Operation Smile draws crowd to UOP
The Utah Olympic Park isn’t generally thought of as a place for alpine racers to gather for an event. On Saturday, though, a makeshift NASTAR-style course was set up for the Operation Smile Celebrity Ski Race.
On the UOP’s gentle slopes, celebrities and athletes gathered to support Operation Smile, an international charity that provides safe surgery to children across the globe, primarily in the form of cleft lip or cleft palate surgery.
Smiles were abundant on Saturday, thanks to bluebird skies and spring-like temperatures. Some of the charity’s biggest supporters got the chance to ski against celebrities and World Cup athletes. U.S. aerialist Mac Bohonnon, the 2015 World Cup overall champion, said he enjoys strapping on a different pair of skis to race for a good cause.
"Operation Smile is an amazing organization," he said. "This is my third year at the event. [Former aerials champion Kris] Fuzz Feddersen always brings me in. The first year I did it was the year of the Olympics and I just had a blast. It’s a great organization to support and a lot of people really care about it."
Among the celebrities in attendance were actor/musician Evan Ross, singer Ashlee Simpson Ross, singer Lance Bass, actress Retta and dancer/actress/singer Julianne Hough. Bohonnon said the weather and the company made for a great day at the UOP.
"It’s a beautiful day and everyone is having a good time skiing against celebrities," he said. "It’s a blast."
For retired mogul skier Eliza Outtrim, the chance to network with Operation Smile supporters was as valuable as supporting the organization.
"I’m in school to apply to nursing school," she said. "One of the things I’d like to do in the future is do some mission trips. Operation Smile obviously would be a great organization to get involved with. I think it’s a great cause and we get to come out and ski and have fun, so why not?"
Outtrim and fellow retired mogul skier Hannah Kearney went head-to-head during their two runs on the course. Outtrim said it was nice to get back in the competitive mindset for an afternoon.
"This is actually my very first time ever on a NASTAR course," she said. "It’s really fun. My last competition was two years ago next week, so it’s fun to get back in the gate, I guess you could say, and have fun with it."
For Bohonnon, experiencing a different kind of ski competition on a beginner course was a great experience.
"It’s really easy, so I feel like I’m really good," he laughed. "It’s always soft and laid back and everyone’s out there having a fun time. You can really feel like you’re a grade A racer on a course like this."
Outtrim and Kearney had some of the closest races of the day.
"It’s funny," Outtrim said. "On the World Cup, I don’t think we ever dueled against each other in dual [moguls]. It was fun to be up there with her. We’ve been competing against each other for a long time since we’re both from the East Coast. When we were 10 years old, we were competing against each other, so this was fun. We’re good friends now so it’s great to go out and ski against each other for fun."
As an added bonus, Outtrim got to meet actress Julie Bowen, who stars in one of her favorite TV shows.
"I didn’t really know who was going to be here today, so that was a nice surprise," she said. "I’m definitely a ‘Modern Family’ fan. She was very lovely and very nice to talk to at the top [of the race course]."
Both Bohonnon and Outtrim said they would love to come back to the Celebrity Ski Race in 2017.
"Absolutely," Bohonnon said. "I wouldn’t miss it."
"I hope I’m invited," Outtrim added.
To learn more about Operation Smile, visit http://www.operationsmile.org .
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