The High Road to Salt Lake City 2002

While John “Stove-Top” Stouffer and Kurt “Chipsa” Hoy were trekking through the desert in the over equipped TransWorld resort assault vehicle, Jennifer Sherowski and I were cruising peacefully over the American West ensconced in our stylish, yet functional 737 jumbo jet. See, we’re not taking the low road to the Olympics. We’re on the program. We own the Olympic golden tickets. That’s right. We’re traveling in high style because we have official Olympic media passes. And don’t let anyone tell you they aren’t worth anything.

After being forcefully locked into our seats for the last 30 minutes of the flight, for security reasons, we rolled out into the terminal of the Salt Lake City International Airport where uniformed Olympic volunteers greeted us warmly, oozing with Mormon love for all mankind. We checked into the accreditation center where our official Olympic media passes were laminated, attached to attractive yellow lanyards, and handed back to us with a polite, “Welcome to the Salt Lake City Olympics.”

Waiting for us in the baggage claim were even more uniformed volunteers itching to load our luggage onto carts and wheel it to the waiting motor coaches for our drive from “the safest city in the world” up to Park City. We’re on the blue line and when the bus finally arrived we couldn’t help laughing. There, waiting for us was a 90-passenger tour bus decked out in four-color graphics of a Nordic Jumper flying high above the Utah Olympic Sports Park. Strangely, no one else was getting on the bus. I asked the bus driver if we were waiting for anyone else, and he said, “Nope, just you. You’re the media. You need to get somewhere, we take you there.”

Oh yeah. Forty minutes later we rolled into Park City, Utah to check into our condo. The ultimate goal of the day was to make the 50 minute drive back down to Salt Lake City to the Main Media Center where Danny Kass, Tricia Byrnes and the rest of US Halfpipe team were meeting the assembled media for the first time in an official, hour long press conference.

Unfortunately, the valet who drove us up to our condo was new to snow driving, and appeared to be new to driving in general. After 45 minutes of wandering through Park City we’d finally dropped our bags off at our plush condo and were standing at the corner of Park and 9th to catch a media shuttle down to the city. Unfortunately, the shuttles, which reportedly run on the hour was already gone.

After waiting for 10 minutes an Olympic shuttle bus (a short bus) showed up and we asked the driver if he would give us a ride down to Salt Lake City. “I’m not supposed to do it, but you’re the media and if I’m going to get fired I’m going to go out in style. Jump in.”

Though his offer sounded great, he had to run a couple errands in town and after bumping around Park City for another 35 minutes we realized that without a hyperspace button on the dash there was no way we’d make it to Salt Lake City before the press conference was over. Olympic transportation 1, TWS coverage 0.

We jumped back out in downtown Park City and cruised the blocked off Olympic zone. The streets are lined with booths selling stars and stripes shirts. Official Olympic suppliers and offering samples and all important Olympic pins to passers buys and logoed spotlights shine shapes down on the sidewalks from the buildings along the main street. “I feel like we’re in Europe,” Jen said as a woman in a to-the-floor fur coat and matching hat strolled out of Zoom, one of Park City’s swanky restaurants. We cruised back to the condo, plugged in all our gear, and rested up for the week’s activities.

This morning we awoke to seven inches of new snow. Pat Melandowski was in the cat all night and the pipe looks perfect. Practice starts at 10 and runs until 1 PM. I just got off the phone with US Team Coach Peter Foley. He said last night’s press conference went off. “They loved Danny Kass,” he said laughing. “One reporter brought up the issues from Naganoo with Ross Rebagliati’s marijuana problem and added that Danny looked like a typical snowboarder, then asked him if he foresaw any potential problems. He stopped short of asking Danny if he was having any problems not smoking out before the pipe. Danny said he didn’t think there would be any problems.”

After the press conference Foley says a group of nearly 35 reporters huddled around Danny to get a few more quotes. The Games are on. And we’ve got a team of five people here to cover it. Kurt Hoy and John Stouffer on the outside, Jen, Mark Gallup and me on the inside. Stayed tuned to because you will hear it here first. And we’re not missing any more press conferences.

Welcome to Salt Lake City 2002