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US skier Nyman kicks off fantasy ski league

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 2 2010 3:05 p.m. MST

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — In this fantasy league, tailbacks Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are absolutely worthless.

And fantasy participants don't procure points through touchdowns and yards but by podium finishes and fast times.

This is a league where Carlo Janka of Switzerland is as valuable as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and taking a long shot like American Travis Ganong to win a race at, say, Beaver Creek this weekend, could pay off as handsomely as the waiver-wire pickup of Eagles QB Michael Vick.

Started this season by U.S. skier Steven Nyman, the fantasy skiing league has gone from 500 enthusiasts at the start of the World Cup season to nearly 2,000 now.

Down the road, Nyman is hoping his creation has a fraction of the following of fantasy football. That's why he originally came up with the concept.

The idea is quickly catching on among his fellow ski racers. In fact, Finland's Andreas Romar is leading the league, and Sweden's Patrik Jaerbyn isn't far behind. Another Swede, Hans Olsson, also takes part in the league, along with pretty much everyone on the U.S. ski team, with the exception of Ted Ligety.

But Ligety thinks the notion is quite catchy and vowed to field a team at some point.

"You see what fantasy football has done. It gets people way more involved," Ligety said. "Without fantasy football, you wouldn't know who the second running back was on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now you know who people are. It's the same thing with this. You'll know who these skiers are."

And that's really the point.

In addition to the competition, Nyman and his creative team — his older brother and designer Pete Rugh — plan to have blogs so people can learn more about the athletes, along with taped interviews and information about the majestic mountains that host events.

"Ski racing has a lot of history," said Nyman, who's from Sundance, Utah. "This is a matter of creating the connection with fans and the racers. It's driving people to pay attention."

Especially in a non-Olympic year, when ski racing is almost an afterthought in the U.S.

The brainstorm came to Nyman while on the road in Europe when he and the Swedish skiers made friendly wagers on who would win different slalom events. Nothing complicated, just a list of the top 10 and those who would "DNF" (did not finish).

"I won a couple, Jaerbyn was pretty good at it and we had a good time," Nyman said. "It was fun."

So much so that Nyman took it to next level.

This is how it works: Players select which skiers they think will finish in the top 10 in a particular event at a World Cup stop. If that skier finishes in the place you assign, major points.

If they finish somewhere in the top 10, even more points.

Nyman also came up with a complicated algorithm to award bonus points for picking skiers outside of the top 30 in the world.

The bigger the risk, the bigger the payoff — sort of like skiing.

But there's one steadfast rule for those racers on the circuit who take part: They must select themselves.

"That's not good if you don't pick yourself," said Nyman, who has the backing of the U.S. Ski Team to launch this venture and is hoping to gain support from the rest of the World Cup.

So, how's the founder faring with his fantasy team?

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