Friday, February 28, 2014

Olympic Reflections

Sochi Closing Ceremony
With the Olympics dominating TV for the past few weeks, it comes as quite a let down when you can't watch world class athletes whizzing across the snow and ice every night at the click of a button.

But it also inspires a lot of people to get off the couch and onto the slopes. Even in the UK where there are no ski resorts, ski fever has been so intense that there's been a surge in attendance at the 60 or so indoor ski facilities all over the country. Visits to the Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre website are triple the level of the same time last year and on the day Jenny Jones won bronze for Snowboard Slopestyle, visitors quadrupled expectations. Skiplex saw a 160 percent website surge on "Jenny day" as well as hundreds of parent calls.

In Canada, Resorts of the Rockies (RCR) is reporting an increase in ski clubs booking training space at Olympic venue, Nakiska. "There's also been much interest in the Para Alpine events coming up with many clubs training in Kimberley, British Columbia," says RCR's Matt Mosteller. "In Fernie it is all big mountain and freestyle programs which are up in club participants over 20 percent." In the USA, Mike Jankowski - US Freeskiing and Snowboarding Head Coach - launched his ski career in Arizona Snowbowl in the 90s. The resort has seen record rates this season, partly due to their strong links with the Games.
Kelsey Serwa, Ski Cross Olympic Silver Medallist from
Big White
At Big White, BC, Kelsey Serwa's silver medal is inspiring parents to boost their kids' abilities. "Since Kelsey has won Olympic Silver Medal we have seen an increase in booking inquiries in our children’s after school program by 12 percent," says Senior VP, Michael Ballingall. "Interest in the race club is up but new bookings cannot be manufactured until next season. With this increase in activity especially in the children’s sector we are putting on an extra children’s camp for spring break."

I know how these wannabees all feel: I have the ski itch after watching the Olympics. If I hadn't already booked a ski holiday to Canada next week, I know I would be googling right now to book a trip! It's a great time to ski - March is traditionally one of the snowiest months of the winter, there's been a substantial buildup of snow over the past four months, and there's the bonus of warmer weather than early season.

During the fall, I managed to interview several Canadian Olympic hopefuls for a couple of stories I was writing - one for the Dallas Morning News and another project for the Calgary Herald. Tracking the interviewees' progress, I saw that one of them, Rosalind Groenewoud got seventh place in the finals of the Ski Half Pipe - a particular privilege to be there, she said, since this was the first Olympics to include her discipline. Although she didn't come away with a medal, Roz congratulated the winners on her facebook page, saying she was proud to be part of the female freeski community.

In between studies at Quest University near Whistler, Roz trains hard around Canada for freeski events and took precious time from her arduous schedule to talk to me about her home hill. Her formative years were spent at Castle Mountain in Alberta, Canada - still a haven for her when the pressure builds up. “My family has a double-wide trailer on site so it is a great place for family time, both on and off the slopes,” she told me. This is where she first got to grips with the punishing pace of moguls and big air. “The freestyle club's mogul course is now first-rate,” she said. “Many future Olympians have trained or competed there.” Her tip for Korea 2018: "I think it is a big possibility we'll see at least one Castle skier - maybe Davis Clement - going to the Olympics in moguls in 2018."

Jenn Heil (left) at Sochi
Jennifer Heil was one of the moguls analysts at Sochi. A former Olympian herself, I spoke to her early in the season about her home hill, Marmot Basin where she even has her own run - Jenn’s Run. “It is really special to me because Marmot Basin played such a critical role in both my ski development and life long passion for skiing,” she told me. Jenn also worked as a specialist in revolving issues at Sochi. Now she's looking forward to introducing her toddler to cross-country, skating and, of course, downhill skiing at Marmot. 

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, Marmot Basin has a big birthday bash planned for March 8 at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, a great place to combine sublime skiing during the day with fancy festivities by night. The Masquerade Ball includes a champagne reception, live music and dancing and four-course banquet. Ticket holders get a free ski day at nearby Marmot Basin with outdoor barbecue, family activities, music, prizes and lots of birthday cake. 

For memories of Marmot from the early days, check out Loni Klettl's blog. Loni was also an Olympic skier, still lives in Jasper and has never missed a year at Marmot since it opened.

Dave and Maya Duncan at Sochi
I don't know about you but I found the ski and boarder cross competitions the most exciting and most nerve-wracking events of the Games! Winning seemed more about survival of the fittest, last man standing, a bit like that Rollerball movie years ago. Canadian Ski Cross champ, David Duncan was a Sochi contender with high hopes. I interviewed him pre-Olympics about his love of Kicking Horse in British Columbia. “Competitive skiing can be a grind at times, so it was always nice returning home to Kicking Horse and remember why I love skiing,” he told me. “The mountain has helped keep the balance between racing and recreating.”  He said the best time to ski Kicking Horse was pretty much now: "after a fresh snowfall or sunny spring day."He missed medalling but you can read more about his signature Sochi experiences on his facebook page: 

It's been a big week for newspaper publications for me. Here are the links:

To find out why mountain getaways are good for your health, check out my latest article in the Calgary Herald Travel section last Saturday: 

And for those who get really cold skiing (and are jealous of my heated boots, heated gloves and heated ski vests), please read my article in the Houston Chronicle: Being warm can make a huge difference in your skiing as well as your entire ski vacation.

If you're a new mum or know someone who is, check out my Dallas Morning News article about Lake Louise's daycare facilities for newborn babies:

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