Winter of my Olympic Discontent

It’s no coincidence that the US Women’s Ski Jumping team started petitioning the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the right to compete in the Winter Olympics in the year 1998. After all, that’s the same year the IOC decided to add Curling instead. Yeah, I’d be ticked off too. No offense to curlers, but c’mon. I think ex-NBA basketball player, Charles Barkley, summed up my sentiments quite well yesterday when he said, “Curling is not a sport. I called my grandmother and told her she could win a gold medal because they have dusting in the Olympics now.”

1908 Curlers Working up a Sweat

Admittedly, Curling takes skill and strategy. That’s why it’s been called “chess on ice” (please note that as of the time of this post, the IOC has refused to comment on whether or not it will consider chess for the Summer Olympics). I’d say that even cheerleading takes more athletic ability than curling, but I don’t want to insult cheerleaders.

Okay, so knocking one sport isn’t going to benefit the others. I get it. But, the IOC’s decision in 1998 to accept one sport over another justifies this scrutiny. The curlers are innocent. But the IOC is not.

Everyone knows ski jumping is a viable Olympic sport. We know this because men have been jumping in the Olympic games since the very first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Yet, ski jumping remains the only Winter sport where women are unable to compete for medals like their male counterparts. And that is a tragedy.

Rather than admit discrimination, the IOC argues that women’s ski jumping does not have enough participation or countries with women’s teams or world-class competitions to warrant official status in the Games. Um, but the gal ski jumpers have more competitors than women’s bobsled, snowboard cross, or ski cross did when they were sanctioned. I smell a rat.

Female ski jumpers deserve official status because they’ve earned it in their own right. But, if that doesn’t work out, they’ve still got another four years to switch over to Curling.

One plank or two? A snowboarder tries Nordic skiing and lives to tell about it…

Leave it to a place like Devil’s Thumb Ranch to lull you into the peaceful trance that says “yes” to everything. With over 6,000 acres of groomed nordic terrain, I could have just defaulted to my go-to winter sport of running with Yaktrax on, but the PR woman, Holly, convinced me that I was a wuss if I didn’t try Classic Nordic Skiing when she had all the equipment ready for me, along with one of the best instructors around. I’ve not been on a pair of Nordic skis ever, and hadn’t been on Alpine planks in fifteen years. So, I had reservations, and lots of questions. The biggest one was: I thought this was like snowshoeing. You mean, it’s difficult enough to require lessons? The answer is yes, if you want a solid start into the sport. Okay. I’m game.

Things that surprised me:

1) The boots are comfortable. You could dance in them if you wanted. Onlookers were thankful I didn’t.

2) The skis and poles are so thin and light, you’ll forget you’re carrying them. My apologies to everyone I clocked in the noggin’ on my way to the trails.

3) The tip that worked best for me (in terms of stance and posture) was when the instructor told me to pretend I was staggering forward after drinking too much. Who knew he’d tailor the lesson just for me?

4) The number of times I ended up on the ground. I was told it would be overkill and nerdy to wear my boarding helmet.

5) How comfortable I felt in zero degree weather with no hat and just a baselayer. Truly, there is no warmer way to be under a blue sky, moving your body, shadowed by 12,000 foot peaks, than gliding on a nordic trail. Sitting by a fire would not have taken the chill off as well as Classic skiing did.

All and all, I had a blast, learned a new sport, and only have a few bruises today. The bottom line: Nordic is an extremely beautiful way to get out in the snow and get a hip-flexor-stretching, glute-burning, quad-strengthening workout.