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Winterfest heads to the hill and track

Adia Waldburger

What better way to celebrate an Olympic legacy than on the competition field?

Under the label of Winterfest, Park City is holding a series of activities in the area to commemorate the 2002 Olympic legacy and highlight the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin which begin Saturday.

As part of the festival, two competitions will be held at the Utah Olympic Park on the jumping hill and the ice. A select group of freestylists from around the country will take part in the International Ski Federation (FIS) Freestyle NorAms. On the track, sliders from all over the West will come together for the Skeleton Western Regional; Championships which will be held Saturday and next weekend.

According to Freestyle Lives Year-Round (FLY) Freestyle director Chris "Hatch" Haslock, the event will welcome about 25 of freestyle future stars. Among them will be eight members of the U.S. Ski Team and as well as some freestylists from the Canadian Ski Team. There will also be 10 members of the FLY program competing and much of the Eastern Aerial Team competing.

"There will be people from all over," Haslock said. "Not a huge field, but some of the best."

The NorAm circuit features skiers that are one tier below World Cup

"These are essentially the people aspiring to be on World Cup," Haslock said.

The decision to make the competition part of Winterfest was easy, as Haslock predicts many of the featured participants will be in the Olympic Games in four years.

"This is the stepping process," Haslock explains.

Among some of the top competitors will be U.S. Ski Team member Jill Priest, who won the fist two NorAms of the season and leads the NorAm tour in points. Priest has finished in the top 10 in numerous World Cups. She will be joined by Park City local Austin Cummings, who leads the NorAm tour on the men’s side and was also a top finisher in the year’s first NorAms. Cummings was able to compete in his first World Cup competition, when the event was held in Deer Valley last month.

Jay Nachbauer headlines the Canadian squad. He has finished first in the NorAms and skied on the World Cup this year.

Haslock says this is the ideal event to watch, because the small field allows for a short competition time featuring some of the nation’s elite, making for an entertaining afternoon. There will also be television screens dispersed around the UOP broadcasting Olympic coverage so the audience can keep up with the events in Turin.

The Skeleton Western Regional; Championships will also honor Park City’s Olympic legacy. According to Steve Revelli, western programs manager for the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation the event will be a great chance to see some of the sport’s upcoming stars.

"I think it’s a good open forum for skeleton watching. We would love to have more people there," Revelli said.

The regional race will also have some broader implications. The top sliders from the race will qualify for next year’s national team selections that determine the America’s Cup, Europa and World Cup rosters.

"This is grassroots level for the next four years," Revelli said. "These are people you could definitely see for the next four years."

This year’s regionals are open to any slider qualified to start from the top of the track. Revelli says that the entire local club, the Utah Skeleton and Bobsled Federation, is entered in the race, as well as sliders from many states west of the Mississippi, including California, Colorado, Washington and Texas.

Unfortunately, because the event runs concurrently with the Olympic Games, some of the best skeleton athletes are in Italy working at the Games, but Revelli says that there will still be some bright stars. Park City’s Felicia Canfield, who has competed on both the America’s Cup and Europa Cup, will likely headline the women’s race and the Parkite Crest Simeon should be a standout among the men.

The FIS Freestyle NorAms will be held Saturday, Feb. 11 from 12:30-2 p.m. The Skeleton Western Regional Championships will be held Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. and next Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Both events will take place at the UOP.

The theater and two big screens in the day lodge will run continuous Olympic coverage for the duration of the Games.


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