Steamboat sends Olympians off to Sochi with fireworks

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— Steamboat Springs will host its fourth Olympic send-off of this century at the base of the ski area late Saturday afternoon, and 2014’s celebration could be remembered for all of the Olympic selfies it produces.

The Olympic send-off is all about honoring the athletes who are on their way to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. But for weekend skiers and riders who aren’t making the trip, Saturday’s event might be the best chance they get to photograph themselves with an Olympic hero and share it with the world through social media.

If you go

What: Olympic Send-Off and Celebration to honor a group of past, present and brand new Olympians on the eve of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Followed by an opportunity to meet and be photographed with the athletes.

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Near the music stage in Gondola Square at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

“It’s not one entity or organization, but the entire community that openly embraces these athletes and plays a key role in establishing the core foundation for Steamboat,” said ski area Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman. “The Olympic celebration and send-off is a way for the entire community to come together to celebrate the spirit of competition and all that these athletes have accomplished.”

Expect 2010 medalists Billy Demong, Nordic combined gold, and Todd Lodwick, Nordic combined silver, plus gold-medal-winning mogul skier Hannah Kearney to be on hand.

Kearney is here with her teammates on the U.S. freestyle team, conducting their final training camp before the games at the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex on the Voo Doo Trail. Steamboat mogul skiers Eliza Outtrim and Patrick Deneen are among those teammates.

The event begins at 4 p.m. with skills demonstration by athletes who compete with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which has either trained or produced 79 Olympians. This winter marks the club’s centennial. A big screen mobile television will make it easy to see and hear the dignitaries and Olympic athletes who take the stage to be introduced to the crowd. The finale will include fireworks and the lighting of a 15-foot-tall cauldron that will burn throughout the Olympic Games.

Following the program on stage, an autograph session will allow fans and supporters to meet-and-greet the athletes, obtain autographs and have photographs taken.

Nordic combined skiers joining Lodwick and Demong at these games are brothers Taylor Fletcher and Bryan Fletcher. Demong is from Vermontville, N.Y., and claims Lake Placid as his home club, but he spent years training here and there has been a long attachment with Steamboat.

Steamboat has the distinction this year of sending two sibling tandems to compete in Sochi — Taylor and Arielle Gold recently were named to represent the stars and stripes in the snowboard half-pipe event. However, the Golds are taking part in the X Games in Aspen on Saturday and won’t be at the Olympic Send-Off.

Another Steamboat snowboarder, Alpine racer Justin Reiter will proudly stand up and receive his accolades after being named to his first Olympic team.

Other members of the U.S. Freestyle Team who will be present include Heidi Kloser, Heather McPhie and Brad Wilson.

There also will be an international flare to this year’s send-off. Australian snowboard cross athletes Jarryd Hughes and Belle Brockhoff will be recognized along with countryman Richard Wilkes and snowboarder Ester Ledecka, of the Czech Republic.

In addition, many past Steamboat Olympians will greet the public.

The ski area already will have shuttles running from the Meadows Parking Lot that evening to accommodate night skiing. The beginning of night skiing Saturday will be pushed back to 6:30 p.m. instead of 5:30 and run till 9:30 p.m.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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