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Devil's Thumb Ranch Time for the Honey Harvest

Harvesting honey at Devil’s Thumb

Harvesting honey at Devil’s Thumb

Autumn in Rockies - it’s honey harvest time. In addition to crisp morning hikes, cool flowing streams, and fiery colored leaves, there’s another reason to make a beeline to Devil’s Thumb Ranch this autumn. Collecting the sustainable sweetness from their very own eighty bee hives is at the top of their honey-do list.

The busy bees and talented beekeepers have worked hard all year to ensure an abundant crop – batches upon batches of amber goodness that make the Devil’s Thumb farm fresh breakfasts more flavorful, house-made desserts more delectable, and signature cocktails even craftier.

While many of guests at Devil’s Thumb love their ranch-raised, melt-in-your-mouth, Wagyu beef – accompanied by homegrown vegetables – their locally-sourced honey is creating a buzz of its own. From the honeycomb on the cheeseboard in the resort’s Heck’s Tavern to the baked brie with mountain flower honey served at the Ranch House Restaurant, they are committed to sweetening the ranch-to-table experience every way they can.

Winter wonderland at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort

Winter wonderland at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort

In Tabernash, Colo., Devil’s Thumb Ranch is a unique, environmentally sensitive and rustically elegant wilderness resort beneath the Indian Peaks. It is one of the leading resorts that has invested in extensive sustainable energy and practices and has become one of Colorado's (and North America's) premier XC ski resorts. The ranch is at the foot of the Continental Divide in the Ranch Creek Valley (near Winter Park) with great views of the mountains, more than 5,000 acres of meadows and woodlands and 100 km of trails.

USA Today 2018-19 10Best Poll for Cross Country Ski Resorts

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The USA Today 2018-19 10Best Poll for Cross Country Ski Resorts was conducted to find the resort voted as best by the public and Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa was number one!

A panel of Nordic ski experts were asked to nominate their 20 favorite resorts, and then the top 20 from the panelists’ suggestions made the final list for the nominated 10Best Poll cross country ski resorts. The nominated resorts are then voted on by the public.

Voters were asked to vote for their favorite resort the winners were announced on Friday, December 7. 

 The expert panel, who developed the final list of cross country ski resort nominees included:

 Jennie Bender – cross country ski competitor, who has raced all over the world.

Reese Brown – Executive Director of Cross Country Ski Areas Association.

Roger Lohr – owner and editor of

Cami Thompson Graves – coach of Nordic ski team at Dartmouth College.

Jonathan Wiesel – consultant entrepreneur in the ski industry with Nordic Group International.

Congratulations to Devil’s Thumb. The cross country ski resorts for the 2018-19 USA Today 10Best Poll voted Top 10 include: 

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, CO

Cross Country Ski Headquarters, MI

Tahoe Donner Cross Country, CA

 Garnet Hill Lodge, NY

White Grass Touring Center, WV

 Lapland Lake Vacation Center, NY

 Maplelag Resort, MN

Sovereign Lake XC Center & Silver Star Mountain Resort, BC

Latigo Ranch, CO

Jackson Ski Touring Center, NH

Resorts in this article are linked to pages on and the poll provides links directly to all the resort websites.

Maine's WinterKids Program Gets Grant from Killington


The “Passport” Program is a tried and true method to introduce school children to snowsports in 10 different states and Maine’s WinterKids program goes way beyond its Passport. More than 100,000 kids have taken advantage of the WinterKids Passport program in Maine to become active and WinterKids Executive Director Julie Mulkern states emphatically, “Getting every child outdoors in winter is our goal.”

The Passport program in Maine is for fifth to seventh graders and for $20 it includes alpine and Nordic skiing, ice skating, and snow tubing. Each ski area across the state participates by offering services to the students that include two free lift tickets, or in the case of Sunday River and Sugarloaf: a one-day learn to ski packages when accompanied by one adult. Program research shows that each child brings 2.5 people with them to the ski areas. The non-Alpine areas offer free tickets as well.

