Åre Uphill Sprint – Glimpse Into Future Of Skiing?

Bad weather, fears of COVID-19, documented lack of enthusiasm by younger generation. Perfect storm for the venerable sport of cross country skiing?

Indeed it is – that’s why it’s time to start looking at things under entirely different, more, you know, aggressively steep, angle.

To survive and thrive cross county skiing absolutely needs to come to places like Åre

What is Åre and what makes if special? It’s a premier Scandinavian alpine skiing resort that has distinctly Swiss feeling: fancy cars parked outside swanky hotels, restaurants catering Nouvelle Cuisine, affluent downhill skiing crowd. The crowd that has little or no clue about cross country skiing ( Norwegians exempted).

This is cross country skiing’s biggest problem: 30 years ago urban kids were growing up much closer to skiing. At least in Stockholm, Moscow, Helsinki or Saint Petersburg. Feel free to add Oslo to that list – and you got skiing’s key markets through the sheer number of people living in those metros.

These days teenagers are much more likely to go on Alpine skiing holidays to places like Åre. Does anybody know of similar cross country skiing ones? That’s right – hardly ever.

So, if the big idea behind staging the recent event in Åre was to bring the sport to potential fans, we think it worked and worked rather well
The arena stands were full, spectators lined up the 666m course
Crucially, TV was covering the event in a big way – in between more popular IBU biathlon championship races
As a show, the uphill race did not disappoint – including propelling athletes who’s achievement in traditional sprint are more modest

Of course, it would be an oversimplification to say that promotion of xcskiing was the only thing on organizers’ mind. They stress, for instance. as it fashionable these days stress that no snowmaking was necessary for the event – it was simply there already and went back to being a slalom piste almost at once.

In brief: costs down for organizers, additional show in town for the holiday crowd seeking entertainment – and, one hopes, a few hundred eyeballs that got to see the “painful beauty” of xcskiing with their own eyes and might stick to it, as practitioners or fans, either is good.

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