"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Slice of Life: The Winter Olympics

Jean Claude Killy was a household name growing up and thirty plus (plus) years later, it's one of those names that my mental rolodex can pull up with no hesitation.  If only other pieces of information could be extrapolated from my brain's data bank as easily.


Jean Claude Killy was the downhill skiing star of the 1968 Grenoble Olympics. As with all great Olympians, his lore lived long past that year. 

Names and memories come flooding back every four years. The Olympics were and are a family bonding time. Watching the Olympics is about seeing amazing feats of athleticism, courage and determination. It's about watching those special moments together. It's about creating shared memories. 

I should explain that I come from a family of skiers. The Winter Olympics have always reined supreme over the Summer Olympics, except, that is, for the summer of 1976, when Nadia Comaneci stole our hearts with her gymnastics and her personality.

Growing up, we listened to the Olympics on the radio or, as we got older, watched it on television. Footage of Jean Claude Killy was incredible and inspiring, even on our black and white 13-inch television.

Jean Claude Killy's fame in our household was followed by Franz Klammer, the Austrian downhill star of the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck. He skied at the edge of reason, making us watch his downhill runs with our hearts in our throats and our faces caught somewhere between half-grimace and half-joy. We wanted to be stylistic skiers like Killy, but somewhere inside us, there was a Klammer eager to ski with such abandon.

We skied (both nordic and alpine) every year, but the years of the Winter Olympics had us flying down ski slopes with visions of daring downhill runs and zigzagging through the slalom gates with the finish line beckoning us onward. 

Five and a half years ago, I dared to think the unthinkable and called my cousin in Vancouver, the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and asked if she might have room on her living room floor for a family of four. Her affirmative response sent squeals of glee throughout the house (mine of course).  For the next eighteen months, she and I entered lottery after lottery to get tickets. (Getting tickets to a winter event is harder than you think!) We were not able to secure tickets to curling, one of my favorite events or to many events, but it didn't matter in the end, because just being in an Olympic city, seeing the Olympic Flame, and visiting the different houses was amazing (Holland House and Canada House were the best!).  

The memories that matched my childhood expectations were created up at Whistler-Blackcomb.  I was finally able to watch an Olympic Downhill event!  Here's Lindsay Vonn blowing past us, slope side:

They don't always show the crowds on the slopes. It was so much fun to watch an Olympic event this way!

 Staying up in the mountains was incredible. 

The whole base of the mountain was filled with athletes and fans alike.  You'd be walking to dinner and see this:  

And the skiing?  It was perfect. We couldn't believe how few people were skiing. We had full slopes to our own!

I wanted to go to Sochi, but it was not in the cards.
We'll watch these Olympics from afar and we'll collect more memories and more shared moments, but nothing can compare to being there. Winter Olympics in South Korea? Check back with me in four years!
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  1. So glad you got there. I remember Jean Claude Killy. Loved him,

  2. Beautiful photos and resonant memories, enlarged by your perspective. Thanks, Jen!