Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Olympic committee to visit valley

Scouting trip is next step on road to designation as training site

Express Staff Writer

Late is better than never for the United States Olympic Committee, whose long-awaited visit to Sun Valley is set to occur after the first of the year.

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation submitted its application for certification as an Olympic and Paralympic training site to the U.S. Olympic Committee in June. If it's approved, Sun Valley would be the first certified training site for Nordic skiing in the country.

The application has been in the works since last year, when the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Wood River Ability Program, the Blaine County Recreation District and Sun Valley Co. joined forces with the Sustain Blaine economic development organization to apply.

Evan Lawler, spokesman for Sustain Blaine, said the committee meant to visit and evaluate the area for designation in December, but the visit was delayed.

"They just had too much on their plate, and they had to push it back," he said.

The site visit is the final step before designation. Don Wiseman, executive director of the foundation, said the fact that the committee is coming to visit bodes well for eventual designation.

"It's much better than them saying, 'Sorry, we're not interested,'" he said with a laugh.

Wiseman and Sustain Blaine Director Harry Griffith have been in constant contact since the application was made in June, and Wiseman said the committee's few concerns have been easily resolved. Most of the questions had to do with the facilities and services available for athletes, such as doctors, gym facilities and lodging, he said.

The committee already has three designated general "training centers," but Wiseman said "training sites"—which focus on one or two sports—allow the committee to further develop training opportunities.

"They want to piggyback on [our] existing facilities," he said, adding that Sun Valley was particularly appealing to the committee because it's already serving as a de facto training site for Olympic athletes.

The committee will tour the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation offices and facilities, explore Lake Creek Nordic trails and tour the entire valley trail system. Wiseman said the committee will also meet with foundation board members and supporters, but will also spend time simply exploring the town.

"They want to come see everything they've read about [in our application]," Wiseman said.

If all goes well, Sun Valley could receive its official designation as early as next spring. Lawler said the delayed visit should not delay the designation, but Wiseman said he'd be happy if Sun Valley was officially designated by next fall. The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation will need to enter a contract with the USOC, which may take some time, Wiseman said.

Wiseman said that no matter when the designation becomes official, it will be a boon for the Sun Valley area.

"It's all exciting stuff," he said. "[The designation] is one more ingredient for why people would want to come here, one more thing to market, one more thing to brand us."

Katherine Wutz:

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