Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Olympic Committee to visit this week

Representative to attend Nordic Fest activities

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley will finally get its chance at the Olympic spotlight this week when a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee arrives to scrutinize the area's Nordic training facilities.

Alicia McConnell, the committee's director of athlete services and programs, will arrive Thursday afternoon. The visit is the final step in the application process to designate Sun Valley as an official Nordic training site for both the Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Harry Griffith, director of the Sustain Blaine economic development group, said the Wood River Valley's trails should be at their best because of this week's annual Nordic Festival.

"It's a good week for her to come," he said. "There's a lot of Nordic activity, and we have a lot of great Nordic skiers in town."

McConnell will spend Thursday afternoon and evening close to town, touring the Sun Valley Ski Education facilities at Lake Creek north of Ketchum. She also plans to visit the Sun Valley Nordic Center and registration for Saturday's Boulder Mountain Tour before attending the Nordic Town USA Downtown Jam in Ketchum.

McConnell will also have a chance to view the Nordic sprint finals in Ketchum, where Olympic-caliber athletes will compete.

This event will be followed with a dinner whose invitees include McConnell and members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation board.

Griffith said Friday's events include taking McConnell to Galena Lodge, where she will view the Nordic trails and have lunch with the mayors of Sun Valley and Ketchum.

She will then meet with coaches and athletes from both the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and the Wood River Ability Program, which offers Nordic skiing opportunities and training for those with disabilities.

After McConnell's visit, the group will have a much better idea of when the designation decision will be made, Griffith said.

If Sun Valley is designated, it will become the nation's first official Nordic Olympic training site. Though athletes have already been training in Sun Valley and other locations for Olympic Nordic competitions, supporters say the designation would bring Sun Valley more exposure to athletes and more funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee and Olympic sponsors.

Katherine Wutz:

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