Virtual Event Hosting: Things to Think About

Gerry FursethDecember 21, 2020
Tracks into the woods.

This is part of the Virtual Event Hosting series. With all the ideas and potential solutions out there, here are some things that might help you narrow down your choice.

Safety Issues And Compliance

There are many things to consider when hosting an event and health restriction rules related to COVID differ for every community. These rules also tend to change weekly, which may be awkward for a series of events. 

Some of the safety topics to help find what is possible for your region are:

  • How do you view pandemic compliance? Safety first, or finding loopholes to increase the fun? Sometimes two teams with different visions will inspire each other.
  • Are people allowed to travel to your event? From where?
  • Is there a group size limit? Is the organizer responsible when individuals form their own over-sized groups?
  • Are your trails open?
  • Do the rules change based on the age of the participants?
  • Do you want a competitive event where times matter, or a participation event?
  • Are you hosting an event for the locals, or for the people who cannot visit this year?
  • Does the language used by your local government restrict certain types of gatherings that might preclude you from organizing a race? This author’s region has banned ‘events’ and ‘bringing people together’ which will require very careful editing of the promotional material. 
  • What organizations need to be on board with the plan: local ski club, trail system manager, local government, sport bodies.
  • How is your event insured? The pandemic has changed eligibility requirements for many national and regional ski federations. Many insurance contracts allow the insurer to unilaterally change the terms of your existing contract. What worked last year needs to be rechecked.

This year of change is also an opportunity to step out of the box and try new ideas.

It’s time to think about precisely who you are marketing your efforts towards. 

  • What is your market? An event for your local community or for people who can’t travel to visit this year? The Kangaroo Hoppet might be the best example of a ski event held while the local trails were closed by a regional lockdown.
  • Who is your event or series for? Racers, families and bubbles skiing together, people looking to break the habit of skiing the same loops all season, people who never try skiing further than last year? (While racers tend to dominate the volunteer pool, that is probably the smallest audience for a potential event.) 
  • Or do you want to challenge people to ski more often? 
  • Or possibly determine which group can get the most kilometres by spring?

Getting Legal

When we move events online, it is important to consider privacy. For example, if the results show actual names with matching Strava identities on the Internet, that violates Strava’s security promise to their users. If you allow participants to share personal data, what happens if a minor registers? Any solution that includes GPS data links a person’s name to a location and time, which matters for military personnel, criminals, and anyone taking a long lunch break while working at home. There are also government privacy laws in many countries; if your event is fully virtual with European entrants, there are some inconvenient rules that go beyond getting agreement for website cookies that may apply.

The Solutions that don’t fit in a category:

Google sheets (each skier enters their own results in a shared spreadsheet).

DataSport/Komoot: These entities are fully compliant with EU rules. 

The rest is a rant. Feel free to go skiing instead.

Loppets aren’t really about racing. Løppet (with a silent T in Norwegian) literally means “the run”. If winning is the goal, we have the World Cup and an entire path of progression to that level. Loppets are meant to be about testing yourself on a course.

Yes, you can test yourself by skiing the course as fast as you can. But at the end of the day there is only one first place. Most of us don’t have a realistic chance of winning. 

When I found myself on a start line in Toblach with Anders Gløerson (five WC wins), it would have been crazy to set a goal of being first to Cortina. That goal was somewhat more realistic for Gløersen, who double-poled to 31st place, before winning the shorter skate back from Fiamme the following day to take the combinado prize (aka a two-day mini-tour).

By skiing a controlled race on Saturday and an all out push Sunday, I did beat some people. I passed one group wearing the distinctive black combinado bibs in the final 10km on Sunday morning because they had stopped to drink Aperol at a trailside bar. Fist pump moment? Well, it was for them.

In the evening, most of the European skiers were excited to have their digital certificates showing they skied the distance. Times weren’t a popular topic of conversation, neither was the elite wave. People talked about the view of Tre Cime, the -5C powder on the classic day, what course they would ski next year.

Listening to the Europeans talk, it reminded me of the ever-shrinking loppet circuit back home. Each year there are fewer events and participants. The people that came out to see if they could ski the entire distance have stopped attending and the rules for timing, course marking, and Technical Delegate selection have become more onerous. The number of volunteers needed is large and many are outside for multiple hours.

After thinking about this over a pint or two, I thought it would be fun to have a different kind of event. One about finishing together instead of starting together. One that ends inside a pub. One where the last 30km of the course has many shortcuts that lead to the pub. It turned out to be a lot of fun.

What else can we do that is fun and will grow the number of people having fun on skis?


Gerry Furseth

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