Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nordic Boom

People flocked to cross-country skiing in the 1970s because it was presented as easy, affordable and fun. People flocked away again when they discovered it wasn't that easy, so it wasn't fun.

The cross-country ski industry has been trying ever since to recreate the boom, never acknowledging it was based on the public's misconception.

Sure it had its easy aspects. With 75mm three-pin bindings and skis you sized by just reaching up, a person could walk into and out of a ski shop in minutes with the best touring gear available. The skier was then left to discover just how tricky it would be to get around on that simple, inexpensive gear. The lift lines and ticket prices started looking pretty good again.

The industry began throwing products at the problem by the late 1980s. They weren't helped in this country by a sudden deterioration in the winters, but that only hastened the decline.

By the early 1990s, the cross-country industry had actually come up with some good items, but by then a lot of people weren't looking anymore. And the product array still includes a lot of poorly designed trash. A skier still has to know how to pick out the good stuff, or have help picking it. More critically, a skier still has to make it go.

The bad news is picking a ski takes longer than reaching up in the air. The good news is that the ski you buy may suit your style far better than the old simple sticks. And then you're ready to enjoy the most fun you'll ever have getting the most complete exercise in the world.