Steamboat resident keeping spectators safe at Winter Olympics | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat resident keeping spectators safe at Winter Olympics

Luke Graham

— Craig Malchow doesn't mind at all that he's working while on paid time off from work.

Malchow, a Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue member and volunteer ski patrolman at Steamboat Ski Area, is working spectator ski patrol at Alpine events in Whistler, British Columbia, during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

With crowds of more than 6,000 at each event and a schedule that has changed rapidly after rough weather early in the games, Malchow has been busy.

But he's not complaining. Malchow said there are many reasons he loves his temporary job at the Olympics, but one stands out.

"It's just the people you work with — to be in the stands with the great people that I work with," Malchow said early Sunday morning before the start of the men's super combined ski event, in which American Bode Miller would win his first gold medal.

Malchow said fans show national pride in all kinds of ways.

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"The Swiss (fans) with the huge cowbells are ridiculous," he said.

Malchow was working at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah, a couple of years ago when officials from Whistler came to check out the venue.

They told him about the program and Malchow decided to apply. It took two years to get the job, but Malchow's here.

"It was lengthy," he said about the process, "but well worth it."

His job consists of making sure everyone in the stands is OK. He's one of two patrollers at the base area and provides assistance if someone crashes near the bottom or needs to be airlifted out by helicopter.

Malchow said his average day means getting on the mountain by 6 a.m. and finishing around 4 p.m. He's living with other workers and sharing a room with a guy from Ottawa. He's also been able to take in several of the events, including luge, bobsled and all the Alpine skiing.

He's met Lindsey Vonn and freestyle moguls bronze medalist Shannon Bahrke. And he went to the Opening Cere­monies.

"That was absolutely amazing," he said. "It might be the only Olympics I go to so it was worth every penny."

Malchow moved to Steamboat in March 2008 after getting a job with the city's fire department.

Knowing he might have an opportunity to go to Vancouver, he banked as much paid time off as he could and changed as many shifts with co-workers as he could.

He said he wasn't really into ski racing while growing up in Green Bay, Wis., but started to get into the sport when he moved to the West.

Malchow will work through the week before returning home March 1. He's going to attend Tuesday's Nordic combined team event, where he'll be waving a giant Steamboat Springs flag.

"It's a chance of a lifetime," he said. "How can you pass this up? It's living the dream. I'm having a great time up here. It's the experience of a lifetime. You couldn't ask for anything better."

— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com