This is the first ever post for Nordic Insights, a new publication covering North American cross-country skiing and biathlon. We were started by a handful of defectors from another, currently better-known nordic ski news website, who believe that there is space for a site covering American skiing with competence and integrity. We are excited about this sport, excited for our future, and excited to have you with us. Thanks for reading.
Let me talk a little about who we are and what we will do. The site’s founder is Gavin Kentch, who has been writing about American skiing for six-plus years. He will handle day-to-day operations and, for the time being, most reporting. For those of you know his work from [other nordic ski website], rest assured that in this new role he will write more than just 5,000-word pieces on Alaskan athletes and ski-world esoterica like FIS points or homologation. We will be based in Anchorage, but we will have a national reach.
David Norris and Dawson Knopp will lead the Nordic Insights multimedia team; they will be hosting a podcast, working title, “Dive Deep With Daws and Dave.” David is one of the top American male distance skiers of his generation, with three top-20 finishes at World Championships, and supplanted an obscure athlete named Kílian Jornet as the course-record holder in Alaska’s Mt. Marathon race. Dawson is an accomplished domestic racer who skied for several years with APU Nordic Ski Center.
The features corps currently includes Jessica Yeaton, a two-time Olympian currently completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, who will continue her insightful posts on training, nutrition, and physiology as her academic demands permit. She is joined by Jon “Fast Big Dog” Schafer, whose series, “Looking Back, Looking Forward” will give retired athletes like Kikkan Randall and Bill Demong the chance to reflect on their career, and to consider how it informed what came next in life. Fast Big Dog will also bring back his inimitable gear reviews. The reporting corps includes Emily Schwing, who will write about World Cup skiing, among other things.
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Let me talk a little about who we are not. The [other nordic ski website] pointedly referred to above, you have likely guessed, is FasterSkier. Everyone mentioned in this post has contributed to FasterSkier at some point, and Gavin wrote hundreds of articles there over six years. I will demur as to the reasons why we left, but suffice to say that we have all happily moved on, and are excited about what we can create here.
We’re going to succeed at Nordic Insights on our own merits by publishing interesting, engaging, and accurate coverage that people want to read; “not-FasterSkier” is not an enduring marketing strategy. But nonetheless, let me mention two things up front that will set us apart from FasterSkier: commitment and integrity.
Commitment: We’re going to show up. FasterSkier last covered U.S. Nationals in person in 2018, and World Juniors in person in 2017. It hasn’t sent a reporter to a World Cup race in ages.
We’re going to have someone on site at Houghton in early January, and at Whistler in late January/early February. It’s the only way to get quality same-day, in-depth, in-person coverage from the biggest races happening on this continent this season – and if nothing changes at FasterSkier, we’ll be the only place you can find it. We’re also going to have a reporter present at at least a few European World Cup stops. We’re going to show up, in the literal sense that we will have someone present at the race venue, but also in the conceptual sense that we are committed to this sport. Commitment plus competence equals quality journalism.
Integrity: Every for-profit news site sells ads; we will do the same. But we will make it abundantly, transparently, pellucidly clear when something is an ad, or when news coverage may be influenced by an advertiser. FasterSkier has for years now run unlabeled, ghost-written sponsored content, as a vehicle in which to hide links for such insalubrious and questionably legal services as casual-encounter dating sites (“One Night Friend, fun dating with no waiting”), online gambling, or, in an instance of supreme irony, ghost-written essay services. These articles are largely hidden on the site, or are supposed to be, but you can find them all here, via this link in the dropdown menu:
These articles (written by “FasterSkier” or “Matthew Voisin” and not labeled as sponsored posts) are barely literate, are unethical and probably violate FTC guidelines, and are insulting to your intelligence. FasterSkier has also accepted hefty fees from advertisers, then compromised their editorial integrity to write misleading “reviews” of those advertisers’ products. As the site pledges to would-be advertisers, a FasterSkier gear review promises to “highlight the strengths and general appeal of the item,” not so much drawbacks or less appealing aspects.
We won’t do this. Period. Ads will be ads, articles will be articles, and never the twain shall meet, particularly not in insidious “native advertising.” Anything sponsored will be unambiguously marked as sponsored, and ad dollars will simply not influence our coverage or the conclusions of our gear reviews. You may or may not agree with our insights, but you will be able to trust that they are our independent insights, not an advertiser’s.
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Back to who we are: We are long-time ski fans, and we care deeply about nordic skiing. We think that we can help American skiing by publishing interesting, accurate, and thought-provoking coverage of this sport. We are skiers at the recreational and professional levels; the slowest of us trains voraciously and races broadly. We know what it’s like to do bounding intervals in the rain in October, what it’s like to dig deep on the race course, and what it’s like to cross the finish line, return to consciousness, and see a number by your name that does not reflect what you knew you were capable of that day. We pledge to never stick a microphone in an athlete’s face in the mixed zone and ask a “question” like, “You must be really disappointed with that result; tell us how disappointed you are right now.”
Formal advertising rates and donation options will be coming soon, but for the time being the single best thing you can do to help us succeed is to keep reading. And tell your friends to read us, too. FasterSkier has published two non-sponsored articles in the last month; we have eight on our first day. And there’s more where that came from – as Ben Husaby told me when we first met, “You can write more words about cross-country skiing than anyone I’ve ever met.” If you’d like to read about American skiing, especially if you would like, well, insights about same, then don’t touch that dial.
We’re thrilled that you’re here. Come back soon. And, once again, thanks for reading.
— Gavin Kentch