facebook thread addressing the same topic. For privacy purposes (remember that?) I have taken out the names and left first initial only. Of course, if you are among my 600 close personal friends you can see the whole thing. At any rate, I do hope this can spark a discussion about more ways to keep this sport we love accessible, if not to all then to as many as possible.
L: Vt used to limit the skis that a Jr racer, under a certain age, could use to one pair. I thought it was a wonderful idea
P1:Stay with friends!
B:After school ski programs. Integrate skiing into phys ed curriculum.
P2: Attend public school. Live at home. Buy equipment at fall ski swaps. Be a member of your closest local ski club. Encourage your club to conduct ski club training exchange sessions (invite another club to come train with you and then you go to their training the next week), Make your own lunch. Car pool. U14 and up obtain season pass at big mountain for big turns, top to bottom runs and fun…even if you can’t train gates. If you are an older racer, make a little money by offering ski tuning for a small fee for younger kids in your club. Don’t buy gadets. Focus on buying one good pair of skis and one good pair of well fitted boots. Don’t have a second pair of race skis that are brand new. Use old pair of race skis. Share tuning equipment with club or other families. Have your family gate keep at races to obtain free voucher for another day of skiing at that mountain. Hope that helps Edie! We got this down…at least for now.
C: too much money at the top… too many 10 year olds with downhill suits, 4 pair of skis, thousands of $ tuning in ski shops etc.. how can you keep up with that?
K: When the days of 100 dollar lift tickets & thousand dollar boots & skis end, our sport will boom again. Sadly, this will need all facets of the industry to revamp including insurance, operations, manufacturing & marketing to all offer an affordable “product” to bring the masses back. Sigh
E:$100.00 unlimited season passes for kids in programs/ School programs/ race fees decreased for U-14 and under/ no speed,GS suits (these suits only increase speed but not tech. if tech is there speed is there no matter what is worn for u-14 and under. ) 2 pairs of skis 1 GS/1 slalom
T: $100 for a day pass and (in Cali) there’s no snow. The kid packages help but when you have to drop $5k a season in equipment (adults AND kids, and that’s with a kid exchange program), people are gonna look elsewhere.
soccer cleats $200 (top end),
Soccer ball $30
Shorts & a T-shirt $50
Day pass to field: FREE
As a parent of more than one kid, which would you choose?
M: If you do not live in Vail, Aspen, or any other resort town, you do not have a chance! One of the reasons I have encouraged my kids to play other sports even though I only live 60 miles from Tahoe.
K: @T, the 5k is just the start. then…to get a family of four to a nice destination resort requires a second mortgage for airfare(1k), lodging(1K), meals(1k)) & car rental(250), lift tickets(??) for a 5 or 7 day holiday. our little industry has priced itself out of contention for bringing in the masses. the illustration above is for only ONE vacation event. to compare, a Disney week in total luxury is less than 1/8 of the price.
H: Better coaches education, at all levels is mandatory if this country wants a broad base of ski racers. This has to get to the grass roots programs. Have the kids stay at home as long as possible. Use the High School and College programs, the Norwegians have figured this out, and are using our Universities and beating us afterward on the world cup..
K: Several other recreation industries have adopted a great model to rejuvenate their profits & reduce costs to patrons by embracing the concept of League participation. Someone should & probably will come up with a great plan for skiing leagues soon I hope. Every level of ability, sex & age should be included. Team leagues, bar leagues, singles night, family teams, old-time equipment teams….etc. Would be a lot of fun to gather up this potentially huge, untapped group of newbies… just sayin’ imho
H:This is already happening in Minneapolis, there are 3 levels and the first two are very inexpensive, and are local, the D Team League, High School and USSA.Most of the training is after school, so no Academies or missing school is necessary. Living at home while ski racing what a concept.
K: I was just hoping that the League concept could be expanded to make it FUN for newcomers especially, not just “racers”.. we need a broader population base to bring to the ski areas. Our industry will collapse and implode if steps aren’t taken soon to address it.
T: So true K. M is right too. If you don’t live in that resort town, bam, your Disney budget just got spent quick on a ski race.
K: We have a Retro League here & it is screaming fun. jam packed.
H: It needs to start with the Kids. At out area we have started and instituted with them an equipment loan program for all the D Team kids starting a 5 years old. This keeps equipment cost low and good equipment can be available for all.
