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Media Day discoveries

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

I am like a fish to water.

Ever since my mom signed us up for the Mommy and Me swim class at the local Y when I was three months old it’s been this way. Show me an activity that involves water and I’m the first to sign up. I don’t care what water-related activity it is I always want to master it. That is why, when the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team and the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) announced that their annual Media Day would be a how-to at the UOP’s water ramps, I immediately signed up.

The only problem was they would be attaching skis to my feet. Being in Park City you would think that skis are just another appendage growing from people’s legs, but unlike swimming, I have never been a skier. Growing up with my single mom, her priority was making sure we had dinner on the table every night and the high cost of pursuing some sports was simply out of the question. Since adulthood I have given skiing and snowboarding good solid tries, but I’m still a few years away from the NASTAR circuit.

So there I was on Thursday morning, stretching poolside at the UOP trying to keep the panic attacks at bay. Eventually they rounded us media types up and introduced us to our coaches from the Fly Freestyle program. We proceeded with the introductions, requisite promises not to sue if we broke our necks and a safety video that only served to make my stomach churn more.

Next, we moved outside for more stretching and some tips like: "Always hit the water and you’ll be fine." and "The only thing you need to remember to do is smile." Right, spoken like people who have been skiing since preschool.

After that, it was off to wardrobe where we pulled and prodded ourselves into wetsuits. I wanted the one with the red thread. I got blue. Luckily, in the meantime, I realized that I was not alone as a non-skier. A friend who had never skied before had tagged along with someone in the group, so I headed to the pool confident that I was not alone.

Wrong.

Turns out the non-skier must have spent all of those good powder days inside on the mats practicing her gymnastics, because she was throwing front tucks and back flips on her second time off the poolside trampoline. I instead opted for the ever-challenging feet-first position for my first jump. Seemed easy enough, so the second time around I went for the 180 turn. Might have been my best move had I not tripped off the platform, making my 180 into a sort of inverted 45. Subsequent tries yielded nothing much better and I could tell the coaches were already labeling me the "problem child."

Next, it was back up to the equipment room to fit us with boots and helmets and then they had us go down a carpeted ramp to practice our form before taking it to the water. On my first try, I looked great. Well, until I skied right into the crowd of people waiting to get on the ramp.

Now everyone was labeling me "problem child."

I am used to being the entertainment in most situations. I can usually master things quite well eventually, but I might just be the slowest learner on record. Anyway, it was back up to the top of the ramp for more tries. I got straightened out, but it took me so long to finally get things right that the rest of my class had long since headed to the water ramp.

Finally I made my fashionably late entrance to the pool. Newbies go off the smallest water ramp. If you are trying to remember which one that was at the last Flying Ace All-Stars show you watched, stop trying. It’s the one tucked under the corner of the pool that you might miss if you are used to watching Ryan St. Onge do a quadruple triple double flip into a triple twisting somersault off the big ramp.

So I trudged up the stairs dreading another hour of humiliation. I watched as writers, editors and TV news reporters zoomed off the ramp like they had been pursuing secret skiing careers during their free time in journalism school. Finally it was my turn. I made my way to the bar and prepared for my descent. A few last second words of encouragement from the coaches and off I went. No problems until the ramp lipped up and yet another panic attack caused me to squat down and jam my thumb on the edge of the ramp. But I landed feet first. No migraine inducing head crash or belly flop, so I called it a success.

Getting out of the pool? A whole other challenge. Despite the fact that I spend every weekday morning doing the Masters swim workout at the gym, there I was, flaling my arms and getting nowhere. Finally, I managed to hurl myself poolside, where one of the U.S. Ski Team coaches was able to help pull me out and then up to get my skis off.

But I was not to be deterred from my mission of mastering this activity. So back up the stairs I went. This time we went from the top of the ramp no bar which meant a quicker trip down the ramp. I got a full rundown of what to do when from the coaches and down I went. And then up I went, and then down in the pool. No problem. I was having no problems. That’s none, zero. Admittedly, I wasn’t trying to do a grab or a twisting turn, but I wasn’t doing this for style points. I was here to prove I could do it, pure and simple, and, turns out even though it practically took an after-school tutor to get me there I had figured it out by my second try. Two more times and more of the same. Members of the U.S. Freestyle Team sat near the pool with scorecards rating us on things like form, style and, my favorite, laughability. I managed to get decent marks each time and even figured out how to get out of the pool with relative ease.

In the meantime, I realized that some members in my group had truly gotten the hang of it and were sailing down the ramp and making it look easy, but some others were still struggling. I was amazed at how quickly I had moved to the accelerated group.

More good fuzzy feelings came my way about an hour later at lunch. Evidently the scores from the pool had been collected and I had somehow been caught in a three-way tie for second.

FOR SECOND.

The guy in first was the only one to graduate to the big kid ramps on the other side of the pool and I was right behind him. I was shocked and amazed. Next thing I know, I’m getting a medal from Ski Teamer Lacey Schnoor, they are snapping my picture and Scotty Bahrke, another Ski Team guy, is giving me a knowing grin, saying, "You were the most improved in my eyes."

So the team director didn’t approach me to join the development team and honestly, you may never see my on the wet side of the UOP pool again, but I, the non-skier had just managed, in four hours, to learn how to fly off of a ramp with skis on my feet.

Maybe this winter I can conquer the bunny hill.

Giving flying a try

The water ramps at the UOP are not just for ski teamers or inept media members. Anyone can try the water ramps at the UOP for a day. FLY Freestyle and Axis Freeride have joined forces to offer a half-day camp that takes beginners through the same learning process described above. They also have multiple day camps and private lessons available as well. For more information, visit http://www.olyparks.com/uop/freestyle.asp

Freestyle Camps

AIR INTRO

A half-day camp that introduces you to the

sport of freestyle aerials. Sessions offered through Aug. 24.

Mondays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

$95 per person

(Includes equipment and Utah Olympic Park daily pass)

Ages 6 and up

FLYTE CAMP

Two-day camp Monday (2-8 p.m.)

and Tuesday (2-8 p.m.)

Sessions offered through Aug. 19

$365 per person

(Includes equipment, meal both days

and Utah Olympic Park daily passes)

Ages 8 and up

TRI-AXIS CAMP

Three-day camps Thursday (2-8 p.m.),

Friday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and

Saturday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Sessions offered through Aug. 23

$395 per person

(Includes equipment, meal all three days

and Utah Olympic Park daily passes)

Ages 8 and up

FLY-AXIS CAMP

Five-day camp Monday (2-8 p.m.)

Tuesday (2-8 p.m.), Thursday (2-8 p.m.),

Friday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and

Saturday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Sessions offered through Aug. 23

$692 per person

(Includes equipment, meal all five days

and Utah Olympic Park daily passes)

Ages 8 and up

Private Lessons

Three-hour lessons tailored to exactly what you want to work on, or try, based on ability level. Ages 6 and up

Three hour lessons available seven days a week (unless pool is closed)

May 30 through Sept. 27

Request a three-hour time slot between 9:a.m. and 8 .m.

$250.00 (includes equipment and Utah Olympic Park daily passes.)

If more than one participant, add $85 dollars for each additional participant. Limit: 5 total.


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