Tag Archives: Banff

Lindsey Van, champion in many ways

Lindsey Van at 2009 World Ski Championship
Lindsey Van at 2009 World Ski Championship

There are winners, and there are champions. And today – the very first day that women ski jumpers have ever competed in the Olympics – seems like the perfect day to single out a champion.

“My goal is to make the Olympic team, for girls,” declared ski jumper Lindsey Van in a tv interview back in 1996. She was eleven. It would be 18 more years – until today, February 11, 2014 – that it took her dream to materialize.

Not just 18 years of training. But 18 years of – quite literally MAKING the team. As in creating it. Lobbying the Olympic Committee for it. Fighting for it in courts and in public. Willing it into being. And although Lindsey didn’t win the medal we were all hoping for her, those women who did, owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her tireless fight on their behalf.

[Today’s winners were Carina Vogt of Germany; Daniel Iraschkostotz of Austria; Coline Mattel of France].

Not many of us probably even realized that women ski jumpers were excluded from Olympic competition by officials who considered the sport “too dangerous” for women. Even though the women were competing neck-in-neck with men in world championships since 2006, when the International Ski Federation allowed them in. And decades before that on slopes all over the world.

A 2011 documentary “Ready to Fly” by William Kerig, captures this struggle. It’s a brilliant film, one of the most moving stories I saw at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, where it won top awards.

In 2009, Lindsey won her Gold Medal at the World Ski Championships at Liberec, CZE and held the North American record for distance (94 meters) until this year.

She was the favorite heading into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but of course – there was no ski jumping for women in Vancouver. And there wouldn’t have been any women’s ski jumping today if Lindsey and her teammates hadn’t filed suit against the Olympic committee. It was a victory hard won. And bittersweet for Lindsey, whose best chance at gold was four years ago, not today at age 29.

But if anyone can claim victory, if anyone can be called “champion” for her sport and has cause to hold her head high when other women accept their medals, it’s this petite skier from Salt Lake City who fought to make today’s Olympic competition possible – when everyone told her to go away.

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Banff Mountain Festival Preview

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The Banff Mountain Festival.

Banff. When first heard about its mountain film festival, I had no idea where that was. If it hadn’t been for the winter Olympics a bunch of years back, I wouldn’t know much about Calgary either, but that’s just me being American. Truthfully, it sounded like someplace in Scandinavia. It sounded like someplace COLD.

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It is. Banff sits in the Canadian Rockies, inside a national park, if you can believe that! So you might expect a certain kind of beauty. Very unlikely you’ll be prepared for this. Majestic is the word that kept popping up. And I know it’s a corny word, but it’s all I had to describe those peaks, towering right above us. Every direction you look. If I was younger and hipper, I might just call them insane. Or sick, especially if I were dropping into some near vertical couloir of powder – easy to imagine. Even now, with the trees just sporting their first dusting of snow.

On the weekend I arrive, my host is breaking out her ice axes for some waterfalls that had finally frozen over – in October mind you! – on a river she and her boyfriend kayaked only weeks earlier. Beneath a mountain they climb in summer and will ski a few weeks later. You get the idea. New season? Just adjust your gear. There’s always something to keep you exploring!

So it’s pretty easy to see how a mountain film festival takes root in this community. The 38th annual fest, so they’ve been at it awhile. In fact, together with ‘Mountain Film’ in Telluride, these two make up the grand-daddies of adventure film festivals which, if you’ve never been to one, is well worth the trek to get there. “Really?” you ask. Yes, really.  Here’s why…   Continue reading Banff Mountain Festival Preview