BEHIND THE HEADLINES | SteamboatToday.com

BEHIND THE HEADLINES

Preserving ski jumping heritage

Q. What is the Colorado Olympian Project? What are you trying to do?

A. The Colorado Olympian Project is a group of residents in the Yampa Valley whose goal is to continue the heritage of ski jumping and cross-country skiing and producing Olympic athletes through the most successful winter sports club program in the country. One out of every 500 Steamboat Springs residents is a legitimate hopeful for the 2002 Olympics in Utah. In addition to the 20 prospective Olympians from Steamboat Springs, Colorado will be sending about another 45. These 65 Olympians constitute priceless recognition and association of Colorado with winter sports. Utah will be sending few, if any, winter Olympians in 2002. Should Utah’s post-Olympics consolidation plan be effective, the situation could potentially be reversed. Our group is committed to skiing, to Howelsen Hill, to Colorado, to our heritage, to our children and to future Steamboat Olympians. It is our intent to do whatever necessary to preserve this wonderful facility and heritage.

Q. Without plastic year-round surfaces, are Steamboat’s ski jumps in danger of becoming obsolete? Will the jumping program lose prominence?

A. By virtue of every other major facility in North America already having plastic surfaces, our jumps have become obsolete as year-round training facilities. It’s only our excellent snow, exceptional Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and community heritage that keeps this program going. Remember, these jumps were carved out of the hill 80 years ago.

Q. Can Steamboat continue to be a top producer of Olympians without plastic on the ski jumps?

A. We will continue to produce athletes.

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The strength of our program is that through our strength of community, excellent coaching and unique Howelsen Hill, our kids grow up training next to current Olympians. These are important role models. As this program unwinds and teams move out to Utah’s consolidated program, our unique synergy will erode, the quality of our overall facility will likely decline and our program will unravel.

Q. How much would new jumps cost?

A. We’re doing an emergency application to the State’s Energy Impact Fund for a $50,000 grant to fund engineering studies to come up with a serious answer to that question. The numbers being kicked around currently are high from $6 million to $12 million. We are looking for only a small portion locally. We are looking at engaging the skiing community, foundations, corporations and the state Legislature. Our group is grateful for the leadership being shown by Sen. Jack Taylor, Rep. Al White, the Routt County Commissioners and the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Q. Why can’t our skiers just train somewhere else? Park City is only six hours away.

A. Our jumpers can train somewhere else and, indeed, Park City is only six hours away. The issue is they leave home and their community to do it. One of the reasons for this entire effort is to preserve the community around which the program is built, vs. Park City, where they have a program around which they are trying to build a community. We’re trying to build athletes who are well-rounded people, not just top athletes.