Friday, October 26, 2001 - Perspective
Phil's XC Journal #10

- By: Phil Villeneuve

Hi Everyone,

I don't care what you say...but WINTER IS HERE! Ok, maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit but even though the white stuff hasn't quite made a permanent home on the ground yet, it's still cold enough for me to get in winter mode. Canmore has already had 2 weeks of solid cold weather; the mountains are permanently white from the daily on and off flurries, those pesky potholes in my driveway are always frozen and I've officially cracked out my tuques to keep the ol' melon from freezing. Although it seems tempting to stay in on those -10C fall mornings (and unfortunately when you're still in rollerskiing mode in late October that temptation overwhelms even the best of us) we just have to suck it up and get to work.

Speaking of getting rid of bad habits... I think X-C skiing in Canada has been following the same trends for way too long. Enough is enough! It's time to crack out of that 'old school' mode everybody seems so content to live by for the past bazillion years. What am I talking about you ask? Sure the sport has changed...a bit...We've added pursuit style races, sprints, cash prizes a few more glitter items to the pile but have we really changed the sport that much? I don't think so. The Canadian National should be the highest profile races in the country right? Then why have the past National Championships reminded me of an old western movie where the only thing missing was the tumbleweed? If it wasn't for a handful of parents that took the day off work to come watch their kid's race (merci 'ma et 'pa) there probably wouldn't have been anyone!

Let's host events where both spectators and skiers want to go. Have it close to a major centre. Make the event a ski festival where all ski related businesses are invited to attend, set up their tents and demo their products. Have loud music, give out prizes to spectators, crack out the beer and hocho stands, hire the Wiener King guy from Prince George to come out and sell a few dogs in the stadium, bring out the pea soup stand from the Tapiola ski club in Thunder Bay to warm up our cold bodies and finally GET THE SPECTATORS INVOLVED! Have an announcer that knows the racers and what's going on. If nothing's on the score board, dish out some info. Bring back the mass starts and time the popular events so that the public can actually attend them. There is no point in putting the 50k individual start race on Saturday morning. As much as I love skiing, even I would lose interest in no time. Only one event in Canada has come close to making the cut and that's the Continental Cup Night Sprints in Silver Star, BC. All this stuff requires time and effort and can't be put on the volunteers' shoulders. A group specializing in event promotions has to be involved. YES THAT DOES COST MONEY, but isn't it worth it? Look at the mountain biking scene. The stadium is packed in Canmore just from a Canada Cup race! Surely we can do just as good.

I have recently been part of the creation of a fresh new team that will join the racing scene this year. The Racing Team will make its debut in Silver Star, BC for the Continental Cup races. The factory team concept has been very popular in the States but for some reason has never materialized in North of the border. I am very excited at being part of this team because we are setting a trend that is much needed in this sport. This will not only motivate other groups to follow suit but it will finally give the Canadian XC ski businesses a chance or even a reason to get involved by promoting their products, the developing skiers using those products and most importantly, provide the exposure they have been missing on the racing circuit. Check out this winter for some interesting goodies!

Another group that has been setting new trends in the sport is the combo of David McMahon and Lise Meloche with their new video called 'High Velocity'. This is the second video they have produced and it is definitely changing the rules as to how XC ski vids should be made. This isn't your dinky little XC ski video that shows you what good technique should look like in a wide open field, with lots of slow motion 'analyse this' shots. With some good tunes and great action shots, I would compare 'High Velocity' to an extreme skiing video version of Cross Country skiing. Check out to get yours. Good job guys.

We are dealing with the future of XC skiing in Canada. Either we sit back and follow that old routine that has kept us going or we get up and make tracks! Wouldn't it be nice if sponsors actually came to us for a change? It certainly is possible.

That's it for today.

(Phil Villeneuve was a member of the Canadian National Ski Team for two years and was a part of the training centre system in Canada for several years. He now lives in Canmore where he continues to ski race.)

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