K: Funny to consider, the Retro concept brings out all the mothballed clothing & equipment. zero cost to get in LOL
H: I didn’t want this mis-read, the programs at Welch around Minnesota are not all racing. The “D” Team is about learning good skiing, not just running gates. If the kids want to get into teaching or bump skiing later, it’s all available. Racing is only one branch of the program.
K: Huge step in the right direction. I am constantly reminded as to how much better the failing Nastar program could have been to Skiing if it included the simple concept of “beer leagues” (for lack of a better description…) Family Night/Day or weekly competitions to secure attendance on a more regular basis. Plenty of smaller hills near populated areas would see a boom. Case in point just take a peek at the Team Rules that Nastar has put up on the website & let me know if this is user friendly: http://www.nastar.com/articles/team-race-at-nationals
There will be Team Races at the National Championships on Saturday, March 29th, starting at 1pm following the Race of the Champions.
C: Don’t overspend on every conceivable training/racing/camp/championship opportunity as a U10/U12/U14/U16. Train and race locally and save up for FIS.
B2: I think it also starts with our national team athletes as well as some of our top funded academies giving back or feeding the entry level programs with time, equipment and possible funding
E: if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.
R: Good one, E
ETM: Thanks all for your thoughts and keep it coming! Great stuff.
B3: A contrary point of view: Skis and equipment at racer prices, especially Jr. equipment, are a screaming bargain. Bindings with broad DIN ranges can be used for several years even for growing kids. “Fancy race suits” are a red herring. They have to wear something close-fitting and padded; suits just make sense and it’s one thing about the sport that kids love. A suit passed down from an older “hero” isn’t a bad thing at any age. Edy’s question prompted me to make a quick spreadsheet, possible to ouotfit Jr with 2 pr skis, boots, bindings, poles, helmet, armor, suit; at end of season prices from Artech for $1285. That’s a lot less than my cell phone for a year, and the *only* thing needed the next year is possibly skis ($530), possibly boots, and even then, the old can be sold to defray the cost of new ones. The kids should be paying for some of this from allowance or summer lawn mowing jobs. Pass and training fees at Sunapee add another $1300 if purchased now. Not possible for anyone on welfare, but not enormous. I think the places to save significant money is by attending fewer races and doing more quality training and free skiing, buying at most two pairs of skis (I believe seperate race and training skis make it harder for kids, racing on unfamiliar skis) using only non-floro wax, tuning skis by hand (teaches valuable handwork skills, as well as responsibility and pride of workmanship and ownership). Success at higher levels in later teen years requires daily skiing, so if you don’t live close to a hill with a good afternoon or evening program, an expensive ski academy or winter academy is unavoidable. Scholarships are available. If you are close to a hill with passable terrain, work on developing their program so your kids can take advantage of it to compete with the academies. Lastly, the academy/winter academy programs should encourage and integrate local kids as much as possible, not look down their noses.
ETM: Now that’s what I’m talking about! Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough analysis. I do feel like a big part of the solution lies in NOT entering the arms race, but instead picking and choosing wisely. @P2, you are a master at this. And as we have discussed it’s really tough for parents who did not grow up in skiing or in sports to know what matters and what doesn’t. Maybe better education/info on that front would help. Again, great thoughts from all and keep ’em coming!
T2: Bring back rope tows and T-bars w/day & night skiing, everywhere.
R: Having equipment mfgers. Sponsor more on need as well as accomplishment.
A: $64,000 question. Literally
J: Funny you ask! As many of us old racers were watching at the bottom of the U.S. Nationals, we too asked, how can anyone afford this? Tiger has all the answers! Call and we can discuss!
A: I had a well worn downhill suit I got from a Slovenian coach. A genius tailor cut it to fit my 10th grader for $20.
S: Does anyone have time, lots of time to re-create a more sensible regional based racing schedule for all divisions from U10-21 with far less traveling n cost ? One with a more focused clearly defined path on how to get to the USST from those regional based races, a path we all can understand, like all other youth sports, hockey, baseball, soccer etc. The cost as you move up in age is in the travel costs to compete, at some point it ends up as not who skied the fastest n qualified for the event, but the one who has the resources to to travel to compete at the event that get’s selected all season every season as they chase the points n results to attain there dream a berth on the USST or College team.
