A Failure of the US Ski Community: Will you even bother to read this?

Topher SabotDecember 11, 20095

We launched the Sean McCabe Memorial Fundraiser just over a week ago.  In that time we have raised $2500 – reason to celebrate?  I don’t think so.  Last night a reader posted the following comment on the fundraiser update.

Because I am writing under a pseudonym I will take the opportunity to write a few things that I normally wouldn’t if I were not anonymous.  I am disappointed to see the donations to the Sean McCabe Memorial Fundraiser loose their momentum.  Maybe I can write a few things to either inspire you (or guilt you) into getting off your wallet and donating.

I never met Sean, and I live in a completely different state.  And yet I have been motivated by two forces that have driven me to give to his memorial fundraiser: 1) gratitude for what I now enjoy; and 2) a certain disquietude with my own relative abundance.  I also feel like I can identify with Sean–I am the father of young children, and I have similar interests.  Plus I have a huge admiration for Sean’s many talents.

Now to get a little philosophical.  Are you really being generous if you don’t have to stretch a little to help someone else?  Are you really being generous if deep down you are hoping to win some cool skis with the raffle? (My donation happens to be under a different name…so I’m not trying to get extra points by writing this).  I know that we all have had economic setbacks, but I also know that donating $5-10 simply requires a little re-ordering of priorities and perhaps a little sacrifice.

Now to be a little personal.  I finished my graduate and post graduate training not long ago.  Now I have a job that pays the rent, allows me to pay my debt obligations that I incurred during grad school, and support a family.  For the past 10 years I have been looking forward to the day that I could purchase some new race skis.  I thought last year would be the year, but instead I bought a new pair of race skis for my wife (it really wasn’t that generous…that move went a long way toward marital happiness).  This year my “new ski fund” was getting to the point that could be able to buy some new skis at the end of this season. But I did something different.  I donated that money to Sean’s Memorial Fund (I admit, I had to do it in two separate donations because selfishness was holding some of the money back initially).  I don’t have any reason to brag (again, my donations were under a different name).  I say this only because now I feel that I have done what my conscience has told me to do–not because I somehow felt guilty, but because it was simply the right thing to do.

So I want to challenge you to give what your conscience tells you to give. However small or large the amount, give something.  You’ll feel like a better human being for giving.

I was thrilled to see “Sven’s” comment because, honestly, my faith in the US Nordic ski community has been seriously shaken.

A few statistics from the fundraiser:

Days active: 8

Total Raised: $2,525

% of Goal: 21

# of Donations: 40

Page Views of the Fundraiser Update: 121

% Donated by three people: 59

What does this tell me?  That of the thousands of people who visit FasterSkier every day, only 40 people felt this cause important enough to contribute.  I have made a big deal about only needing $5-$10 per person, but that only works if everyone chips in.  The bulk of the funds have been raised from just a handful of people.

And add in the fact that most FasterSkier readers don’t even care enough to read an update on the fundraiser.  I had to resort to trickery when writing the teaser and headline for this article – in an effort to actually get people to read the article.  I even debated a headline along the lines of “Entire Norwegian Team Caught Caught Doping.”  That would have gotten a heck of a lot more than 121 views.  Pathetic.

I have been debating what to do.  Give up?  Tell the McCabe family “sorry, I was wrong, the ski community will not step forward to support one of our top skiers from the last 20 years in a time of need.”  Keep being positive – and pretend that everything is going as planned?  Or tell it how I see it?

After going for my first ski of the year on groomed trails (finally got a big storm in New England) I chose the later.  I was struck by my good fortune, to be healthy, to be out in a beautiful winter setting, gliding, pushing my body.  So many of us are so lucky, and I believe strongly that it is unacceptable not to help those who are not so fortunate, or who are going through an extremely challenging time.

There is really no way to spin it.  40 donations in a week?  That is bulls**t.  You can’t afford $10?  That isn’t even the cost of a set of road tips.  It is only 1.5 fancy coffee beverages from Starbucks.  It won’t get you a half day trail pass at most Nordic areas.  I know the economy is tough – just about everyone has been affected.  but I also know that people are buying new skis, stocking up on high flouros, and traveling to West Yellowstone and Silverstar for Thanksgiving.  There seems to plenty of money for those activities.

