Park City Ski and Snowboard hosts Youth Games
This past Saturday, January 19th, Park City Ski and Snowboard (PCSS) and the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) hosted the first-ever Park City Ski and Snowboard Youth Ski Games. Over 60 kids, age 7-11, gathered slopeside, split into groups according to age category, clicked in to their alpine skis, hopped on the rope tow and headed to the top. And in some cases, into the unknown.
The contest: a blended event of familiar, and not-so-familiar, sports – 2 runs of moguls with 2 runs of giant slalom, and 2 jumps off of the 10 meter Nordic jump. Each “station” included a number of practice runs (or jumps) before sliding into the start gate for the 2 that counted.
Because it’s Park City, of course, we couldn’t find a single parent who was especially worried to watch their child fly through the air. Instead, the scene seemed to offer welcome relief from what many believe is the overly-specialized pressure of youth sports.
“I love that the UOP has a program and a competition that circulates through the different ski sports while they’re young,” said Stacey Whitney, mom of Chloe. “That way they can try it all out and see what they like.”
For some kids, it was their first contest on skis. For others it was a chance to shed their self-chosen title of “freestyler” or “racer” and enjoy being out in the sunshine with their pals and trying new things.
“I loved being able to do a real mogul run with a real jump in it!” said 8-year-old Cleo Abbott. “And also, the hamburgers they gave us at lunch.”
Competitors included kids from the YSA’s Get Out and Play program, Park City Ski School’s All-Mountain (AMP) program, Park City Ski Farm Team, and others – most of them thrown (at least for a few runs) into a brand new sport.
That was the plan, said Matt Terwillager, the UOP’s Sports Programming Manager.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is provide access to multiple sports at a young age. Kids should try a variety of sports. It not only improves their athletic ability, it’s just fun.”
Cody Salrin, Head of PCSS Freestyle Development Program had a great day judging the mogul runs. Of course his athletes did particularly well in the bumps but he was also impressed by their edging skills in the gates. “I couldn’t believe how much they were figuring out from run to run,” Salrin said. “It was great for their skiing but also, just to reinforce the love of sport.”
The UOP facility gives Park City athletic programs a rare opportunity: the ability to host a kid-focused, multi-sport event and Terwillager plans to make the most of it. He already runs a skills quest program on Monday nights. In a 6-week session, kids will get to try a new event almost every week. They do everything from Nordic skiing to freestyle jumps to alpine gates. Between that and contests like the Youth Ski Games, Park City kids can really enjoy a well-rounded athletic education. One that would serve them well in any one sport they may choose in the future. “The UOP and Steamboat Springs are probably the only places in North America that can pull something like this off. The cool thing is, this is literally the legacy from the 2002 Games. A true legacy is not about how many tourists come after, it’s about what the Games give back to the kids and the community.”
PCSS and the UOP leadership plan to make this an annual event. They also look forward to expanding the contest: possibly including older age kids and more events. Even some of the parents expressed an interest in taking part in an event like this one.
Adults? Maybe. But for now, the focus rests solely on two things: kids and fun.
“In the end,” Terwillager says, “with young kids, you should just let them play.”
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.