New XC Ski Events: The Blue Sky Checklist
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You say you have what might be a great idea for a new XC ski event? This is your starting place for determining the logistical and financial viability of a particular event. You should do a quick run-thru this list before you even start forming a basic organizational unit. It is pointless to organize a committee for an event that will ultimately prove logistically unworkable or financially unrealistic. Think of this as your "blue sky checklist" stage. Note that even If you determine that the event can work using this checklist, you'll want to go down the list again with an organizing group to fill in all the missing pieces (and discover all the nasty details you overlooked!). Putting in the time now can save you countless headaches down the road!
- Where, When, and How -- The three most important questions you need to answer. What is your ideal venue and course? Does the site work for the participant base you are trying to attract? Is the site logistically realistic? What will be the ideal day or week to hold the event? Do you want to specify a ski technique or provide for both techniques? Are you going to have different lengths of events? Do you have enough room for start/finish area(s) or other types of event needs?
- Permits and Red Tape -- Do you need permission with any official body? Do you need to warn neighborhood residents? What about insurance? Have you checked every possible calendar for potential conflicts of interest? This means local and regional general event calendars as well as local, regional, and national ski calendars. Do you need police help with traffic back-ups or road crossings?
- Weather -- Can this event handle bad weather--too much snow or too little? What are your contingency plans? What kind of shelter can you provide? Can you keep important timing/P.A. systems and people out of the elements? Would weather impact search/rescue or road conditions getting to and from the event?
- Restrooms -- Do you have enough of them for the amount of people? Portable restrooms are always a possibility but they need time to arrange/pick-up and they cost money.
- Shelter -- Do you need to rent tents? Construct portable buildings? Do you have access to existing buildings? If planning a point-to-point event, do you have shelter at both ends of the event?
- Power -- What are your power needs? Timing, P.A.system, heaters, etc. can all demand electricity OR they can be run on batteries, gas, generators, etc.. Does the site(s) have a power source and/or can extension cords be run out to portable buildings? What alternatives do you have?
- Parking -- Will the site(s) handle enough cars? What about snow removal or water run-off on event day? How many people will it take to direct traffic? Will you need to run parking shuttles...if so, can you afford it?
- Shuttle Transportation -- Since many of the best events in the world utilize point-to-point courses, you may need to develop a plan for transporting participants from one end of the course to the other. The cost and hassle of shuttles must be weighed in determining if a point-to-point layout will work for your event.
- Grooming -- Do you have access to sufficient grooming machines? For major XC ski events you can NOT afford to skip in grooming. Racers and tourers alike are very demanding (often ridiculously so) about event grooming and you will need to do everything possible to guarantee the best tracks possible. Do you have a back-up grooming option? Machines will break at the worse possible time! Do you have an experienced operating crew? What about back-up operators? Is the route wide enough for the machines you want to use?
- Event Controls -- What are your needs in terms of course markings, signs, stadium/event set-up, crowd controls, etc.? Do you have sponsor support for some of these items (Ex. sponsored course flags) or do you need to factor some or all of these costs in your budget?
- Food and Drink -- Any event will generate hungry and thirsty people. Longer events require multiple feed stations. What kinds of facilities are available? Local restaurants often will have portable event stands they might be willing to set-up. Winter festivals are not uncommon so look around for everyone from hot dog vendors to service clubs with coffee and hot cocoa stands that would be willing to work your event. For your participants you'll want to provide some kind of refreshments on par with the type of event. This can range from simple post-event snacks to elaborate banquets and buffets.
- First Aid -- Any event has the potential for accidents or emergencies. Do you have basic emergency supplies on hand? For actual racing events you'll need to have an emergency sled, snowmobile, and trained rescuers. Do you have trained medical volunteers? Tip: Great places to look for first aid volunteers are your local hospital,search and rescue group, Alpine or Nordic Ski Patrol, and local sheriff/EMT/firehouse offices.
- P.A. System -- Just about every event involving more than a hundred people can use a P.A. system. Announcements, instructions, results, commentary, and even music all add tremendously to event efficiency and enjoyment. There are three requirements for a P.A. system:
1.) Reliable--meaning it won't break down right before race start!
2.) Loud enough and/or has enough speakers to reach the entire stadium or event area.
3.) Someone knowledgeable and adept at public speaking on the microphone. Believe me, it would be better not to have a P.A. system than to have a clueless or annoying announcer driving everyone crazy.
- Timing -- For actual race events you must have both electronic and hand-timed (back-up) timing run by either professionals or highly-trained volunteers. This is another place you must be 100% sure that you have all your bases covered! Is there a local or regional outfit that can do the timing? Do they have display boards? For large or complex events you may need chip timing -- is that feasible with cost/logistics? If you do the timing within your Club, do you have someone that is qualified to train a complete timing group? Note that it is simply not enough to have someone familiar with spreadsheets and PC equations. Ski races are not conducted in cozy offices with hours on end to figure out little quirks in a custom timing program. Even smaller events demand a level of professionalism that usually only a crack volunteer team or a top-notch timing provider can provide. If you skimp, you'll ultimately pay...believe it.