 Younger kids (pre-school to fourth grade) can go Nordic skiing or snowshoeing three times each at a list of participating Nordic ski areas across the state such as Carters Cross Country in Bethel, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, and the Outdoor Center in Rangeley Lakes. Additionally, there are other special programs and events intended to engage kids during the winter such as the WinterKids Winter Games and the WinterKids Challenge. These programs offer cash prizes to schools that compete against each other to coordinate outdoor winter activities and keep track of their respective student participation. Sugarloaf Ski Resort hosts the WinterKids Downhill 24 in early March, a 24-hour ski and snowboard team challenge, to raise money for WinterKids programs.

 The Killington World Cup Committee awarded WinterKids a grant from proceeds associated with hosting two years of successful World Cup races at Killington. Mulkern commented, “The funding will allow us to expand our Nordic program for elementary school kids. Currently, we support immigrant and refugee students in Portland to participate in Portland Nordic’s 12-week XC skiing program. This grant will allow us to bring programs to more rural parts of the state, including northern Maine and the western Mountains where formal cross-country ski training programs in rural communities do not currently exist. The opportunity to participate in winter sports at a very early age will help these kids to become competitive for their middle school and high school teams, an invaluable experience they would not otherwise get.”

 The WinterKids program in Portland is supported by the Michael & Barbara Peisner Nordic Fund and it is conducted on the Riverside Golf Course that is groomed for Nordic skiing. The Portland Parks & Recreation partners with WinterKids by providing transportation.

Kids snowshoeing with the WinterKids FunPass

Kids snowshoeing with the WinterKids FunPass

 There were 230 teachers and 4,200 kids involved with the WinterKids Games in Maine, where thanks to sponsors and grants, the top three schools were awarded $5,000, $3,000 and $1,500 respectively, and other schools received equipment. There was one school in each county that participated in the WinterKids Games. The program engages parents with the kids to enjoy the winter outdoor activities. The Guide to Outdoor Active Learning produced by WinterKids makes it easy for preschool and elementary teachers to integrate fun and outdoor activity into their winter lessons - all while meeting education standards.  

 In the upcoming year, the Passport booklet is becoming an app and ski areas can offer more variety and targeted campaigns with it. WinterKids is growing beyond the passport component and has expanded to more than the additional programs mentioned in this article, whereby a meaningful public health benefit appraisal could be derived from the efforts. The organization has also begun programs in neighboring New Hampshire.

The WinterKids organization is successfully matching financial support with spearheaded campaigns with kids, schools, and communities to engage more kids in the winter outdoors, and it makes perfect sense because in the words of Mulkern “Kids’ default setting is to be outside and exploring.”

Cross Country Skier Trends from Winter 2016-17

XC skiing in the shadow of Mt. Washington at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

XC skiing in the shadow of Mt. Washington at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Participation Study  

The SIA Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Sports Participation Study published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA) gives a clear picture of the cross country ski population in the USA. In a nationwide survey conducted with more than 40,000 people it was projected that there were 5,059,000 cross country skiers in 2016-17 (last winter season). While this was higher than the recent years, the impact of weather makes year-to-year comparisons not trendable. When there is snow in populated areas, there is an increase in cross country skiers.

Other 2016-17 snow sport populations were:

alpine = 11,800,000; snowboard = 7,600,000; snowshoe = 3,700,000.
Male XC skiers outnumber female XC skiers 61% to 38%.

Male XC skiers outnumber female XC skiers 61% to 38%.

The gender of cross county skiers in 2016-17 according to the survey was 61-38 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Another way of looking at it is that the male participation has surged 24% but that would ignore the 9% decline in the number of female cross country skiers from the previous year at a time when the total number of cross country skiers increased by 9% above the previous year.

Other demographic information included that 41% of cross country skiers had a household income above $100,000 annually.

Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 51% of cross country skiers are into high impact/intensity training and 42.3% walk for fitness; 39.6% are cross trainers or use elliptical motion trainers (all sounds like indoor exercise) while 39.1% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces. The study shows that 38.6% of cross country skiers enjoy bowling and 38.4% use the treadmill (again with the indoor fitness). Interestingly the study shows hiking as an activity done by 38.4% of cross country skiers (formerly one of the top cross participation activities) and does not show alpine skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing in the top eight cross recreational activities. Either many more of the cross country skiers became fitness junkies or something is inaccurate. Traditionally, about 40% of cross country skiers also alpine skied.

The newest information showed that there are 425,000 fat bikers and last year there were 7,000 fat bikes sold.

We're still awaiting info about the average number of days that cross country skiers participated but a few years ago it was 7.2 days and 24% of them participated 9 days or more.

Why People Try or Quit Cross Country Skiing

There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing. Other factors that are impediments to cross country skiers include being able to go cross country ski locally, getting a lesson, having new equipment, being in better health, having more vacation time, and fewer work commitments.

Researchers in the industry point to trends such as an aging population of skiers, increasing costs of participation, accessibility and transportation difficulties to mountain areas, the urbanization of the new participant base, a lack of snow culture in new North American immigrants, and the suggestion that Millennials are too obsessed with their phones to get out on skis. Oh, and have we mentioned climate change? The snow line may be moving north more quickly.

In 1988 there were reportedly nearly 5.8 million cross country skiers in the US corresponding to a good snow year and the development of waxless skis. Can more people overcome the listed obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Ryan Combs, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with


Cross Country Skiing at the Boston Ski Show

At last year's Boston Ski Show there was the SIA Nordic Village with "The Biathlon Experience" including an actual laser rifle and target and daily competitions, plus introductory tryouts of cross country skiing and snowshoeing using real equipment on Astro Turf track. The Nordic Village proved to be especially popular with youngsters ready for fun new experiences on snow and it will be featured again this year Nov 9-12, 2017. Here's a Fact Sheet for this year's show.

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Last year for the first time at Boston Ski Show, cross country ski and snowshoe gear, clothing and accessories were featured and on sale at the new Nordic Specialty Shop at the Nordic Village inside the Expo hall.  According to Great Glen's Nate Harvey, "People checked out the Nordic ski products and got properly outfitted for the coming winter, including great active wear and boots. We sold more than a dozen ski packages and included a season pass with each of the purchases. A few marathon runners bought some clothing, too." He was happy to use the show to "broaden interest in cross country skiing and introduce it to people who might not have tried it before."

For years, the major metropolitan-based ski shows have attempted to include cross country skiing, but the overwhelming majority of show attendees are oriented to alpine skiing or snowboarding so show producers have had a limited focus on cross country skiing. Reese Brown, SIA Nordic Ski Director said "The show was great for us. It was standing-room-only all of the time during the busy sections and busy during the slower times. Most people had an understanding of biathlon from watching the Olympics. It was also very busy putting people on skis and snowshoes on the synthetic track. Many show attendees and exhibitors commented on how great it was to have cross country represented at the show and that there was a retail opportunity there, too." The show features radio stations simulcasts, fashion shows, and exhibits with ski areas, ski clubs, tour operators (they organize trips to ski resorts), lodging facilities, snow sports products such as ski gear, scarves, and electronic massagers, and much more. Reese commented, "I was very happy with the show and we're looking at how we can make a bigger splash next year."

The biggest and most successful annual exhibit show for cross country skiing/outdoors called the Outdoor Adventure Expo has been held for many years in Minneapolis, MN conducted by and at the location of retailer Midwest Mountaineering (held on Nov 17-19, 2017) behind the store on Cedar Street, Mnpls). This show features many seminars and presentations on the outdoors, as well as 75 regional exhibits, and a major sale. There was a Beer & Gear Social Night reception, the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which attracted 2,600 paying attendees, and a number of XC ski resorts that introduce people to their facilities and book reservations. The Outdoor Adventure Expo draws about 9,000 attendees each year and has nine classrooms at the adjacent university for seminars and presentations. Rod Johnson, owner of Midwest Mountaineering commented last year, "This was our 31st winter expo. The people get info about the outdoor skills they need and the can get equipment on sale." Photos from Reese Brown of a girl taking aim with a Biathlon rifle and the Great Glen exhibit at the Boston Ski Show.

