Tom Clyde: Breaking Olympic
February 14, 2014
After a season of too many groomed runs and too much of that cementatious powder, skiing suddenly got very, very good. The new snow has been piling up and while it isn’t the most perfect Utah powder, it’s a whole lot better than anything we’ve seen in a very long time. I’ve been out playing in it to the point of exhaustion day after day.
Every year, I will have a run that I finish and think that if the season had to end right then and there, it would be OK because it was that good. I’ve had a whole series of those this week. Monday in Jupiter Bowl was probably the best day of the season, and that’s saying a lot because Saturday in the trees off Empire Bowl was huge. A friend talked me in to a few quick hike runs—Puma and Scotts—on a day when we both had other places we were supposed to be and things that needed to be done. We didn’t take many runs, opting for quality over quantity. It was a wise move.
I was beginning to fear that I had cursed the season. Last fall, after a few lean snow years in a row, I decided we must be in for a real winter, and upgraded the snow removal arsenal. The sorry nature of the winter really hit home when I realized that the new closed-cab, heated, iPod-docked tractor had been sitting out in the shed for so long without being started that the battery was nearly dead. That hasn’t been an issue the last week or so. I’ve been plowing snow, sometimes twice a day, all week. I don’t feel so foolish now when I’m out there in the dark with the lights all ablaze and the snow blower blasting the roads open, all the while sitting in heated comfort.
I’ve also gotten sucked into the Olympics. Passionate as I get about skiing, I don’t care a bit about ski racing. If the difference between first place and who cares is an interval of time so short that I can’t detect it, well, I’ve got other things to do. An hour of figure skating every four years is probably about right. I don’t know a toe loop from a Cheerio.
But every Olympic cycle, I get sucked in and get absolutely hooked on it. When the snow slides off my roof, the dogs think it must be the end of the world, and run around barking at every window. So I haven’t been sleeping well lately. The Olympics are on in the middle of the night, several channels’ worth. Curling, cross country skiing, biathlon, all manner of things I don’t care about, but for some reason want to watch, and actually get kind of emotionally invested in.
Olympic watching is a lot different here than it is even in Salt Lake. I know some of the kids competing, or know their families. They are faces I see at the grocery store or at the resorts. When I was growing up, the idea of being in the Olympics wasn’t even in the inventory of potential dreams. It just was too far removed from my reality. For local kids, it’s right here in the backyard, and being an Olympian is as natural and logical a dream as taking region in volleyball.
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So despite the nightly reports on Bob Costas’s valiant battle against pink-eye, I’ve been tuned in. A couple of very odd moments stand out. The Russian Police Choir getting down with their rendition of "Get Lucky" was just creepy. Nothing like the KGB in full uniform doing a little lounge singing. But the gold medal performance was the police choir singing it again, with the NBC announcers making up almost the entire audience on some plaza. A hundred-member choir singing to a half dozen of NBC’s finest, and Al Roker boogying and getting down with anybody he could grab off the street.
But if there was any single scene that dragged me in, hook, line and sinker, it was the men’s slopestyle snowboard competition. Again, a sport I know nothing about and have no interest in. But I watched it because a local kid, Sage Kotsenburg was in it. Sage won, and when the final scores were in, the three medal winners erupted into a big dog pile of exuberance. They hugged and yelled and rolled on the ground. They shared a moment of sheer magic with the world. And from that moment on, I was hooked.
The U.S. team’s results so far have been a little disappointing. I was hoping for gold for the U.S. women ski jumpers after the battle they have waged. But like most of life, the important thing is showing up, and they were there.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.