Nyman’s Side Project: Fantasy Ski Racer

Courtney Harkins
2015-01-31 18:34

Fantasy football. Fantasy baseball. Fantasy basketball. And…fantasy ski racing? Meet your soon-to-be most used app on your smartphone: Fantasy Ski Racer (FSR).

FSR isn’t from some web startup cranking out fantasy sports apps, or from business-suited men at ESPN. Instead, this is World Cup-winning Steven Nyman’s brilliant idea, stemming from a delayed race at Lake Louise a few years ago.

“It all started with Nolan Kasper (Warren, VT) and me, kicking around ideas when it was -30° at a Lake Louise NorAm a few years ago,” said Nyman (Sundance, UT). “I drew what we thought would be sweet on a napkin and got fired up about the idea.”

Nyman handed his brother—a computer engineer—the napkin after the race. “He said he’d make it happen,” remembered Nyman. From there, they enlisted more help from high school friend Pete Rugh, an accomplished web designer.

The three came out with the first version of the website at the end of 2010. It was an instant success. “I think there were 10,000 people that signed up,” said Nyman. “It was awesome.”

But, as with most first versions of a website, it was plagued with bugs and wasn’t easy to use. This hindered fans from playing, and many abandoned the website. In 2012, Nyman decided FSR needed a makeover.

Enter Phil Gross, cofounder of Adage Capital Management and a trustee of the U.S. Ski Team. “He loved the idea,” said Nyman. “He told me, ‘Let’s make this big.’” 

Fantasy Ski Racer's reformatted top-10 app.

With funding behind FSR, the guys decided to reformat the website into a simple, easy-to-use app. And they changed the game. No longer would be based off of drafting a team and trading racers throughout the season. Instead, they kept it simple. Every race—be it in Kitzbuehel, Wengen, Flachau or Lake Louise—you select who you think will be in the top 10. After the race, an algorithm scores your picks according to how accurate you are. For example, if you name all top 10 racers in the right order, you get 100 points. If none of your selections end up in the top 10, you get zero points. Let’s say you name someone to make the top 10 and they’re running bib 25, you can win more points than if they were running bib 3. Make sense? You can also challenge your friends and create your own leagues.

“The biggest goal is to promote ski racing,” Nyman commented. “It’s about not just following your fellow countrymen. It’s about following the tour.”

Not only is the game fun, it also gives back. With Nyman funding his way through the sport this season, he realized how many up-and-coming athletes need support. “I decided it would be great to give back to those kids who dedicated their lives to ski racing,” said Nyman. 50 percent of the app’s proceeds go to this foundation.

Although you can play against your family, friends and teammates, you can also see how your team stacks up against other pro ski racers' lineups. “We have athletes all over the world that play—both former and current,” said Nyman. “Hans Olsson [of Sweden] is super into it. Patrick Jaerbyn [of Sweden], Julien Lizeroux [of France], Andreas Romar [of Finland] and Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA), among others, all play right now, too.”

Hans Olsson spoke highly of the game. "FSR is to ski racing what parmesan cheese is to pasta!" said Olsson. "It makes a good thing great!"

Fantasy Ski Racer's promo video, featuring Steven Nyman in USSA's Center of Excellence. 

So, who’s on Nyman’s team? “If I’m in the race, I have to pick myself as the winner,” he laughed. “That’s my rule when I play the game. But, if I’m not racing, I’ve picked Khoroshilov a lot, and Hirscher, Lindsey [Vonn], Fenninger, Maze, Neureuther. I always pick me some Will Brandenburg, too.”

With the World Championships coming up, Nyman offers some glimpses into who should be on your fantasy team. “Ted [Ligety] will step it up in GS, but it will be a sweet battle with Hirscher,” he hinted. “[Italian Guiliano] Razzoli could be a dark horse in slalom.”

But, of course, he’ll be picking himself as the winner in the downhill and super G. He might even dust off his slalom skis for the combined.

As Nyman heads next to Vail/Beaver Creek, he hopes you’ll download FSR—available on iTunes and Google Play—to play at World Champs. He has some ideas of next steps for the app, but for now, he’s just focused on winning races and taking home some hardware. He just hopes you’ll put him in your top spot, too.



Preview the new U.S. Ski & Snowboard website.