Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ski with Olympians


Robbie Dixon, one of Whistler Blackcomb's resident Olympian athletes
Dreaming of the Olympics? Would you like to do more than just watch the Winter Games? How about actually skiing or snowboarding with an Olympian to see if some of that star quality rubs off? Or having a go at Bobsledding or Biathlon?

This week my article about Skiing with an Olympian in Canada has just been published in skicanada.org’s Snow Online News: https://www.skicanada.org/learning-from-olympians/. And so I thought I would add details here of where you can also do this at various US resorts. 

Heidi Voelker - Courtesy of Deer Valley Resort 
Deer Valley Resort  Ski With A Champion Program
DEER VALLEY RESORT: There are seven Olympians in the 'Ski With a Champion' program at Deer Valley Resort, led by Ambassador of Skiing, Heidi Voelker. Open to individuals, families or groups, these stars of skiing and snowboarding are available for half and full-day adventures. Paralympian, Chris Waddell is this year's latest addition to the program which has been running for the past two seasons. "We've seen an increased interest in media, families with young ski enthusiasts and especially corporate group events," says Deer Valley's Sr Communications Manager, Emily Summers. "The Olympic legacy is strong in Utah and specifically at Deer Valley as we were a 2002 Winter Games venue and most recently hosted an Olympic qualifying event this season for mogul and aerial athletes."

The St Regis Deer Valley – the only North American resort with a funicular! - has partnered with the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation (UOLF), offering two customized Olympic experiences for their guests this season.

Bobsled with an Olympian - Credit: Gene Sweeney Jr
‘Bobsled with an Olympian’ offers the chance to replicate the thrills of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games with Olympic Silver Medalists Valerie Fleming or Shauna Rohbock. The event starts with a presentation of Fleming’s or Rohbock’s inspirational stories and an exclusive Olympian-led tour of the bobsled track at Utah Olympic Park. Following safety demonstrations, it’s the ride of a lifetime, ripping through 10 curves while pulling 3Gs and hitting speeds up to 70 mph. Finally, there’s a medal ceremony, with an autographed photo from Shauna and Val, as well as a special souvenir – all for $3,500 per person.

The St Regis Olympic Biathlon Experience is a combo of shooting with skiing or snowshoeing with Zach Hall and Sara Studebaker Hall (both from the US Biathlon National Team, married in 2015) – at a cost of $5,000 split between a group of 10. After coaching from professional staff in the use of precision rifles - comparable to those used by Olympic bi-athletes – there’s a safety briefing, instructional range orientation and practice time followed by a mini competition. Both Olympic packages include healthy athlete breakfasts, stretching session, pop-up lunch with the athletes as well as a get-together the evening before.
Other benefits of staying at the St Regis include 24-hour Butler Service and a Val d’Isère-style ski beach at the 14,000 sq ft spa. 


Billy Kidd's free clinic at Steamboat - Courtesy of Steamboat
Olympian mogul skier Nelson Carmichael - Courtesy of Steamboat
STEAMBOAT: One of the best places to spot an Olympian on home turf is Steamboat where around 89 Olympians live and train. Many of them guide, teach or coach skiing and snowboarding. "Guests can always ski with an Olympian in Steamboat," says Steamboat's Nicole Miller. "But it’s especially popular during an Olympic year. While making some turns on the mountain and offering ski tips, Steamboat Olympians will share stories from their years of elite competition and talk about what athletes can expect at the 2018 games. They can also suggest who to watch in Pyeongchang, where 15 athletes with ties to Steamboat will be competing." For a free overview, Bill KiddSteamboat’s Director of Skiing, Olympic medalist and World Champion, will take a run down Heavenly Daze with intermediate and advanced skiers and riders. There's a sign at the top of the gondola indicating if he is skiing that day and you can join him in front of the Billy Kidd sign at the top of the Why Not trail at 1pm. Kidd also teaches a kids' race camp. Also free at Steamboat is Olympic medalist and World Cup champion, Nelson Carmichael's mogul clinic on Nelson’s Run, at 1pm on select Sundays. 


Me skiing (and lunching) with my Olympian, Linas Viatkus at Steamboat last season
Last season I skied with Olympian Linas Viatkus, a great resource for tips and tales about SteamboatRacing during university in New Mexico and Colorado, he became the Head Alpine Coach for the USCSA ski team. To fulfill his dream of competing in the Olympics, he used his Lithuanian citizenship, becoming the first alpine ski racer in the history of Lithuania at the Nagano Games in 1998. He funded his competitive career himself through carpentry work in Steamboat during the summers.

