Head down Victory Lane | ParkRecord.com

Head down Victory Lane

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

Where can you find Olympic medalists, reigning world champions and up-and-coming winter sports contenders all in one place? Right in your own backyard.

The Center of Excellence, the new headquarters for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), draws elite athletes from across the country, as well as members of 400 youth and domestic programs, to its world-class training and education facility in Park City.

On Friday, July 17, the Center is opening its doors to the public. Fans of the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding are invited to a formal dedication ceremony beginning at noon, followed by public tours from 12:30 to 3 p.m.

National team athletes, including 2006 gold medalist Ted Ligety, will be on hand to speak to visitors and sign autographs. USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt, USSA Chairman Dexter Paine, International Ski Federation Secretary General Sarah Lewis, Utah Sports Commission President Jeff Robbins and Park City Mayor Dana Williams will also be in attendance.

According to Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for USSA, the completion of the Center of Excellence marks a historic achievement in the organization’s relationship with the community. "Not only are we excited to have been in Park City for 35 years, but now to build a facility like this that complements the Olympic legacy facilities – particularly the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow – it just provides a great training environment for our athletes here in this community," he says.

The facility has been open for athlete training since the beginning of May, but this week marks the first time that the Center is welcoming the community for a behind-the-scenes look.

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The 85,000-square-foot facility features a state-of-the-art weight room, cardio area, aerials trampolines and snowboard ramps area, gymnasium, sports-medicine recovery and rehab room, nutrition center and sport-science lab.

One of the most unique features of the facility is the ramps and tramps area, where snowboarders and other athletes hone their coordination and agility skills. Former halfpipe world champion and U.S. Snowboarding halfpipe coach Ricky Bower helped design the area, which features a roller pump track with a bank turn, a kicker into the foam pit, a ski and snowboardcross start gate, a skate bowl and Olympic regulation trampolines.

The U.S. Alpine Team utilizes the area for drills during team workouts. Athletes maneuver back and forth through the foam pit and run up and down the sides up the skate bowl. "We get creative and mix it up," says Tim Jitloff, a member of the men’s A team.

"The whole area really caters to body awareness – knowing where your body parts are at all times," says Graham Watanabe, a snowboardcross competitor who likes to test out tricks into the foam pit. "You’re able to mix it up and do interesting, diverse training on a regular basis."

Another favorite for athletes is the physical therapy center, which features a rehabilitation pool, hot and cold plunges, a steam room and sauna, and multiple therapy tables. "It’s such a huge improvement from what we had before," says Ligety. He explains that at any point in time, up to one-third of the Men’s Alpine Team is contending with injuries.

"Medically, it’s a huge step," says Sasha Rearick, the head coach for the team.

The Center isn’t all about athletes working and playing. Its other purpose is to provide educational resources to USSA athletes, coaches, officials, clubs, parents, volunteers and other stakeholders nationwide. The second and third floors of the building feature the athletic offices, executive and department offices, and a boardroom for meetings. "Having the front office and the athletes together in the long run is a tremendous opportunity," says Rearick.

The facility also houses the Borgen Swartz Resource Communications Center, which utilizes the latest technology in high-performance video and analysis, and the Jacolyn and John Bucksbaum Education Center, which provides access to computers, academic counseling and educational program information.

"It’s nice to have a lot of staff and athletes interacting in one place," says Peter Foley, head coach of the U.S. Snowboardcross team. The athletes really benefit from working with coaches, physical therapists, sports-science trainers and athletes from different teams in the same place, he adds.

The Center provides a gathering place for athletes and facilitates inter-team mingling. "There’s a lot more camaraderie between the teams," says Ligety. "It’s been good to get to know other guys."

Men’s Alpine Team member Erik Fisher sums up what makes the Center of Excellence, well, excellent: "It’s the whole package," he says. "It brings every aspect that the athlete needs to succeed, from sports science to physical therapy to the trainers and equipment."

"Just like we’re proud to be here in Park City, we hope that Park City is proud to have us calling this community home," says Kelly. "We hope they can see this great facility where Olympic athletes will be training for Vancouver and Sochi and beyond, and get a sense of what a great community we are in and what great assets we have for athletes."

The Center of Excellence is located at 1 Victory Lane, just east of Park City in Quinn’s Junction at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Utah 248. To find out more about the USSA or the facility, visit http://www.ussa.org .

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