Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quest for Olympic training designation nearly done

Sun Valley would be 1st recognized Nordic site

Express Staff Writer

After the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation crosses its t's and dots its i's in agreements with the United States Olympic Committee, Sun Valley will become the nation's first designated Nordic Olympic and Paralympic training site.

The designation isn't official yet, but following a site visit from the committee early this month, the foundation has been given the contracts it needs to sign as its final step in the nearly two-year process of designation.

"Once those binding contracts are resolved, we don't see any problems," said foundation Executive Director Don Wiseman. "Once we get that done, we should receive the designation."

The foundation submitted its application for certification as an Olympic and Paralympic training site to the U.S. Olympic Committee in June. The application has been in the works since last year, when the foundation, the Wood River Ability Program, the Blaine County Recreation District and Sun Valley Co. joined forces with the Sustain Blaine economic development organization to apply.

Wiseman said that despite a report on the Twin Falls Times-News website earlier this week, designation is not yet certain.

"The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is still in the process of applying to receive designation," he said.

The latest step in that application was a site visit from Alicia McConnell, the committee's director of athlete services and programs. McConnell was in the valley from Feb. 2-3, visiting Nordic facilities and meeting with members of the foundation as well as representatives from the Wood River Ability Program, which is lobbying for the Paralympic designation.

Wiseman said McConnell was able to see preparations for the Boulder Mountain Tour as well as view the foundation's facilities at Lake Creek. He said she seemed impressed with the valley and the foundation.

"She was just totally blown away," he said. ""When we put her on the plane Tuesday night, she said she was signing off on it and that she would be sending us the contracts."

The foundation must sign a contract with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, its governing body, as well as a contract with the United States Olympic Committee.

The former simply alerts the association that the foundation will be increasing its focus on Nordic activities, Wiseman said, while the latter sets out the agreement regarding athletic standards and use of the trademark Olympic rings.

Wiseman said valley residents shouldn't expect to see the rings prominently displayed across town.

"You're not going to see the rings on the edge of town on a big banner," he said with a laugh. "They make sure you're not splashing it all over. It's really protected."

Marc Mast, executive director of the Wood River Ability Program, said his organization plans to use the rings to build local awareness of his program.

"It's the branding," he said. "By having the rings and the Paralympic [endorsement] together, it really helps with fundraising regionally."

Wiseman and Mast said they hope to have the contracts completed and designation in place by late May or early June. Once designation is complete, Wiseman said, the foundation would begin making incremental changes in programs and facilities.

However, he said few major changes would take place in the near future.

"We're operating on such a level that we can just continue as usual for the moment," he said. "It just puts a gold star on our report card."

Katherine Wutz:

Mission incomplete

Contrary to reports from other news sources, Sun Valley has not yet officially received Olympic designation.

If it does, it will be the first designated Nordic training site in the U.S. Twelve training sites for other sports exist nationwide.

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