What does the NYTimes have against cross-country skiing?

kirk-douglas-the-heroes-of-telemark

The Article

Every four years it’s the same thing- people notice that there’s a set of Nordic sports (cross-country skiing, Biathlon, Nordic combined, ski jumping) and the intense focus and discipline required. The result is the usual spate of pieces about how much work it is, how demanding cross-country skiing and biathlon are, and how watching them is the sporting equivalent of watching paint dry.

But this article: “What Cross-CountrySkiing Reveals About theHuman Condition” by Sam Anderson, put me over the edge.

Harsher Than Usual

A typical news or sports article about cross-country skiing has to be geared for a non-participant.  I get that. It’s not a well-understood sport in most parts of the US.

When the four-year cycle of the Winter Olympics comes around, there’s a desire to buff the mythos of the dedicated athlete who isn’t doing it for big money. This tends to set lesser-known sports even further from the lives of ordinary mortals. After all, what kind of human has the ability and desire to ski 50km across uphill and down in just 2 hours anyway?

Such articles try to expose a positive human element while making a nod toward the core attraction or athletic drama of cross-country skiing. But Mr. Anderson’s article makes clear the human element is his dislike of the sport and the reasons for doing it. He makes cross-country skiing sound like a purgatory with treadmills.

A Response

So, to the editors of the New York Times Magazine and Mr. Anderson:

Yes, cross country skiing is about what Mother Nature throws down for you. From the terrain to the snow conditions, I am regularly humbled by the outdoors or my own body when skiing. I respect nature all the more for it, because I know I’ll get the same treatment from Her as anyone else out there. It’s a relief to be somewhere that doesn’t involve being judged by someone.

Competitive cross country skiers have grit and deliberation. A good ski racer has to endure with patience. They have to drive their bodies just shy of the aerobic red line, while looking for moments when digging deeper will count. All while grappling with anxiety, desire, ambition and the competition on the trail.

Perhaps by earning every kilometer cross country skiing helps develop persistence and self-control, but I wouldn’t say it’s a given. I do know that beyond the ‘slog’ there is a place of quiet exhilaration and joy to striding and gliding through the winter woods under your own power. That is why I keep doing it.

Ski trail in Italian Dolomites
Seiser Alm in the Italian Dolomites in winter

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