Adaptive Mountain Bike Program in Vermont

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports mountain biking program

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports mountain biking program

The Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports organization's new Adaptive Mountain Bike Program, which is one of the first in New England offers special dates for outings in various location and limited adaptive mountain bikes to use. All abilities are welcome and participants may bring their own equipment as well.

The program is scheduled at multiple locations with outings and events planned for all level mountain bikers who have their own equipment. In addition, four adaptive mountain bikes are available for participants on a first-come, reservations-based system.

These highly adjustable bikes are ideal for individuals with spinal cord injuries, amputations or limb differences, or balance and motor skill disabilities. Vermont Adaptive purchased the bikes last summer with funding from the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs grant and Phil Black, owner of Lookout Tavern who donated monies for Vermont Adaptive to purchase a trailer for hauling the bikes to various locations statewide.

"Participants gain a sense of accomplishment when reaching the top of the mountain and that is great to see," said Kelly Walsh, Vermont Adaptive program coordinator, who is responsible for Vermont Adaptive's veterans programs.

For 2017, the US Dept of Veterans Affairs again awarded Vermont Adaptive grant monies to help purchase 10 two-wheeled mountain bikes and 10 bicycles for use on recreation paths. These bikes will be added to the existing fleet, allowing participants who don't need to use an adaptive bike to get outside, exercise and socialize with other veterans, to enjoy Vermont alongside their peers with physical disabilities.

The custom hand cycles are crafted specifically for rocky terrain with unique hand cycles that are designed for adaptive riders to cruise down the trails smoothly.

There is open enrollment for free to the mountain bike program this summer. Although Vermont Adaptive will have a limited number of adaptive mountain bikes for use, all adaptive riders are encouraged to bring their own bikes and participate in any of the summer events. Reservations are required for programming and equipment use.

The schedule will kick off with the Summer Solstice Bike Ride on June 21 at Blueberry Lake in Warren, VT followed by the Mountain Bike "Snowshed Session" on June 24 at Killington Resort. Other events include the Green Mountain Trails Bike Ride is July 9 in Pittsfield, the Blueberry Lake Bike Ride on July 9 in Warren, the Vermont Mountain Bike Association Festival on July 21-23 in Warren, the Killington Bike Ride on July 29 and the Pine Hill Park Bike Ride on August 13 in Rutland. This program is limited to Vermont but you can look for similar programs in other regions across the country by contacting organizations that resemble Vermont Adaptive.

This year's Killington Resort Adaptive Event for Independent Riders will also have bike demos "encouraging adaptive awareness for proper use of hand cycles," said Olivia Joseph, Vermont Adaptive program coordinator and organizer of the adaptive mountain bike program.

The program is seeking volunteers who have an interest in mountain biking and for further info, contact Olivia Joseph at


Are Dogs Welcome on the Ski Trails?

Dogs can be on a leash or off a leash on the ski trail

Dogs can be on a leash or off a leash on the ski trail

This winter I was menaced by a dog on the trails at Eastman Cross Country Ski Center, which is a golf course with cross country (XC) ski trails in N.H. with homes along the trails. That dog was nipping at my heels sprinting behind me for more than 150 yards and barking with bad intentions.

Then I noticed a story in the Grand Junction Sentinel about dogs on trails in Colorado; XC ski trails that are groomed by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council on U.S. Forest Service land. A proposal to formally designate some of these trails as dog-free (or trails that allow dogs) has divided the community of trail users.

The Council wants some of the trails labeled with a “no dogs” rule and enforced to formalize the unofficial law. The local ranger stated that the U.S. Forest Service’s view is that trail users are required to have their dogs leashed at trail heads and on the trails, and dogs must be under control of their owners, but that can be voice control.

