Go Alpine taxi drivers Chris Lohmann, from left, Jim McVeigh and Jeff Hall, of Steamboat Springs, leave Wednesday for the long drive to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they will serve as shuttle drivers for spectators and athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympics. They aren’t scheduled to return until March 2.

Photo by Tom Ross

Go Alpine taxi drivers Chris Lohmann, from left, Jim McVeigh and Jeff Hall, of Steamboat Springs, leave Wednesday for the long drive to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they will serve as shuttle drivers for spectators and athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympics. They aren’t scheduled to return until March 2.

Tom Ross: Steamboat’s Olympic driving team

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

I’m pleased today to be able to introduce you to three new members of the Steamboat Olympic contingent whom you may have previously overlooked.

No, Chris Lohmann, Jeff Hall and Jim McVeigh aren’t exactly household names. But then, neither are the members of the Latvian curling team.

Before I mislead you, I should point out that Lohmann, Hall and McVeigh aren’t Olympic athletes — they’re Olympic drivers. And that makes them a special part of the Olympic family.

All three employees of Go Alpine taxi company in Steamboat Springs will leave Wednesday for a three-day trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they’ll remain throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics. Without professional drivers like them, the Olympics couldn’t function.

“If somebody had told me they would pay my expenses to go to the Olympics, pay me a salary and pay me to drive back home,” I wouldn’t have believed it, McVeigh said. But that dream is about to come true.

The Steamboat men will work five to seven days a week, shuttling spectators, and perhaps even international athletes, to the different competition venues. There are no promises of when they’ll get a day off and no assurances they’ll get tickets. But they’ll be darn cheerful the entire time. After all, they’re among the best Steamboat has to offer.

The three men were selected by their supervisors at Go Alpine for their outstanding safety records, ability to work well with the public and their longevity with Go Alpine.

There are Go Alpine drivers who have worked far longer with the company on a seasonal basis, but these are the guys who work for fares and tips 12 months of the year. Hall, for example, came to Go Alpine five years ago after working as a chef in Steamboat’s leading restaurants for many seasons. He’s looking forward to rubbing shoulders with a new generation of mogul skier at the Olympics.

“I’ve been hanging around with and skiing with a lot of the freestylers in town for a long time,” Hall said.

Lohmann would like to use a day off from his driving duties to ski Whistler.

“It will be a nice break and something exciting to do,” Lohmann said. “Just contributing to the games; I think that’s the exciting part.”

McVeigh has visited Vancouver before and looks forward to meeting the natives as well as people from all across the globe — at least people from places with a winter climate.

“Vancouver’s beautiful, and I can’t tell you how friendly the people are,” he said

Based on my own experiences at the 2002 Winter Olympics, McVeigh is in for a treat. The international crowds circulating throughout the competition venues in the mountains outside Salt Lake City eight years ago were so gregarious that it made me suspicious. It occurred to me that the organizing committee might have put something in the water to keep us all euphoric while we waited in the inevitable lines.

The members of Steam­boat’s Olympic driving team begin their marathon trip to the Winter Olympics on Wednesday when they travel to Denver to meet with 18 other drivers who will form a convoy of new 20-plus-passenger mini-coaches operated by Ramblin Express, of Colorado Springs.

They’ll work hard in Vancouver next month, but they’ll receive a per diem and draw a wage for every day they’re away from home, whether they get behind the wheel.

I promise you, Steamboat’s Olympic driving team is off on an adventure they will relish for many years to come. Work hard, play hard guys!

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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