Bearing the Olympic Spirit

Jessica Sobolowski (dark blue jacket) and Ingrid Backstrom (yellow pants) with the women who participated in the Next Level Women's Freeskiing Camp.I’m standing to the side on Chute 75, watching a young woman slide head first down the steep slope. Jessica Sobolowski and a group of women shout instructions on how to self-arrest just above me.Sobolowski and Ingrid Backtrom are in the midst of teaching the Next Level Women’s Freeskiing Camp at Squaw Valley on January 9 and 10. While taking 50-yard nosedives isn’t in the lesson plan, it all works out for the best. The next day, the same student will tackle bulletproof steeps with confidence.Despite rain, flat light, and tough snow conditions over the weekend, Sobolowski and Backstrom show 10 women, ranging in age from 13 to 50, how to take their skiing to the next level. They share a few of those lessons here.The GoalFor a refresher on just what Backstrom and Sobolowski are capable of in the snow, check out the latest ski films from Matchstick Productions or Warren Miller. When the two women signed up to coach a big-mountain camp for women at Squaw Valley, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. “I had actually never heard of a women’s freeride camp before and when I did I thought it was amazing opportunity and signed up right away,” says Emma Andersson, a camp participant. “Not only to meet Ingrid and Jess, but because the fact that skiing with women is something special.”

Nov. 14, 2001--The spirit of the Olympics is intended to inspire for more than two weeks every four years. As a demonstration of this sentiment, the Olympic flame will journey across the nation to Salt Lake City, carried by 11,500 remarkable individuals who radiate the Olympic attitude.

Maintaining a Winter Games theme, several ski icons will run, roll, or walk their selected two-tenths of a mile. Some familiar names include Kurt Miller, son of film entrepreneur Warren Miller; US Ski Team president, Bill Marolt; uber skier, Glen Plake; Marny Schlopy, mother of US Ski Team ace racer, Erik; and 1936 Olympic racer, Dick Durrance.

Andrea Mead Lawrence, the double gold medalist from the '52 Oslo Games, will carry the torch through Squaw Valley. Fitting, since it was she who skied the torch down for the 1960 Olympic opening ceremony: "The whole process fits together nicely," she said from her Mammoth Lakes, CA home. "My daughter, Quentin, nominated me and when I skied down in `60, I was pregnant with her. The family sentiment involved means a great deal to me."

Since a new torch is designed for each Games, the 2002 version is a 33" aluminum-colored icicle, the flame burning within a glass top. Each 'runner' is provided with a specific uniform and may purchase their torch for $335. Selected from over 210,000 short essays, torchbearers were chosen on how well they "made a significant impact on the lives of others" or "overcame major obstacles in life, while continuing to move forward with a positive attitude."

Jimmie Heuga, bronze medalist in the `64 Olympic slalom, has that attitude. Stricken 30 years ago with multiple sclerosis, he opened The Heuga Center near Vail, CO to help other MS patients regain control of their lives. Nominated by several parties, including the Heuga Center staff, Jimmie will cover his torch-bearing section via wheel chair. "He took the discipline and motivation needed to become an Olympian, and applied it to his disease," states his nomination. "His 'Can Do' attitude teaches everyone to make the most of their abilities."

Currently, the Olympic Torch Committee is selecting 100 additional names of heros nationwide involved with September 11th. This group of torchbearers has been named the "Champions of Greatness."