There was a dog biting incident on the Grand Mesa trails in February 2016. The other concerns are with waste, safety, and trail maintenance. Dogs can be an obstacle on the trail that causes skiers to lose control on fast downhills. Some trail users have commented about the amount of dog feces on trails and dogs behavior jumping on skiers and being aggressive.

Those who want to continue bringing their dogs to the trails feel they have a right to do so and they believe the area is open for public use including pets. Signs banning dogs have been installed illegally and some skiers were using intimidation tactics to discourage people from bringing their dogs on certain trails. While some skiers want one trail dedicated as dog-free there are other skiers who favor restricting dogs from all the trails.

The Nordic Council claims that it annually spends nearly $80,000 to groom the trail network, but the Council does not have the legal power to restrict use because it is pubic land. The Forest Service is taking comments to determine if a formal environmental analysis is needed, which will take months and not guarantee any action.

According to the Cross Country Ski Areas Association there are more than 60 XC ski areas in the organization that allow dogs on some trails (there are about 300 XC ski areas in North America and many more parks with trails). Some XC areas have designated specific trails for the dogs, others welcome dogs on all the trails, and some invite the skiers with dogs to use the snowshoe trails. Some XC ski areas require the dog to be tethered to the skier and it is suggested that dog owners check with the XC ski area for their specific dog trail policy. The association’s suggestions for taking your dog on ski trails include:

Indication that dogs are welcome

Indication that dogs are welcome

  • Keep your dog under control at all times.
  • Be particularly aware of your dog at the parking lot and trail head, where you’ll encounter skiers without dogs.
  • Abide by all municipal animal control ordinances and city, state/province, and federal regulations.
  • Have proof of current rabies vaccination.
  • Be courteous to other skiers and snowshoers.
  • Bag and remove any feces.
  • Restrain dogs before and after skiing, either by attaching to leads, tying up, or by leaving them in your vehicle. Keep dogs within three feet of you or your vehicle.

Art Along the Trails Gallery at Jackson Ski Touring Center Editor lying around at the Art Along the Trails exhibit Editor lying around at the Art Along the Trails exhibit

Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH featured two local abstract painters, in a display of art with nature on a snowy Saturday in February. Instead of a white walled gallery, in its place were walls made from snow, hemlocks, and birches, all places for paintings to hang from...and the beneficiaries were on snowshoes and cross country skis.

During the four hours for viewing, hundreds of cross country skiers and snowshoers were instilled with the energy of culture experiencing the avant garde exhibit called “Art Along the Trails” in Jackson with more than two dozen paintings installed on tree trunks and limbs. Prices of the different sized paintings (some as big as three-by-four feet) ranged from $125 to $2,900. The exhibit, which included pieces with titles such as “Illuminated Icefalls” and “Cosmic Wash” was a novel idea.

The artists hoped to develop a new language by using radically different color palettes to represent local places, landmarks, and the weather of New England. Many of the canvasses were non-representational, measuring four feet by three feet with high contrast colors to express abstract landscapes in the area. The artists believed that the snowy cross country ski trails were the perfect place to host their work.    

The painting duo, Rebecca Klementovich and Kristen Pobatschnig from Conway, NH refer to themselves as the "Femme Fatales of the North" and they are working to bring more attention to female painters in northern NH, especially abstract artists. Klementovich commented, “We hauled 25 pieces on a sled to set up the show starting at 8 AM and it was only seven degrees. It was worth it watching the kids seeing abstract art in what was probably their first experience with abstract art and hoping that the introduction to it would impact them throughout their lives.”

Abstract art displayed along the trail

Abstract art displayed along the trail

Klementovich who sells most of her work in galleries located in Boston and southern New England stated that “only about 3% of sales of abstract art is by women and there is very little recognition of women abstract artists in northern New England, so we wanted to make a statement.” For more info about her art click

"The raw power of the landscape in northern New Hampshire is an extraordinary source of inspiration," said Pobatschnig. And the art scene in Jackson, which is emerging as a small gem in rural New England with four galleries and one museum seemed like the perfect place to exhibit the inspiration.