Over the last two years, I have been alternately inspired and depressed by the national ski community in the US.  At times, it seems vibrant and passionate.  But so often, it is apathetic, and myopic.  Local ski communities, and some regional ones are very strong – I have been part of a number.  But there is so little national connection.  My experience is that an Alaskan skier generally does not see himself on the same “Team” as a skier from the Midwest.  And vice versa.  And maybe this is part of the reason the US has struggled to produce top international skiers over the last 20 years – we all root for the local hero, but with some exceptions, we don’t much care about anyone else.

I digress though.  Sven’s comment gave me some hope – albeit just a little bit.  Someone who gets it.  Someone who is literally willing to put his money where is mouth his to help a fellow skier and parent.  To make a personal sacrifice because it is the right thing to do.  And the other 38 donors, while less vocal, have done the same thing.

But honestly, I am still not very positive.  I know that most people won’t read this post.  They will skip over it to catch the latest video of crashes from the World Cup, or the like.  I have yet to see the ski community step forward on a national level in this type of way, and at this point, until I do, I no longer believe it is possible.

And I will add to the lists of those to thank, and those to admonish, the businesses we asked for gift contributions.  A number of these stepped up big, and that has been great to see.  But what about the dozens we contacted who never even replied.  Sure it is a busy time of year, but honestly, all I can come up with, in annoying twitter/internet speak – “Really?”

If you have not contributed, and do not have a very very good reason not to, you should be ashamed.  Do the right thing.  Not to prove me wrong about the ski community, but for the important reason – to support a family of an Olympic skier who just lost their father/husband.

Finally, it is important to recognize that the local community in the Methow Valley has put forward a big effort to help in this cause in ways unrelated to this fundraiser.  That deserves recognition and is a wonderful thing.

You can read more about the fundraiser here.

You can donate at SkiReg.com here (SkiReg has waived all fees, so every penny goes to the McCabes)

Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

Loading Facebook Comments ...


  • nordic_dave

    December 11, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Wow, excellent! Since I purchased 3 peices of art from Sean this summer and also got some truly inspirational emails from him, I feel blessed. I love his artwork it makes me smile everytime I walk in the door as it celebrates life in the great outdoors.

    If Fasterskier can tell me who this anonymous person is who posted this, I would gladely send him a pair of my skis (which are fast btw ). I don’t know if they are the right size but am a big believer in trying to “pay it forward” especially when I read about people who try and do their best for others and putting themselves down the priority list. Happy Holidays!

  • delltodd

    December 11, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I didn’t realize the situation was that embarrassing! 40 people? Check out fatcyclist & johan bruyneel teaming up to raise over $115,000 *during the same period* for LAF & World Bicycle Relief. Along the way, several cool ‘door prizes’ materialized to turbo things, however that happened after the original $20,000 goal was eclipsed effortlessly & immediately (24 hrs). Pfff. Laura Nove & Dash deserve our best. Dig. I thought $5/10 each was an easy target from each of us even in these times.

  • chanderson

    December 11, 2009 at 10:24 am

    A truly sad story for the family. I haven’t met Sean but he sounds great. I know he inspired ski and outdoor pursuits. Brian Gregg had a nice write up on his website. I have a young daughter so I can only sympathize with the situation.

    However, Topher’s comments seemed a little strange. Did Sean have life insurance? If Sean intended his daughters to have those paintings, why were they put up for sale in the first place? Topher can not know everyone’s situation or what motivates donations. It seems unreasonable to expect people that have not interacted with the family to send cash. What about feeding those that are without food in our own community? Is that more important, less? We are so inundated with opportunities to support others, how do we choose?

  • Sven

    December 11, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    To Nordic Dave: I’m 5’3″ and I weigh 350 lbs (and I live in Dallas). Hope your skis fit! Just kidding. That’s a nice sentiment. I’ve taken care of my current skis they are actually in decent working order. Plus, I find that they are a great asset as a “psychological crutch” when I fail to ski as fast as I think I should (“if it were not for these old skis with the original factory stone grind, I’m sure I would be lighting this place on fire with my speed and natural ability…” 🙂

    Looks like the pace has picked up with the donations! I’m thrilled. Let’s keep it up.

  • nordic_dave

    December 12, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Since you porport to live in Dallas. Let me give you some advice.
    Ski on things that are white, the brown stuff ist nicht zo gut.

    Yes 46% as I read the donation chart tonight, keep ’em coming, although I knew Sean, let me assure people his art will brighten your day and something nice to recieve as a gift.

Leave a Reply