Snow a reminder that Olympics are just ahead

— Saturday morning the heater at my home clicked on and the realization that winter is quickly approaching hit me like a snowball.

A few hours later, after I had pulled myself out from underneath those cozy blankets, I glanced out the window to see a fresh coat of the white fluffy stuff covering the surrounding hillsides.

While the realization that winter is here sends a shiver down my spine mainly because I personally am not a fan of winter for a select group of Steamboat athletes the return of the cooler temperatures and the snow has to be exciting.

For those elite athletes, this winter means more than a few days on the mountain, more than a few flights off the Howelsen launching pads.

This year in Utah, in something like 151 days, many of our top local athletes will be competing against other top athletes from around the world in amateur sports’ greatest arena for a chance to win a gold medal.

Although Steamboat athletes have been competing at the Olympics for decades, this year’s event will no doubt be different.

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In the 11 years I’ve been working here, I’ve covered three Winter Olympics by telephone, fax and secondhand information.

Since the games were in places like Norway, France and Japan, this was the only realistic way that our newspaper could cover the events.

I know of a handful of people who actually got to go, but expenses kept the local crowds to a minimum and, quite frankly, restricted the fan base to proud parents and a few die-hard ski fans with the cash and desire to get to these far away locations.

But this year’s event is different.

The Olympic Games will take place just six hours down the road and should be, at least in theory, accessible to just about everyone.

In the last three months, I personally have spent about 80 hours trying to arrange rooms and passes to the Olympic Games.

While there are still a few outstanding details to be completed, it looks like the Olympics will be covered live everyday in our newspaper in mid-February. As Fred Flintstone would say, “Yabba dabba doo!”

It’s been an amazing process which has included begging, trying to line up a passport and discovering places like Evanston, Wyo.

My boss assures me that it was all well worth the effort.

The biggest shock came a couple of days ago, when he told me that the Salt Lake Organizing Committee needed a passport in order to issue our newspaper a press pass.

I always knew that Utah was a little different, but who would have dreamed that I would have needed a passport to get there?

But all kidding aside, having the Olympic Games this close to Steamboat Springs will be exciting.

Most of the people who live here understand the Games and the Games’ heritage better than most communities in the world.

In February, Steamboat will have a rare chance to experience the magic of the Olympic Games firsthand.

One thing is for sure, this sports reporter will leave Utah in February with a different perspective of the Olympic experience.