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I recently was part of a conference call of U.S. and Canadian cross country ski area operators. The conversation touched on who our guests are, their wants and their needs; whether we’re in a growing business (short and joyful answer: yes!); and what we need to do to create new skiers and to retain past visitors. The questions are all part of the normal agenda at these monthly meetings; they’re survival matters in our industry.

On the call were Board Members of Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA, usually pronounced “Kssaa”), an unassuming but extremely effective force in the Nordic ski world in North America. It’s a familiar name among Nordic area operators and suppliers; less so among the several hundred Nordic clubs with groomed trails; and an enigmatic acronym to most retailers.

Group Lesson Source: Jackson Hole Nordic

As for the skiing public, about the only folks who know about CCSAA have learned of it through the logo on its exceptionally useful consumer website,, which provides information on why, where, etc. to enjoy XC skiing. If you have any interest in XC, take a look at the site – it’s incredibly informative about the value of groomed trails, benefits of instruction, spotlights on XC areas and regions, etc.

That unfamiliarity is ironic but not surprising when you consider that CCSAA is a trade organization that promotes the sport but historically hasn’t tried to promote itself to the public. At the same time, it not only represents the entire recreational side of the Nordic industry (including ski publications and organizations) but generates and serves as a resource for much of the media coverage of cross country skiing.

Reese Brown, Executive Director, Cross Country Ski Areas Association.

CCSAA’s Executive Director is 62-year-old Reese Brown, a vigorous and versatile leader who has given the organization a more recognizable face and name in the industry at in-person meetings, frequent Zoom calls that discuss implications of the COVID era, and bi-weekly newsletters. Most of CCSAA’s Board are in their 50s and 60s, with, literally, decades of experience in a challenging industry.

For XC skiers, CCSAA’s accomplishments are pervasive but often may seem subtle or even mundane. Examples include helping persuade major snowcat manufacturers to explore Nordic markets; working with insurance companies to provide liability coverage at reasonable premiums (otherwise your trail pass would cost many times the current rate); and negotiating with the U.S. Forest Service to grant multi-year use permits.

CCSAA has developed a consistent signage system so skiers understand what direction to ski in; whether

CCSAA trail signage

skating/snowshoeing/fatbiking/walking is allowed on certain trails; what difficulty rating suits you best, etc. There’s also a defined way to measure trail length (sometimes called “non-repeat kilometers”). This approach may seem self-evident, but years ago some managers measured two-way routes in both directions. In one instance, a trail “network” advertised 30+ kilometers for a single non-repeat two-way 6-kilometer trail.

New in the CCSAA repertoire is primary-level consumer, retailer, and operational research, so we’re able to determine what’s growing, shrinking, or has plateaued. Knowing that you’re in a healthy business not only encourages improved services and facilities but may also enable XC areas (for example) to find new investors or loans, community partners, event sponsors, and media coverage.

So next time you’re out on the XC trails, smile at the signage, enjoy the grooming, and recognize that CCSAA may also be responsible for sensible COVID policies, inexpensive trail passes, and your use of public lands.

One Comment

  1. Barbara Kernochan says:

    I love anything written by this author. He is of course profoundly knowledgeable, but his enthusiasm and sense of whimsy really set him apart. Thanks for a great article! (And I want to hear about that lost ski suit.)

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