M: S nailed it! One of our Nations’s “problems” competing with other countries, is the sport almost immediately eliminates many talented kids who are born to parents that just can’t afford ski racing. Perhaps a system that funds and sends the top local racers to larger events? I will certainly defer to those that actually have kids and have probably spent much more time than I (driving to ski races or when balancing their checkbooks) thinking about this.
H: For race gear: ski swaps, craig’s list and cozying up to a family who has a racer a little bit older than yours.
A: Dial down the number of skis. Young racers really don’t need training and racing skis. Rather they need to keep one pair of skis tuned.
T: less zeros!
A: How about a ski racers version of Craig’s list?
J: Interesting question. I have to say that it is a leg up to have parents like you have. Buck and your mom made it possible for the Thys dynasty to prevail. They were at every race volunteer race crew plus they made sure you were happy and healthy. Once you made the team equipment flowed. Clothes, goggles , gloves and skis and boots were provided. There is a disconnect with talent that does not have this support and there are many prospects that just don’t have an edge due to economics plus geographic restraints. My family did not ski, I rode a bus each weekend with mogul ski club. Learned to ski from some of the best and was fortunate to work at SV for Competition Services and the race team. Kids who grow up in the mountains have an advantage. No travel just equipment. If we did not get comp equipment there was always pro form prices. But it was $$. If the US Ski team wants to build talent there should be programs from the ski companies that makes it affordable. But, talent is out there and like I said it takes parents to make the commitment. Hope all is well and you have more snow than we got this year. Going to rain tomorrow and snow in the Sierras. Juarez
N: Fund raising at the local level.
A: Fund raising at the local level works for young kids to make YSL affordable. But then you get into ski camps, multiple pairs of skis, travel costs. Lift tickets race fees. You need big time donations to offset those costs. And kids are competing against kids with resources. A summer of ski camps. What’s the end game here? Is it all building national team talent or creating an incredible journey for each racer and not just the potential Olympians?
A: Check in with Kenny Corrock at Jackson. He knows how to chase a dream.
H: Chasing the dream — the $64K question is: what is a realistic dream? Is it learning how to be a great skier who will enjoy the sport all through life? Is it Olympics? Of course, at early ages it may be impossible to tell, with a given kid — some keep pushing themselves and getting faster, some don’t. But no one takes on the role of sitting parents down and having an honest assessment of expectations, so some parents spend tens of thousands chasing an unrealistic dream, while others whose kids could really be good give up too early. The programs and ski academies have no interest in telling parents what expectations are realistic, because they support their program on the great mass of middle-fiddle kids, while bringing along the few top athletes who will preserve their reputation. Yes, if your goal is for your kids to learn fundamentally sound skiing technique, you don’t need multiple pairs of skis. I worked the start at U16 Western Region championships last weekend, and one kid had an arrow pointing outside on his skis labelled “T” and another arrow pointing inside labelled “R” — he had one pair of GS skis and used one edge for training, the other edge for racing. Made sense to me (though I’d love to sell him a pair of last year’s Atomics I have sitting in the hallway). Yes, you can skip some races (if your kid knows how to finish fairly reliably) — but which ones? No one will tell you. No one will explain the various levels of races, and how to qualify from one level to the next. I’m a lawyer, so I sit down and read the Comp Guide on how to qualify for NorAms, the Western Region Manual on how to qualify for elite races, I figure out how to calculate points, I draw up my own boards. But for most parents, it’s a total black box — their kid’s coach tells them, “Johnny qualified for …” and off they go, and Johnny dnf’s because he’s intimidated to ski against college racers. We need coaches for the parents!
A: Don’t get me started. And I’m top of this my grandson who has a disability is learning how to sitski. He is almost 5. Life has more dimensions than we can imagine
J: It is also important to understand that ski racing is an individual sport. Like golf. Your a member of a race team, but results are individual. Great question Edith. Juarez
ETM: Huge thanks to all. Please keep the conversation going and share with others who might contribute. Those of us who love this sport can all be a part of keeping it viable.
P3: As is with ALL RACING, “How Fast do you want to Spend?”
We bought a Ski Shop.
