John F. Russell: Start of ski season acts as warning bell for Olympic hopefuls

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— On Friday, the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area announced it would open Sunday for the 2013-14 season.

John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

Many skiers around the state were thrilled to hear that the season had officially opened in the hills of Colorado, and more than a few in Steamboat Springs understand just how important this winter will be.

Although skiing still is more than six weeks away in the Yampa Valley, this is shaping up to be a special winter in a town that wears it’s Olympic heritage on its sleeve.

The start of the ski season is a warning bell for many of our local Nordic combined athletes, skiers and snowboarders who have been looking forward to this winter since the closing ceremonies unfolded in Canada in February 2010.

In a few short months, many of those local athletes are hoping for the chance to shine on the snow-covered slopes of resorts in Sochi, Russia. They will provide the stories and the inspiration that will fuel the 2014 Winter Olympics.

But they have to get there first.

Sochi represents the chance for those athletes to prove they belong among the world's best, and in Steamboat Springs, the Olympics are a chance to celebrate a long-running tradition that separates our town from many others around the world.

Among this year’s hopefuls are athletes I have known for years, and there are many athletes for whom I will be pulling.

The announcements of which athletes will fill the ranks of the U.S. Ski Team still are down the road, but I have to think more than a few locals are in the mix again this season. During the next few months, we will learn their stories and follow their dreams.

In the next several months, the competitions they compete in and the results they collect will determine their futures.

Not all of them will make the cut, and that will be disappointing. But for a few, this winter will be the pinnacle of what they are working for. It’s their chance to represent the U.S. in Russia and take their place in a long line of athletes who have called Steamboat Springs home.

The ski season in Colorado began this week bringing a smile to skiers' faces across the state. But for the athletes who will be competing in the 2014 Olympics, this ski season marks the start of the final stretch of a journey that began many years ago.

It’s a journey that started with a child’s dream and has grown with them into the opportunity of a lifetime.

I think that is the great thing about the Olympics. In the real world, it’s not all about the medals or the media attention.

No, the Olympics is about the goal of being an Olympic athlete; it’s about the dream of representing your country — or in Steamboat’s case — the dream of representing our mountain town on one of the biggest stages the world knows.

On Sunday, a special ski season began in Colorado among the yellow and gold of the last changing Aspens. If dreams come true, athletes from Colorado and Steamboat will discover their own golden hue in the mountains of Russia.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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