Pioneer Girls perform at Park City Pioneers home games
November 19, 2010
Between the hard-hitting first and second periods of the Park City Pioneers hockey team home games, fans are treated to Axel, Salchow and toe-loop jumps.
They also get to see a nationally renowned skating aerialist who not only dazzles on the ice, but above it as well.
Meet the Pioneer Girls, a sort of cheerleading team for the hockey team.
"We don’t really like the term ‘cheerleader,’" Pioneer Girls captain Stephanie Bass said with a laugh. "But that’s essentially what we are."
Instead of megaphones and slogans, the Pioneer Girls are something more.
The five women on the team are all professional skaters who rose through the ranks of the amateur competition circuit.
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In fact, Bass, a former member of the U.S. Nationals Team that competed around the world and was well on her way to compete in the 2002 Winter Games when she suffered a career-ending back injury.
"Those kinds of injuries kill your career," she said. "I had to take a year off of skating and it’s pretty much impossible to bounce back after that."
So Bass, who was raised in California and trained with her idol, Michelle Kwan, started coaching and is currently a coach for the Park City Ice Skating Club.
"Although coaching is so rewarding, there’s always something missing," said Bass who has been skating for more than 20 years. "When you train five hours a day, six days a week, and it goes to nothing, a big piece of your life is missing."
To fill that void, she and the other women Tiffany Earls, Angie Fishler, Giselle Gorder and Kinsley Johnson formed the Pioneer Girls.
"We perform a four-minute routine, once a month, at the hockey game," Bass said. "And while four minutes may seem short, the performance is so important to us.
"When we prepare, rehearse and choreograph for it, we feel we have a goal in skating. We’re getting in shape. We’re doing tricks we haven’t done since we’ve competed and sometimes we do tricks that haven’t been seen before in ice skating.
"It’s an amazing avenue for us who are coaches. We can be artistic and creative."
Also, when a skater turns pro, they no longer compete, Bass said. "You’re not trying to go to the Olympics anymore," she said. "And the only avenue you can skate in is touring shows like ‘Disney on Ice,’ and go all over the world."
For some skaters, the touring schedule isn’t feasible.
"For example, I work at the Park City Ice arena and do a lot of acting around town and I can’t leave for months on end," she said. "So the Pioneer Girls allows us to perform without leaving town."
When the Pioneer Girls formed earlier this year, Bass contacted Aaron Dufford, the Park City Pioneers assistant general manager and director of business development and marketing, and told him she could guarantee a entertaining show if he gave them a time slot.
"What we do is purely entertainment," she said. "We do tricks, galore, and Kinsley is also an in-demand professional aerialist who also skates. So it’s like ‘Cirque du Soleil’ on ice."
Each of the women get their say in the choreography, although Bass is the main choreographer.
"I usually come up with something before practice and then teach it to them," she said. "And then they all add their own things in. So it’s a collaborative effort."
The hockey fans are accommodating to the performances, Bass said.
"I think our routines are very hockey-crowd friendly," she said. "They’re super fast and have big tricks and acrobatics. And, of course, if one of us falls, the crowd loves it.
"So I always tell the girls that if they fall, make it big," Bass said with a laugh.
The Pioneer Girls practice more than the hockey team, Bass added. "We rehearse twice a week, sometimes three times a week," she said. "And we do it early in the morning before the ice rink is open to the public."
While early mornings are sometimes difficult, the biggest challenge for the Pioneer Girls is coordinating schedules.
"We have a couple of our girls who are from Salt Lake City," Bass said. "They commute to rehearsals and events. And then Kinsey flies all over the country doing her aerial performances.
"But when we finally get our schedules locked and get together, it’s magic on ice."
The Pioneer Girls will perform between the first and second periods of the Park City Pioneers hockey game tonight at the Park City Ice Arena. Admission is free with a hockey ticket purchase.