Last Friday was a “Chamber of Commerce” day at Utah Olympic Park—the morning had offered cloud cover and sub-zero temperatures, but by afternoon, as happens in Utah, the sun was shining, skies were blue, and the thermometer was hovering around 30 degrees. With all the sun reflecting off the snow, the ambient temperature felt 25 degrees warmer than that. Kids and adults assembled in the training area for Get Out And Play were shedding warm layers as though they’d suddenly arrived poolside in the tropics.
With much of the Nordic team and all of the coaches in Steamboat for a competition, the substitute coaches introduced themselves: a current US Ski Team member and the president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA—my new friend Julie. It’s not enough that the kids’ coaches are all highly accomplished ex-Olympians. Park City’s bench is deep, man. I laughed out loud at the irony of our overqualified “subs,” then joined the other mom chaperones, to watch the freestyle and nordic groups begin their warmups.`
My friend Liz was there, for the first time, chaperoning her school group, and seeing her kids learn tricks of the Freestyle trade. Our kids have done karate together for years. We are fond of each other’s kids. “Look,” I pointed. “There goes Seth, he’s jumping the 10 meter.” I could feel her tense up as I did—as though he were her own. I know the feeling—every time I see her kids huck themselves off a jump or over a rail, I gulp. He landed it, we both began to breathe normally, and then something amazing happened. He rode the rope tow lift up, but this time, he rode past the point where he usually exits to ski to the 10m start, not letting go until he could ski across to the 20m start.
“He’s not going to jump the 20—” I said, to everyone and no one in particular. “Is he?”
“He’s got to have his first time, some time, right?” One of my pals offered. I supposed so, but I’d been under the impression he wouldn’t be on the 20 until he made the switch, at some yet-to-be-determined-date, from his alpine gear to nordic boots and skis. Perhaps not.
We watched as he engaged in a few minutes of conversation with Julie. He took off his skis, climbed up to stand next to her on the coaching platform, and I inferred that she explained how he should position himself on the start bar. I tried to remember how to breathe. And then, he talked to her for another moment, grabbed his skis, walked down the steps, clicked in and skied down toward the 10-meter start. Oh, ok, maybe, just maybe, he was just curious. Maybe he wasn’t yet allowed. I had begun to formulate questions to ask him about what he learned up there, so I’d be ready when he landed the 10, again—and then he skied over to the rope tow, again, grabbed hold and rode up.
“Oh—oh! He’s going back to the 20…” I witnessed this moment with a bit of reverence. Here was my child, working out for himself, exactly how far he wanted to push, exactly which goals he wanted to accomplish, today. This, I thought, was the second of many decisions that solidified jumping as “his sport.” The first was that initial jump, three weeks earlier, from the 5m. Now, as then, he didn’t need his parents’ advice or input—just some good, supportive coaching and a boost of confidence. Here’s Meg’s video of our view from the bottom…
Here’s Julie’s video of our view from the top…
and here’s the trailer Seth and Lance made with some more footage, the next day.