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Tag: cross-country skiing

An Olympic look back

Four years have rushed by and it’s the Olympics again. I worked behind the scenes at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games and enjoyed both the work and the atmosphere. Today, I’m taking a look back.

Olympic uniform.

Me in my Olympic/Paralympic work uniform – on my way to work.

Posted in Whistler, I was the Nordic sport writer for the Olympic News Service and Paralympic News Service. I didn’t care for the term we VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) employees were given because of our blue uniforms – “Smurfs.” It wasn’t an endearing nickname although now I admit, it’s kind of funny.

Journalists in a room.

Journalists at the Nordic Media Centre in Whistler during the Olympics.

My job was to write stories about cross-country skiing and Nordic combined for the international journalists. (Nordic combined is an event that has athletes participate in a cross-county ski race in the morning and then a ski jumping competition in the afternoon.) Some reporters were new to winter sports and needed help understanding who was on the podium, who wasn’t and why. I told them.

Spectators watching ski jumping competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Ski jumping competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

We were right on site in Callaghan Valley were cross-country skiing, Nordic combined, biathlon and ski jumping events were happening. When I had a break, I got to watch some of the competition. Women will be skiing jumping in PyeongChang for the second time in Olympic history. Jason Myslicki was the lone Canadian at the 2010 Olympics in Nordic combined but won’t be in South Korea. His story of how he trained for Vancouver is a testament to the tenacity of Olympians. He basically relied on handouts and the generosity of other teams. (Read ‘Homeless’ Olympian relies on well-wishers.)

Part of the cross-country ski course at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Part of the cross-country ski course at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Cross-country skiing in 2010 saw Dario Cologna (Switzerland), Petter Northug (Norway) and Marcus Hellner (Sweden) as gold medalists. Charlotte Kalla (Sweden), Marit Bjorgen (Norway) and Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland) were also gold medalists. You will see some of these names in PyeongChang. Canadians who raced in Vancouver and who are going to South Korea include Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw.

Swiss flag.

Reuniting friends and a flag in Zurich.

While working in Whistler, I lived with five women from around the world. One roommate and friend from Switzerland gave me a Swiss flag and a request to reunite it before the 2014 Sochi Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games. A month before the Sochi Games, I got the chance. Read my blog piece here.

A site to see in the midst of winter

A cabin along the ski trail.

The cabin along the ski trail. My father still cross-country skis up to it.

In the skiing world, alpine gets all the glory. I love downhill skiing – it’s exciting and thrilling to send yourself down a steep slope while balancing on two planks. I learned in Grade 6 that downhill is awesome and got my own skis for Christmas when I was 16. The downside of downhill? It costs a lot.

Cross-country skiing is cheaper, especially when you strap on your skis right at your driveway and then glide away — like I did growing up.

As I’ve written before, as a youngster I lived in the Nova Scotia countryside. There was hardly anyone around and the snow fell for days – creating perfect cross-country ski conditions.

My sisters and I got our first nordic skis when I was around eight. The skis were little red plastic things that we learned on. Later we upgraded to wooden skis made in Germany — East Germany, that is. The Berlin Wall was still standing back then.

My whole family used to put on our skis at the driveway and head down the snowy road to an old logging trail cut deep into the woods. Usually we had to make our own trail but sometimes a snow machine had been through before us and packed down the path. Entering the forest we first had to climb a steep hill. It would eventually level off and become a beautiful straight stretch that went for about a kilometre.

Being in the forest was enchanting. The trees formed an arch over us and it felt like any minute we would come upon a castle or some fairyland creature. Instead, a cabin in the woods would have to do.

The stable on the ski trail.

The stable on the ski trail in the midst of winter.

The cottage was halfway up the trail. It was an ancient woodcutter’s cabin and across from it was a small stable, still filled with hay. The one-room cabin had space for a wood stove, a table and two benches. It was pretty sturdy after many years of neglect and the windows still had glass panes. The stable could hold two horses and the outside was covered in black tar paper. I always hoped to open the door of the barn and see a deer or bobcat bedded down on the straw.

We visited the hut a lot during the winters. It’s where we’d always stop for a break and mum would dig out the hot chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches from her backpack. There were actually some condiments in the hut, probably left by hunters, but we never helped ourselves.

When I was older my friends and I would ski up to the site. In the summer, we would hike in and even camped there once, in the small clearing near the cottage amidst the stars.

The cabin and stable haven’t fared well over the past 15 years. More and more people know about the ski trail and when there isn’t snow it’s used for cross-country cycling. The inside of the storybook cottage has been pulled apart. The stove is no longer there and the glass in the windows is missing. It’s only a matter of time before the forest reaches around the cottage and pulls it down. But it’ll always be built in my memory.



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