After Bay State Games, Extreme Games, then Olympics

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With the 17th annual Bay State Winter Games to conclude Sunday, with or without the always problematical cross-country races at Cranwell Golf Course and Resort in Lenox, the next big events are the Winter ESPN Extreme Games this weekend and then the Winter Olympic Games in Utah, starting Feb. 8. Weather is the one factor beyond mortal control, but the machine-made snow at Brodie Mountain in New Ashford and Jiminy Peak in Hancock should stand up to the moisture and warmer temperatures, and who knows, it could be snowing by Friday. A Bay State gamesman said Monday that there is little chance of postponing the cross country or seeking another site, but hoped that Cranwell’s snow-making system could crank out enough for at least one loop for multiple runs, which has happened several times. But in 1999, the lack of snow forced cancellation. And it was not known if Dan Duquette, the embattled Red Sox general manager, will again enter the cross-country event, scheduled for Sunday with registration to start at 8 a.m. for the full slate of races. Brodie vice president and general manager James Van Dyke was confident Monday that there will be good conditions for the snowboarding, registration at 8:30 a.m., and masters’ Alpine giant slalom, registration from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday will see the the scholastic Alpine two-run giant slalom, starting at 10 a.m. Top boys and girls from high schools throughout the commonwealth have been selected for the always fiercely contested event at Jiminy’s Ace of Spades Trail. The even more fierce masters’ hockey will take place Friday through Sunday at rinks at Williams College and at the MCLA-operated state rink in North Adams. The ESPN Games, featuring motorcycles and snowmobiles as well as skis and snowboards, actually took place two weeks ago in Aspen, Colorado, with relatively few spectators. Now millions will see the spectacular action on the tube, with reruns off and on for the next 12 months. Mount Snow in nearby West Dover, Vt., hosted the ESPN Games for the past two winters and saw the emergence of hometown teenager Kelly Clark as an international snowboarding star. Clark started out on Mount Snow’s slopes on skis, at age three, but soon switched to the snowboard. She is one of four Southern Vermont athletes named to the U.S. Olympic Team. Ross Powers and Tricia Brynes are boarders sponsored by Stratton Mountain. And Lincoln DeWitt, who grew up in Pownal and attended schools in Bennington, is a member of the skeleton team. Only 22, Powers won a Bronze Medal four years ago at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and has won championships on half-pipes throughout the world. He comes from Londonderry and learned to board at Bromley Mountain in Peru, where his mother Nancy, a single parent, worked in the cafeteria. Powers is no stranger to limited finances and has established the Powers Foundation to assist other young competitors. Brynes, 27, has competed internationally for Stratton for years and is one of this country’s most popular boarders. DeWitt, 34, is a newcomer to the ranks of skeleton riders and took up the sport only a few years ago at the Park City Olympic Arena, site of one of the few bobsled runs in the U.S. He came to Park City a decade ago to teach skiing, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. His mother, Eve Pearce, will leave Pownal’s peaceful setting soon for a trip to the Olympics to watch her son, who has competed in the last four years around the wintry portions of the globe. Berkshire County will also take pride in the second Olympic appearance of Pat Weaver of Lenox on the cross country team. Weaver, who now lives in Bend, Oregon, made the team just recently with several strong finishes in the West, after a not team-assuring record last winter and at the start of this season. Weaver was a state high school and Bay State Games champ for Lenox High more than a decade ago. He finished 43rd in the 10-kilometer race in Nagano in 1998 and is ready to ski at any distance at Soldier Hollow near Park City. He is the second area cross country skier to make the Olympic team, following Jim Curran Jr. of Stamford, Vt., who skied for Drury High in North Adams. Curran did not concentrate on XC racing until after graduating from the University of Vermont and moving to Jackson Hole, Wyo. Curran was XC director for one year at Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vt., before heading west. Curran placed 53rd in the 50-k event at the 1992 Olympics in France. Pittsfield native Jonathon Selkowitz will be at the Olympics with his cameras, with numerous assignments. A ski racer at Taft School and Colby College, he now lives in Jackson Hole, and his work has appeared in major ski publications and numerous newspapers. His father, Mark, is a Pittsfield attorney and a former PHS ace. DeWitt was the overall World Cup champion last winter and has competed against the Berkshire dean of skeleton racing, Terry Holland. One of the most hazardous winter sports, skeleton competition has not been on the Olympic slate since the 1984 Winter Games in Switzerland. Mount Snow was originally scheduled to host the ESPN Games for a third winter, but the venue was shifted to Aspen by the producers, perhaps due to the somewhat precarious financial condition of the American Skiing Company, owner of Mount Snow, as well as Killington and Sugarbush, all in Vermont; also Attitash in New Hampshire; Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine; the Canyons in Park City; Steamboat Springs in Colorado; and Heavenly Valley in California. Founded and headed by Les Otten of Sunday River, ASC is still more than $400 million in debt and Otten left the company last year. Now he is one of the second-tier owners of the Boston Red Sox. But a visit to Mount Snow last week saw a robust and busy operation, with thousands of skiers and boarders in action on amazingly well-groomed snow. Mount Snow was built by Walter Schoenknecht and opened on Dec. 12, 1954 to supplant Dutch Hill, Hogback, Snow Valley and Bromley as Southern Vermont’s extraordinary ski resort. Only Bromley remains in operation today, as Mount Snow’s numerous attractions and longer runs were just too attractive. And Schoenknecht added swimming pools, sun tanning mirrors, goldfish tanks and even alcoholic beverages, in addition to a vertical drop of 1,700 feet and 132 trails, most covered by powerful snow guns. Mont Snow was sold to Preston Leete Smith of Killington in 1977, with Otten taking over in 1996. Otten opened the 200-room Grand Summit Resort Hotel and Conference Center in 1998. Now with a new CEO and president, B.J. Fair, Mount Snow and the surrounding inns, lodges and motels are drawing huge crowds after a New England-wide slow start. When Mount Snow opened, trails were narrow and close together with wider trails and open slopes added each year. The present season sees a new slope created by cutting the trees between one of the most popular narrow trails, the Canyon and the lived-up-to-its-name Choke. Now a sometimes tortuous run has become a hero-making cruiser. At Mount Snow at least, ASC appears to have a crowd-pleasing money-maker, with operations led by general manager Scott Pierpont and mountain manager Scott Reeves. Special events and competitions take place each weekend and there are several terrain parks for both skiers and snowboarders, as well as a tubing park, snowmobile tours, dog-sledding and cross-country skiing. Mount Snow acquired adjacent Haystack Mountain in 1994 and it is open weekends and holiday periods. John Hitchcock of Williamstown writes frequently about the area sport scene.
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