By Brian Pinelli
So you think you know ski racing, huh?
Over a few beers, you lounge around with buddies, arguing that Bode Miller is now the man to beat at the Hahnenkamm since that Swiss guy finally decided to hang up his skis, Ivica Kostelic is untouchable at the Wengen slalom while four Swedes will crack the top ten and Tina Maze will consistently find her way onto every super-G podium this season.
Want to prove it?
Look no further than Fantasy Ski Racer www.fantasyskiracer.com. Whether you choose to join a league with friends or compete against the approximately 5000 others who fearlessly selected races from Sölden to Schladming last season, the immensely challenging, highly addictive and often humbling game is the ultimate test of ski racing prognostication.
The brainchild of U.S. downhiller Steve Nyman, this winter marks the third season for the innovative website. The concept is simple: before each and every World Cup race, accurately predict the top ten finishers. However, conducting the required research and attaining the knowledge to ascend to the top of the virtual podium is almost as tough as executing perfect turns on Kitzbühel’s Steilhang.
“It was something I dreamt up while at Lake Louise for Nor-Ams a couple of years ago,” said Nyman, who has raced on the World Cup circuit since 2002. “I thought this would be cool and wrote down the idea on a napkin. Then I talked to my brother who was studying web design and he was like “I’m in.” He’s making it function and I bring the connections and some ideas.”
Since the game’s debut two seasons ago, the amount of ski racing aficionados combined with World Cup racers playing has grown fast and furiously. In 2010, 2000 participants signed on, a number which climbed to more than 5000 last winter.
“There’s quite a few guys on tour who play the game,” said Swedish downhiller Hans Olsson, also a FSR competitor. “I talk to friends about what guys are hot and which guys are not. Obviously, you have some insider information. It makes it more fun to watch races when you pick who is going to win.”
“It’s a fun concept, but I made a deal with Nyman that if we put in picks for races that we were competing in, then we had to pick ourselves to win,” said Nyman’s U.S. teammate, Marco Sullivan. “As you know that has not really panned out recently,” he joked.For the new season, Fantasy Ski Racer will present a fresh look with a fully re-designed site and a second version of the game which is more like traditional U.S. fantasy football. Participants can draft six racers, two for the overall standings, two for speed events and two for tech events, with the option to substitute or trade racers as the season moves along.
Also breaking new ground, the website will unveil live timing of races, highlights courtesy of Universal Sports, FIS racer bios, connections to Facebook profiles and a revamped scoring system in the original game placing added emphasis on correctly selecting racers in the top ten. Unlike last season, if you are lazy and forget to submit choices for a race, your previous top ten racers will automatically be entered.Nyman has also attracted Spyder as a new sponsor of Fantasy Ski Racer joining Fischer and Poc Sports.
Also available on FSR, players can find the latest news courtesy of Ski Racing, while former U.S. Ski Team coach Greg Needell offers his expertise with insider tips such as which junior racers will flourish based upon how many kilos of water were injected into the upper third of the racehill on a partly cloudy day, while factoring in their Zodiac signs. Toss in well-informed journalist Hank McKee’s mind-boggling statistics dating back to the days of bear-trap bindings and your head will be spinning whimsically with more ski racing knowledge than one can handle.
Last season’s overall Fantasy Ski Racer champion was 22-year-old U.S. Ski Team racer Colby Granstrom.
“I really only raced slalom last year, so I had a lot of time to study previous winners of tracks and who likes what snow conditions,” said Granstrom about his triumphant season. “I definitely put in an hour a day when there was time. I was in a league with a couple of friends and we were battling pretty hard right through World Cup Finals.”
No truth to the rumor that Granstrom followed Marcel Hirscher’s every move on tour asking more questions to the overall World Cup champ than a rowdy pack of Austrian journalists on deadline.
Nyman also hopes to integrate news feeds from Italian, German, Austrian and French ski racing magazines in an effort to attract more European users.
“It has a lot of potential that we haven’t tapped into,” says Nyman about FSR. “We have 5000 users, but 90% of them are from Canada and the U.S. We need to figure out how to break into Europe where the real fans are and will come out and help make it bigger.”
Nyman missed all of last season on tour due to an Achilles injury. However, the Utah native has recovered and is excited about the upcoming winter, having recently finished second and third at South American Cup downhill races in Le Parva, Chile.
“I had some horrendous races last season,” said Nyman speaking of the Fantasy Game, not actual races on the mountain considering the injury. “It’s a tough sport to predict with all the variables – the snow, start positions, weather and wind. It’s a finicky sport, but that’s what makes the game fun.”
The newly revised website is expected to launch on October 19th.
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