New to Cross Country Skiing? Tips for Free


So you've decided to try cross country skiing, You can call it cross country skiing, Nordic skiing, XC skiing, or ski touring - when trying cross country skiing the first few times it may be a totally new experience for you and take time for you to become confident. Experienced cross country skiers might call you a first timer, beginner, novice skier, and even a "never-ever" but as with any recreational activity, if you do it a few times, it will become easier and more familiar. Cross country skiing can take a while to master, but it is outdoor fun even on the first time on skis.

Downhill Skiing is Not the Same as Cross Country Skiing

Most people believe that if you are an alpine skier and have mastered the lift-served form of snowsports, that you can easily master cross country skiing. But alpine ski equipment is much heavier than cross country ski gear – the big plastic ski boots and wide skis provide substantially more support compared to cross country ski equipment. Snowplowing on cross country skis takes more technique to roll your ankles and hold/push the

edge of the skis against the snow while you are moving. Even though both sports are on skis and on the snow, there are many differences between downhill skiing and cross country skiing.

Wobbly Feeling

Putting on the comfortable cross country ski boots, stepping on the bindings and attaching to the narrow skis, you may feel a bit wobbly at first. You'll be gliding down the smallest incline and you may feel unsure, but bend your knees and try to relax. Don't lean backwards - bend your knees and feel your weight on your heels and you'll have more control.

You Will Fall Down

Accept that you will likely fall while cross country skiing. Everyone falls while cross country skiing sooner or later and the snow provides a soft landing. Getting up after a fall is sometimes complicated to orchestrate, but take your time to untangle and get to your knees. Once on your knees it should be easy to stand up.

Groomed Trails

Many people dream about cross country skiing as an adventure in the forest and down hills in the wild. The truth is that this form of recreation is much easier on groomed trails…that is, trails that have been packed and tracked by a machine. On groomed trails, it is easier to glide, easier to go up hills, and easier to control the speed going downhill with a snowplow technique. Cross country ski areas provide trail grooming and charge a fee to use the trails. The trail grooming, signage, maps, lodge facilities, and other services are definitely worth the fee. Most cross country ski areas do not allow dogs to use the trails, but some areas offer dog-friendly trails.

To find a cross country ski area, use the Internet or websites such as or the Cross Country Ski Areas Association ( For info about the month-long learn to ski or snowshoe program at hundreds of areas across the country, click Winter Trails.

Be Prepared

The typical safety concerns are prevalent with cross country skiing. Go out with someone else, take water and food, and have some additional clothing (dry gloves, hat, neck gaiter, etc.) in case it gets colder or snows. These concerns can arise if you take a wrong turn where you end up on a longer trail that you expected.


If the terrain that you are skiing on is perfectly flat, you should not have much problem on cross country skis but when there are hills, you'll encounter the sport's ups and downs. The first time going down a hill could be a bit frightening but as in any sport, with practice you will become more accustomed to the feeling…hopefully. It is best to get tips or a complete lesson. The various cross country ski techniques are taught by experienced or certified instructors at cross country ski areas. Most likely you have friends who try their best to provide insight on ways to master the skis. The former idea (with a certified ski instructor) is the better choice.

Get Out There

Cross country skiing provides one of the greatest full body workouts available as it uses all parts of the body's muscle groups. You may not feel exhaustion while you are out on the trails, but your body is working hard and using unfamiliar muscles, so take it easy. It's best to go on a short outing at first and build up the distance or time on the skis over multiple outings.