Me with Linas at Steamboat 
Now owner of Snowcap Construction (and a Fire Captain/EMT with North Routt Fire Protection District), he is also a race trainer in winter as well as a PSIA Level 3 Certified Ski Instructor. “There are more Olympians here than any other ski town in North America,” says Linas. He attributes this to the great snow and terrain in Steamboat, a strong ski culture, and impact of the legendary Olympic skier, Buddy Werner who, Linas says, put ‘Ski Town, USA’ (Steamboat’s logo) on the map. "When you ski with an Olympian, you're skiing with someone who has refined their skills to the extreme," Linas explains.  "Someone who has been in competition, around the world, with others who have also achieved greatness. There's no better way to raise your level of competition than to compete against the best in the world." He says that this perspective can translate to a skiing experience that adds a little extra depth and knowledge of the sport. "When I'm skiing with guests, they especially like to hear about my battles and hardships competing on the world stage," he says.  "From racing the longest downhill race in the world with the flu, to competing at the World Alpine Ski Championships without my equipment making it on the plane with me. The stories of enduring the hardships to achieve great heights can help provide a snap shot perspective of what it's like to be an Olympian. The most important information an Olympian can pass on not only to a skiing guest but to the world community is the notion that the Olympics test the might of men and the nation they represent not by bombs and bullets, but by their skill and ability in sport. This pushing of the human limits helps achieve an advancing peaceful world community. From the most efficient technique to the most advanced technologies the Olympics have it all. So take a run with an Olympian to experience a bit of perspective you may not find any where else." The Steamboat Olympian Program is ideal for large or corporate groups: Full day $2,500, half day $1,200. 

Nate Roberts - Courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Park City
Nate Roberts - Courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Park City
PARK CITY: This winter guests at the Waldorf Astoria Park City will have an opportunity to visit sites from the 2002 Olympic Games with a professional athlete, such as Olympian Nate Roberts, with options to ski at Park City Mountain and/or bobsled at the Utah Olympic Park with Valerie Fleming or Shauna Rohbock

The Taste of the Winter Games experience ends with a gourmet dining experience with their athlete from the chosen sport at Waldorf Astoria Park City’s acclaimed restaurant, Powder. 
Torino start 2006, brake woman Valerie Fleming and driver Shauna Rohbock - Courtesy of Utah Olympic Park
"As excitement for the forthcoming Winter Olympics builds, this is an incredible opportunity for guests of all ability levels to get into the Olympic spirit and learn what it takes to train like a professional athlete,” says Kerry Hing, GM of Waldorf Astoria Park City. “We’re lucky to have the Utah Olympic Park as our neighbors and direct access to Olympic-level slopes, and we’re thrilled to offer this exclusive and unforgettable experience to our guests.”

Miki in bright pink jacket on left, coaching at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
BRETTON WOODS: Michaela (Miki) Fera, a coach for the Bretton Woods Ski Team, runs Girl Powder Ladies Clinic and the new Powder Couple Clinic (running Feb 14, of course) with her husband. Prior to working at Bretton Woods Ski Area in New Hampshire, Miki was an associate program director and ski coach at Kimball Union Academy and a member of the Romanian National Ski Team with credits in three Olympics as well as three World Championships.

Jonny Moseley, Squaw Alpine's Olympian, hosted Saturday Night Live in 2002 and was also the host for Master of Champions and American Ninja Warrior
SQUAW VALLEY: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows offers a fun Olympic opportunity for several days in December - Ski and Ride with Olympian, Jonny MoseleyJoining the Dawn Patrol from 7:30-9am, there's the added bonus of untouched slopes and first dibs in powder, followed by an afternoon ski session topped off with après ski with Jonny at Squaw Alpine's Plaza Bar, in Olympic House. 


Après with Jonny Moseley at Squaw Alpine
“Ski & Ride with Jonny Moseley is a holiday favorite at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows," says Sam Kieckhefer, Public Relations Coordinator at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. "The chance to ski, for free, with an Olympic Gold Medalist is truly a special opportunity. And because Jonny grew up on the slopes of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, he always knows where the best snow is! From inspiring future stars to surprising long-time fans, skiing with Jonny is an event you want to be sure not to miss.”

Around 30-40 people join in the ski component with even more turning up for après. Look out for this program again next season during the December holidays.


Jonny at Squaw Alpine

OPTIONS IN EUROPE:

