Thursday, February 7, 2002
Steamboat Springs On the eve of the opening ceremonies for the Winter Games in Utah, Olympic dreams were born on the slopes of Howelsen Hill.
"Winter Carnival is one thing that keeps me coaching it's like our own Olympics," said Deb Rose, Nordic cross country development coach, as she watched more than 20 children of various ages find their own pace through an obstacle course.
Some glided while others stuttered tentatively over bumps, through slalom gates, and around a field at the base of the hill. The obstacle course held Thursday was the first of many Winter Carnival events that will run through the weekend.
"Children they're the salt of the earth. Life is hard on kids. If they come out (to ski) with a smile on their face, it is worth it," Rose said.
Rose, who has organized the obstacle course for the Winter Carnival for 17 years, said her enthusiasm to teach children hasn't changed over the years.
Her enthusiasm was matched by the efforts of the children and the parents who came to watch.
Jasper Gantick, 10, finished the course in good time.
"It was easy in some places but at the last stretch it was hard," he said.
Jill Barker came to cheer her 7-year-old son, Jake, and his fellow teammates through the obstacle course. She recently watched him compete in two junior Olympic qualifiers and was glad to see him participate in an event that wasn't accompanied by the competitive tension of other races.
"Winter Carnival is about having fun and celebrating the winter sports," said Barker. She said Jake told her he was excited to ski in a race without having a stomach full of the prerequisite butterflies.
Rose said in addition to the obstacle course many kids competed in the 20-, 30- and 50-meter jump that followed at 7 p.m. She said during the Winter Carnival youth try to get in as many events as they can. She said the impromptu community that forms at Howelsen Hill takes in simultaneous events that include children jumping off the smaller jumps, Olympic athletes jumping off the larger ramps and snowboarders performing tricks on the half-pipe. Many of the children who participate in the race include members of the Little Vikings program. Barker said the Little Vikings program is meant to get children excited about all kinds of skiing. She said it's been exciting seeing her son progress since he started skiing at the age of 2. Five years later, it's hard to get Jake out of his ski boots, she said.
And while it was certainly rewarding for the children who participated in the event, the company members who sponsored the race said it was just as satisfying for them.
Susan Lawless of SportsMed said she is proud to support children as they develop their skill as skiers and add to the enormous talent that has been produced over the generations by the Winter Sports Club programs.
Steamboat Springs will send more athletes to the winter games this year than any other community in the country.
"If the community doesn't support this kind of thing for the kids, it wouldn't be here," said Lawless. "It's an important part of the community we want to give back to."