Tom Ross: I want my ski TV
January 30, 2012
Steamboat Springs — I'm an old wannabe mogul monster with one missing knee, but there's no doubt in my mind that what Shaun White did in the Winter X Games superpipe finals Sunday night was among the most athletic feats I've ever seen on snow.
You can debate whether judges in any sport should ever issue a perfect score, but the White-hot trip down the pipe at Aspen that gave Shaun a fifth consecutive gold medal was a transcendent moment in snow sports.
And I don't even know what to say about Heath Frisby's daredevil front flip on a snowmobile, except for maybe, "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be X Games snowmobilers."
I'm convinced that skier slopestyle is more exciting than the original snowboard version, and how about Canadian Roz Groenewoud throwing down a fitting memorial for her late teammate Sarah Burke with a gold medal of her own in ski superpipe?
Fatefully, White's perfect moment arrived just as I was trying to figure out when I'll get my next chance to witness the downhill Alpine ski racing brilliance of Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn on TV.
At the beginning of winter, I saw her devastate a field of the fastest women skiers in the world at Whistler, British Columbia. But I'll be lucky to catch her again this season.
Vonn and the rest of the athletes in the Fastest Show on Snow have dropped off my screen with the sudden disappearance of NBC's Universal Sports.
The channel formerly carried sports like rugby, track and field, figure skating and competitive swimming, as well as winter sports.
The diverse international sports programming on NBC Universal used to be on Channel 250 on my remote. But Comcast doesn't carry ski racing in Ski Town USA any longer. I know, it's a bummer.
However, it wasn't Comcast that dumped Universal Sports. Instead, the disappearance of the programming was due to Universal's own decision to seek a new business model.
The Los Angeles Times explained in a Jan. 4 column that Universal wasn't really owned by NBC, and prior to Jan. 1, Universal Sports was offered to cable companies for free. Now, the company is asking cable distributors to carry its programming on specialty packages that consumers pay extra to receive.
NBC has subsequently re-branded the former Versus network as the NBC Sports Network, but so far, it isn't offering much in the way of skiing and other snow sports. Maybe that will change.
Once I recovered from the adrenaline of watching X Games events like Mono Skier X and Women's Skier X (you might recognize them as sit skier cross and women's skier cross), it really dawned on me that the TV exposure and the product marketing that the Winter X Games drive is permanently altering our sports culture.
I used to occasionally be able to find World Cup cross-county skiing and Nordic combined skiing on NBC Universal Sports. Now I'm watching taped highlights on Universal's Web page.
NBC Universal's Web page invites viewers to fill in their zip codes and find their cable provider to arrange for service. However, if you live in Ski Town USA and depend upon cable TV, you'll be disappointed to find the service is no longer available through Comcast.
I would sign up for a pay-per-view system to watch Vonn ski downhill, and I'd for sure pay to watch some significant international cross-country and Nordic combined competitions.
One would think that in the 21st century, the sports television industry could figure it out how to profitably serve its niche markets. World Cup skiing footage already is being shot in Europe whether or not there's a deal for American television exposure. How hard can it be?
Anyone for Nordic slopestyle?
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com