S2: I enjoy reading everyone’s opinions and ideas. Eddy, I have some ideas to throw into the mix. If there is a problems with an organization, you blame the leadership and the direction of philosophy, at all levels. There needs to be a clear separation of parties relating to professionalism and how that occurs. Autonomy, is best for each organization and athletes to reach goals and funding. The largest non-profit in the world is? NFL. USSA, FIS are way to controlling to our sport to allow prosperity and growth. Enjoy your day.
B4: We skied at Cochrans this winter for a afternoon/night ski- $5 lift tickets, $5 pasta dinner, they had a slalom and GS course set for anyone to run. I think most ski States have a “Cochrans”. If you do ski at this type of ski area I think the Coaches have to be experienced, to keep it entertaining and educational, but it is possible to keep it simple and produce talent to a certain level.
K: Ask my dad- he’s got all the answers and more!!
M2: Seems to be an issue all around……working on that subject from the equipment perspective, and trying to find a way to get better pricing through volume in preseason orders….
N: To all of the nay-Sayers, A and H, those who can find so many bad things, so many reasons to tell parents to get their children out of skiing. Too many skis. Too many coaches. Too much money. Too hard to train in the cold, warm, rain ice. All of you, Edy, too, could any of you have given up ONE moment of your ski racing career because of money, or too many skis, or too much MONEY??? One Moment??…life of being a ski racer is one of the most precious things any parent could involve their child in. The mountains, snowstorms, the bright sunny days on firm good snow. The blizzards the ruts, the broken dreams and the successes! Wow! I was a coach for nearly thiry years and was blessed to be able to work with numerous world class athletes, some of whom won overall titles, globes, medals in the world champion ships and Olympics….but the ones who kept me alive and involved were no those. They were the ones whose Dad installed satellite dishes. Couldn’t afford the price of a Cheeseburger in the afternoon training. But their skis were in the Best condition. They showed for every dryland. They listened intently to every coach and participated with all their heart. God bless them. When they made the Western States Team, NO WAY could they afford the $500 it took to go to Red Mountain. When things like that happened, there was a virtual Race to see who could get the check to the foundation to be sure he travelled. How about the little gal who was fast on skis but blossomed late in the season and didn’t make the JO team. Instead of going home and mooing about, she came out and trained twice as hard. How dare any of you belittle the efforts of all he racers who never would and never could win a race, but were THERE for everyone. To participate, to be a part of a TEAM. Fie on you…
N: @P3, She’s a-rippin it up!!!!!! Bet she’s got a grin on her face!
M3: Cochran’s is a great model. We need more places like Cochran’s and people with passion for skiing who are willing to give back to the sport. Good question! Kind of a stumper. I guess another way is to get a pair of skins and forget the lift!
ETM: Was just at cochrans and you are so right marina. And sun valley has always been the model of community generosity. Love the passion in this thread and let’s keep in mind that everyone contributing is doing so because we’ll take “blizzards, ruts and broken dreams” over soccer cleats and Disneyland any day! Keep it coming, keep it positive and in our own ways we can all be part of keeping it going.
P4: I agree with M3- more small ski areas that offer night skiing and after-school skiing. Keep these areas from joining the NELSAP list. Grants to install lights at ski areas that don’t currently offer night skiing. Look at the nations top racers right now. Most of them grew up where night skiing was available so they could ski 7 days week (Vonn and Chodounsky at Buck Hill, Shiffrin at Storrs Hill, Cochran clan at Cochrans, Ted at Park City, …).
R: I agree, as a small grass roots area, with lights, we bring in over 150 high school racers 4 nights a week, well over that for our after school groups and Friday night school groups
S3: Access and affordability? Skiing itself is accessible for any kids living where there is snow. The costs and accessibility increase by becoming part of an organization that is involved in mountain sport activity. I’m seeing and hearing a resurgence of winter sports participation but not with ski racing. Perception plays a big role and urban enthusiast seek out activities which look to be fun, skiing racing doesn’t look fun. One question I always ask myself, why was ski racing fun for me? Today, when you ask parents, young adults, teenagers, youth why not ski racing, you primarily hear it costs to much and its not as fun as the terrain park. If it’s not fun why play.
M4: Getting costs down would be great, FUN is a huge key- coaches have to make ski racing fun- win or lose. When weekend trip with the team runs 400 bucks so everyone has beds, time to remember the good old days, sharing rooms, sleeping on floors and that. We just left a program that was horribly expensive, and not fun. New program is grass roots, top notch coaches and FUN