Getting information about equipment and the different forms of cross country skiing (on track, off track, skating, backcountry, etc.) can be found on the Internet and/or at a cross country ski area. It makes sense to rent your equipment the first couple of times to see if you like cross country skiing. When you get ready to purchase equipment, talk with professionals at a cross country ski area or retail shop to make a decision about what to purchase. Once you become a cross country skier, you'll look forward to when it snows and it will become a magical experience to enjoy every winter. Top photos, Fischer Skis, Bottom photo, Great Glen, NH

Selection of the 2022 Winter Olympic Site

Beijing, China has been selected as the host of the 2022 winter Olympics and one wonders how well it will work for the athletes. Chelsea Little a former cross country ski competitor authored a special article for the Valley News regarding the problems associated with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) selection of Beijing, China as the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics.


Little's first contention is that the IOC members are overwhelmingly oriented to summer sports. The selection of the 2022 games host was between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. Almaty is a winter-oriented city that had hosted the 2011 Asian Games and almost all of its winter sports infrastructure already exists. Beijing has very little snow and will construct totally new venues about 100 miles away from the city for the snow events (alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing), which are expected to require machine-made snow. The region where the developments are to be built has a very dry climate and the snowmaking will need to take much-needed water from the local inhabitants. It was reported that Chinese alpine ski resorts are normally closed by the time that March rolls around.


Of course, Beijing and China have problems with human rights, smog, and environmental degradation beside being run by an oppressive regime…but Almaty is similar in those refrains. Considering what went on with Sochi (environmental debacle during construction of the venues and the invasion of the Ukraine) the IOC members do not have strict standards with regard to such social and environmental issues.


The vote for Beijing was 44 of 85 and this was two votes more than the majority needed to win, so a look at the IOC voting is relevant to the discussion. It should be known that the "IOC Evaluation Committee" were the only members to actually visit the potential host sites. This is of course, necessary because a "no-visit" policy is in effect since historically it is believed that bid cities were apt to give bribes to get IOC members' votes. Few of the voting members ever actually visited Almaty but many of them had been to the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing. How can decisions be made on the host city without actually visiting the site candidates? By the way, the Evaluation Committee released a 138-page report showing that 8 of 9 commission members preferred Almaty.


With regard to the IOC host city election process, more than half of the 100 members who vote are from countries that have not won a winter Olympic medal in the last four cycles. And countries with strong winter Olympic teams such as Austria, Czech Republic, Belarus, Finland, and Slovenia are not represented among the IOC members at all. Only 9 of the voting IOC members have ever worked in winter sports.


Of the 98 winter Olympic events, 62% of the 2014 Sochi Olympic events were held on snow. Of the 100 current IOC members, only two come from a ski background (Einar Bjoerndalen, Norwegian biathlete and Gian Franco Kasper, of the International Ski Federation). There were 15 IOC members, who did not vote on the selection. They were unwilling or unable to attend the IOC meeting in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). For, example, Bjoerndalen did not attend the meeting because he was training for the World Cup to be held in Oslo, Norway in the last season of his career. He might have been able to address the IOC members regarding his experience in Almaty.


Machine-made snow is not uncommon for alpine skiers, freestylers, and snowboarders, but most of the cross country ski and biathlon event participants will be much less familiar with the manufactured snow consistency. And warm temperatures may require salting the snow, which is used to prevent it from becoming slush during the competitions. There were some of these warm temperature problems at some of the cross country and biathlon events held in Sochi. It is assumed that all snow competitors would prefer natural snow to machine-made snow. You would imagine that the natural snow is much safer compared to salted-up ice or slush!


Economically, Kazakhstan could have afforded to host the Olympic event, which they estimated at $4.5 billion, a pittance in today's Olympic game costs, particularly compared to the $51 billion Sochi price tag in 2014. The country has the largest economy in central Asia as it is the third largest non-OPEC supplier of energy to the European Union. But the Chinese consumer market presents a rosy opportunity to the IOC, who also has it eye on sponsorship potential in China.


Understanding Little's perspective, perhaps it is time that adjustments are made in the Olympic site selection process so there is more concern for the athletes and more IOC members who have experience in the winter games are appointed to make these decisions in the future. (Photo of competitor Kikkan Randall, unrelated to author)