NewsOpinionFasterSkier Forums – A Challenge to All

Avatar Topher SabotOctober 1, 20094

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Today FasterSkier launched the FasterSkier Forums.  The purpose of these forums is to provide a platform for discussion and the sharing of information related to cross-country skiing, nordic combined and biathlon.

The success of this project depends completely on the participation of the community. Nordic sports forums have generally failed in the past. The internet is scattered with similar attempts that haven’t had a post in years. Other forums have turned into a gear swap. Many other sports have robust national level forums where the community asks and answers questions, and discusses the sport. It is odd that a group as passionate as skiers have not taken to this form of communication. We believe that an active forum would provide enormous benefit to the ski community as a whole, helping to educate coaches and athletes, and providing a more efficient system for the the sometimes heated discussions about the state of our sport.

The decision to add forums to FasterSkier has been a tough one.  We have received numerous emails requesting this feature – most claiming that there is not a place for cross-country skiing related discussion on the web.  But that is actually not true.  As mentioned above, there are quite a few forums out there, and in my mind, all have failed to develop into a national community resource.  Some have been marginally successful on the regional level, but all have flopped on a larger scale.  This includes the TeamToday forums backed by US Ski Team Coaches.  Why is this?  There are endless triathlon, running, and cycling forums that are full of useful information.  Is it just a matter of numbers?

The sharing of information is critical to the success of the sport.  USSA has done a great job with the bi-annual coaches conferences and the new coaches education program.  But that is just one piece.  Forums provide a fast and easy way to ask questions and provide answers.  And this information is then available to anyone!  There are many people in the sport who are always willing to answer emails and phone calls – this is good, but imagine if all that information could be viewed by hundreds instead of just one?

I see this as an opportunity for the elite cross-country ski community to step up and build something from the ground up on a national level.  We can’t depend on USSA to do everything, and while support and communication with local clubs and regional bodies is critical, we need to be continuously engaged on the national level.

I was speaking to an elite coach last spring, expressing frustration about the lack of on-line participation in the ski community.  He was not surprised and told me that his many years of experience have shown him the there is not a strong sense of sharing – that people in the sport remain closed.  If that has been true, there are many signs it is changing, and supporting national forums would be a another huge step.  It is also important to break out of the closed circles that often form in elite sports.  It is easy for the same few people to engage each other , especially at the higher levels.  But every high school coach, every junior club coach, every college coach, every athlete needs to be able to participate.  And the internet provides the perfect platform – and realistically the only platform.  Not everyone can attend conferences and clinics regularly.  The internet is a mixed bag in many ways, but it is unquestionable that it has opened up paths of communication that we could never have imagined 20 years ago.  The cross-country ski world has to take advantage of that.

FasterSkier, with our readership and established site may provide the best chance for success yet.  In effort to get things going, FasterSkier will select one poster each month to receive a free pair of Salomon trail running shoes.  The monthly prize will go to the person we feel contributed the most that month – perhaps by asking a thought provoking question or providing excellent responses.  But honestly, I put in the time to build the FS Forum system with the thought that it would fail.  All the data indicates that it will.  I challenge the cross-country ski community to prove me wrong!

The nitty gritty details on the forums can be found here.  Please take a minute to check them out.

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Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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4 comments

  • Avatar
    Cloxxki

    October 1, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Great move Topher!
    I share these thoughts totally. As a newcomer to the sport, I really hit a wall of closure. Near impossible to get an independent review, or discussion on “how things work”. Books are out-dated and boring.
    I am a bit of w wise guy when it comes to cycling, and I don’t own a book or magazine copy. All I know, I learned from others, reading their forums posts. After some time, I could return the favor, to a new draft of newbies.
    Cross-Country skiing and especially off-season training (rollerskiing etc) are extremely closed sports. Elitist even in some places. If they don’t know you, you don’t get in. This, on top of how technically difficult sports are to begin with. Everyone can ride a bike and enjoy the outdoors. On (roller)skis, not so easy.
    Fasterskier has a great vibe. If the bloggers would find some time in their schedule to share some of their experience, that would be especially awesome, and make the by-pass all other sports forums for being a treasure of current knowledge.

    As a Euro, I hope there will be a bit of a global attitude, but perhaps that’s too much too ask.

    Thumbs up,

    J

  • Avatar
    Reese

    October 2, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Seems like it very well might have to do with numbers…. Sharing training, equpment, and technique advice on sites like VeloNews, PinkBike, RunnersWorld, etc… will not have any noticeable effect on the individual giving the advice. But with the small XC skiing pond, the probability is high that the poster’s athletes, or even the poster themself, will wind up competing against those who benefitted from the info. After those tedious hours all summer, who wants to be giving their competition any leg-up?

  • FasterSkier
    FasterSkier

    October 2, 2009 at 6:12 am

    This could certainly be part of it – though in my mid we cannot afford to take that attitude. I’m not claiming that a lack of participation on on-line forums is preventing us from developing the depth to consistently compete at the highest level, but given the other challenges the sport faces in this country, we need to take advantage of every opportunity.

    If we are always focused on the State Championship, or qualifying for JOs, or even winning a SuperTour, we can lose site of the bigger picture.

    I also think numbers play in on another level. In cycling and triathlons there are just so many more people who participate. Obviously if the same percentage of people engage, the raw amount of information is much greater.

  • Avatar
    Reese

    October 3, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Totally. I meant it as a reason people might be reluctant to post… but not a good reason.

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