BOBSLEIGH/LUGE
Inghams is offering opportunities to emulate the film Cool Runnings this season. From now to April you can have a go at this exciting sport on ice at La Plagne’s Olympic bobsleigh, built for the 1992 winter games. With 19 bends, a length of 1500m and a vertical drop of 125m it’s not for the faint hearted. Choose from the Bob-Raft – a 4 man, self-steering bobsleigh which reaches speeds of 80km/h or the Speed luge – a solo descent where you plummet down the track, feet first at 90km/h. For the ultimate thrill, opt for Bob racing which twists and turns at a hair raising 120km/h reaching the bottom in just under a minute! Combine this with a stay at the Chalet Almach, fully catered with return flights and airport-to-chalet shuttle. For info visit www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Image result for CROSS COUNTRY YLLAS INGHAMSOften in the shadow of alpine skiing, not only is cross-country skiing easy to learn, it’s more sociable than downhill skiing and is a fantastic all over body workout! There’s no better place to learn than Ylläs in Lapland which offers a staggering 330km of tracks, 38 of which are floodlit meaning you don’t have to stop even when it’s dark. Warm up your legs on a short looped track, before progressing to a longer scenic route taking you through the spectacular Arctic wilderness – where you might spot a reindeer or two! Tracks are peaceful, snow-laden and well sign-posted with plenty of campfire shelters along the way to stop for a well-earned drink. Inghams offers a learn to cross-country package in Ylläs including 7 days ski and boot hire/5 day lessons and stay at the 4-star Ylläs Log Cabins. 
BOARDERCROSS
One of the most exciting disciplines to watch at the Winter Olympics is Boardercross, which sees the world’s best snowboarder’s race down a course made up of jumps, berms, rollers – sound fun? Why not test your freestyling skills at Stanton Park, located in St. Anton am Arlberg in the Austrian Tirol. Open until late April the park offers a good range of kicker and small obstacles perfect for trying out your first jumps and tricks. With a 6m tube, jumps that range from 7m to 11m and a number of challenging rails and boxes there’s plenty to inspire too. Access to the freestyle action is served by two lifts and you can re-charge your batteries at the Rendl Beach Bar, chill on the sun terrace and watch the pros in action. Inghams packages include 7 catered nights at the 4-star Mountain Lodge Chalets, St Anton, including return flights and transfers. 
ICE SKATING
If you fancy twirling around the ice like Torvill and Dean, Cortina’s Olympic ice rink is the perfect place to master your pirouette. Situated in the spectacular Italian Dolomites the stadium was built for the 1956 Winter Olympics and has been completely renovated to offer a year-round indoor ice-rink.  Get your skates on and speed across the ice with friends and family, or join one of the beginner skating or figure staking lessons available.  The ice rink also hosts 1st division ice hockey and curling championships. Stay at the 4-star Chalet Hotel Parc Victoria, Cortina on a catered basis with packages including flights and transfers. For more information and to book, visit www.inghams.co.uk or call 01483 791114.


Be a Part of Olympic Pageantry and Spirit in Lake Placid

 

Home to the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games, Lake Placid remains an active hub for the Olympics through hosting World Cup events and training Olympic athletes at the Olympic Training Center. This picturesque village, which sits on Mirror Lake and is ringed by Adirondack Mountains, is celebrating its long Olympic history throughout February. 

 

February 1-4On the eve of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the 38th Empire State Winter Games bring the spirit and excitement of fierce winter sports competition back to Lake Placid with 2,500 athletes expected to compete in more than 30 events across 17 sports.

  • The Opening Ceremony on February 1 at 6 p.m. is free and open to the public and will be held in the Herb Brooks Arena in the Lake Placid Olympic Center, a venue made famous by the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey game between Team USA and the Soviet Union.
  • The outdoor spectator village, located on Lake Placid’s Main Street, will be the site of the ESWG cauldron, a Jumbotron with live-streaming, ESWG TV event coverage, live music, spectator speed-tubing, a zip line, samples of soups and chili prepared by local chefs for Taste of the Games, and the 2018 ESWG winter bike competitions. It may not be PyeongChang, but the atmosphere will be the same. More information on the spectator village can be found here

February 9The cauldron used in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games will be relit after a torch run from the Olympic Ski Jumps to the Lake Placid Horse Show Grounds. 

February 17,18: Lake Placid will host the Freestyle and Biathlon Nor-ams on Saturday and Sunday. The event is used to qualify skiers to start in NorAm competitions and possible starts in U.S. World Cups. More information can be found here. 

Feb 24You don’t want to miss Winterfest. A Team USA event, Winterfest includes meet and greets with Olympians such as ice dancers Meryl David and Charlie White, 1980 Olympic gold medalist Jim Craig (goalie for the Miracle on Ice team), freestyle skier Jeremy Bloom, bobsledder Vonetta Flowers, and five-time Olympian speed skater Eric Heiden. He won his five medals in Lake Placid in 1980. 

There are sports demos and a free concert at the Olympic Jumping Complex featuring the band Third Eye Blind. Throughout the month, the celebration continues with Olympic themed food and drink specials. The quaint Main Street will be decorated in red, white and blue and adorned with welcome flags. Visitors can watch the Olympic competitions daily on the large jumbotron located on Main Street, next to the Olympic Center. 

Want to be an Olympian?

When not in use for competitions, anyone can take a brain-rattling bobsled ride with a professional driver and brakeman. Riders bob and weave as they wind through sharp turns at about 55 mph. Biathlon: Lake Placid is one of the few places you can take a lesson in both skiing and rifle marksmanship. Bullets and ski wax…what a combination.
Both the 1932 Olympic rink and the 400-meter speed skating oval where the American Eric Heiden won five Olympic gold medals welcome amateur skaters. And you can ski Olympic trails at Whiteface Mountain and Mt. Van Hoevenberg welcome skiers for downhill and cross-country skiing. For Lake Placid Olympic venues and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, visitors can purchase an Olympic passport that allows access to the venues for one price.

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