Olympic teams look to 'Boat

Howelsen, Steamboat provide great training venues

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When the Winter Olympic Games come to Utah in 2002, the folks who run the ski jumps, nordic facilities and freestyle complexes in Steamboat are hoping to play a role.

"Steamboat is a perfect place for Olympic teams to train," Howelsen Hill Ski Area manager Jeff Nelson said. "I expect a lot of countries will be interested in our jumps and the ice skating rink."

Both of those Steamboat Springs amenities are listed in the Winter Olympics training guide, which was released just a few months ago. Also listed are the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex and the Steamboat Ski Area as whole.

"I think the Olympics coming to Utah will be a wonderful opportunity for us here in Steamboat," ice rink manager Stacy Foster said. "We have such a wide array of facilities here in Steamboat that should be very appealing to other countries looking for a place to train."

Jim Schneider at the Steamboat Ski Area said his resort is not actively marketing its venues for Olympic training but expects some countries to turn to the Yampa Valley, which has a similar altitude and climate as Park City.

"We already had one women's alpine team training in Steamboat earlier this year and I wouldn't be surprised to have some other countries start expressing some interest."

He said the Park Smalley complex is perfect for training because the jumps and mogul runs are adjacent to one another.

Foster pointed to the Howelsen jumps and the Olympic-size ice skating rink, as well as the community of Steamboat Springs, when asked why Olympic teams might want to pick Steamboat as a place to train.

"We haven't had any interest yet, but I think that will change when the World Cup comes here later this month," Nelson, the Howelsen manager, said.

He expects high interest in both the jumps and ice skating rink because they're one-of-a-kind facilities in the region. Nelson said there is less interest in Howelsen Ski Area because there are plenty of other ski areas in both Utah and Colorado that offer athletes excellent training opportunities.

The ski jumps, however, will be the only ones open in the region once Park City closes its facilities two weeks prior to the start of the Olympic Games next winter, and Nelson is sure his phone will be kept ringing by interested teams.

The Howelsen Ice Arena is one of two Olympic-size skating rinks in Colorado and in the entire region. The only other rink in the same class is the one at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Nelson also said he thinks Steamboat is appealing because teams can drive here from Utah instead of flying.

He admits teams could fly to Calgary or Lake Placid in about the same amount of time, but they would have to trust their equipment to the airlines. If they drive, they can haul their skis and skates with them.

"The advantage is that they can keep all their stuff together and will not have to worry about losing skis or their equipment," Nelson said.

The Winter Sports Club is putting together a package to hand out to the teams that will be in Steamboat for the Nordic Combined World Cup at the end of January. Nelson said he thinks the campaign will spark some interest.

"I think this will be really neat for our community," Nelson said. "It will be a chance for us to have a part of the Olympics here in our own community."

Foster also is excited about the chance to host world-class teams here in Steamboat. She said she thinks the Steamboat facilities can offer the world some of the best training opportunities around.

Foster said the Howelsen Ice Arena is suitable for hockey, figure skating, short-track speed skating and even curling if need be.

Steamboat's altitude also makes it a great place to get acclimated to the high altitude the athletes will face in Utah.

Foster also said there hasn't been any interest in using the ice rink at Howelsen, but like Nelson, she expects that to change as the events draw closer.

"The training guide has only been out a few months and there is still some time before the Olympics," Foster said. "We might send out some letters, but we will just have to see how things go."

Both the Steamboat and Howelsen Hill ski areas are listed in the Salt Lake City Pre-game Training Guide.

Steamboat is listed under alpine, freestyle and snowboarding. Howelsen is listed for its nordic facilities and ice skating rink.

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