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Nathan Caulford
Park City, Utah offers an opportunity to luge down an Olympic track like a true Olympian.
By
Tribune Media Services
updated 2/3/2010 1:03:07 PM ET 2010-02-03T18:03:07

It's cold, dark and the snow is dumping, but that doesn't stop thousands of locals and their kids from turning out at Park City Mountain Resort to cheer on snowboarding superstars Shaun White and Hannah Teter, as well as other world-class athletes as they strut their stuff under the lights in their final competition before the 2010 Olympic U.S. snowboarding team was announced.

"It's great for kids to see the best athletes in the world," said Chris Daggett, a US Airways pilot whose daughters are budding ski racers on the local Park City team. "They really think it's cool to watch."

Little kids play in the snow and older ones are mesmerized by the action as they line the same half-pipe where the U.S. men's team swept the competition in the 2002 Olympic Games, motivating kids all over the country to beg their parents to let them learn to snowboard. It was the first U.S. sweep since the men's figure-skating team did it in 1956.

"Definitely worth freezing for and better than TV," said a shivering 13-year-old Ashton Hammer who, along with his buddy Sebastian Vincent, snowboards every chance he gets.

But for champion Shaun White, there is just one special spectator that he wants to watch him land his brand-new trick, which by the way received a near-perfect score, but she can't bear to watch. "It's not about winning and losing," White's mom, Cathy White, said, keeping her back turned from the action until the applause and whistles from the crowd tell her he's done. "It's about his safety."

In the coming weeks, of course, all eyes will be on Vancouver, B.C., (and yes, you can still find accommodations and tickets to some Olympic events, though not necessarily for the events you've always dreamt of seeing in person (www.vancouver2010.com, www.2010destinationplanner.com and www.hellobc.com). But here in Park City, Utah, with the Olympic crowds elsewhere, your kids can actually ski down an Olympic course, snowboard, ride a skeleton, maneuver a luge down the Olympic track (www.parkcityinfo.com) or even take a Nordic ski-jumping class (www.olyparks.com) — and you'll snare a good deal in the process.

Shaun White
U.S. Snowboarding/Tom Kelly
Shaun White smiles after putting down a huge run in the superpipe competition in the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah.
Wherever you take your kids to the snow this winter — and there have never been so many discounted opportunities for families (www.ski.com), you're bound to be frustrated by how much effort is required — on vacation no less — the mittens lost on the way to ski school, the preschooler who falls asleep on the chairlift and won't wake up (that was my daughter Reggie), the chapped lips, runny noses and cold fingers, the broken snowboard laces, the ski boots that hurt.

Remember that these newly minted 2010 Olympians were once little kids whose parents faced all the same travails — and then some. "Taking kids to the mountains always requires a lot of work for parents," acknowledges Pat Teter, whose sons are competitive snowboarders. Her daughter, Hannah, already an Olympic gold medalist, was just named to this year's Olympic snowboarding team. "At the beginning, I didn't imagine they'd compete at such an elite level," Teter acknowledges. "It was just such a fun thing for them to do and had the added benefit of them focusing on healthy lifestyles."

Pat Teter's suggestion to all of you budding snow mamas and papas (check out the new Web site I'm helping edit, www.snowmamas.com) out there: "If this is something your kids want to do, go for it and try it yourselves, too. It's a lot of fun and anything we can do as a family is so important."

"I couldn't ask for more supportive parents," Hannah Teter said after making the team. Her advice to parents of young snow sports lovers: "Be the most positive you can be and then let them go for it!"

Clair Bidez
U.S. Snowboarding/Tom Kelly
Clair Bidez rides in the superpipe competition in the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah.
For many here, just getting to this final night of the competition was victory enough. It certainly was for 17-year-old Broc Waring, according to his mom Heather. "This is a huge accomplishment," she said. "Anything a kid is passionate about, you should back them up, whether it is the flute or snowboarding."

Certainly there was a lot of schlepping involved — just like for any of us whose kids love snow sports — and inevitable injuries, offered New Jersey resident Lore Kass, who watched her son Danny — an Olympic silver medalist — compete in Park City, just after having recovered from a broken leg. (He didn't make the Olympic team.) "You do what you have to do for your kids."

That means being there to pick up the pieces when they've lost, just like at any soccer tournament or basketball game. "You just hope he comes out at the end walking," said Heather Waring, who has crossed the ocean to watch her son compete.

It is always a family affair too, with aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings and friends on hand as a personal cheering section for the young athletes. Even an entire junior girls' snowboarding team from Sun Valley, Idaho turned out to support Sun Valley's Kaitlyn Farrington whose dad sported a T-shirt with Kaitlyn's name on it. "The mountain is the best baby sitter you could have had," he joked.

"Anything that gets the kids outside is a good thing," added Earle Bidez, who watched his daughter Claire and son Dylan compete. "And they learn from every loss and disappointment. Something good comes out of it."

The key: "The kids have to be having fun," said Cathy White, whether they are hitting a half-pipe for the first time or a contest that will determine whether they make the Olympic team. "Parents too — on the slopes and off," said Danny Kass' dad Craig.

The local kids, meanwhile, were just happy to be out after dark with their friends, watching their idols and playing in the snow. In fact, Park City mom Caroline Kiley Silverman admitted that her 8-year-old son, Henry, might be a tad jaded by the hoopla. "We see Olympians in town every day," she said. "It's hard not to take it all for granted."

For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow "taking the kids" on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

© 2009 Eileen Ogintz ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Photos: Vancouver, B.C., 2010

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  1. Vancouver, British Columbia, played host to the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Albert Normandin / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A couple strolls through Stanley Park on a spring afternoon near the city's main boat marina. One of the city's most visited parks, visitors can also enjoy the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center and zoo at the park. (Joe Mcnally / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Rowers glide past a line of yachts at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.It is said that in Vancouver, it is possible to ski in the morning, sail in the afternoon and take a sunset dip in the Pacific. (Mary Peachin / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Planning to soak up some art while in town? Consider staying at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, which is located right behind the Vancouver Art Gallery. The hotel is located on the VIA Rail route for those who plan to travel to the city by train. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Granville Island Public Market is perhaps the most well-known market in Vancouver. Dozens of vendors offer food-loving tourists and locals produce, seafood, meats, sweets and European speciatly foods. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The steam-powered Gastown clock blows out clouds of steam during its hourly sounding of Westminister Chimes. Gastown is located in the northeast corner of Vancouver, and is known as the birthplace of the city. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is "acclaimed for its spectacular architecture and unique setting on the cliffs of Point Grey," its Web site proclaims. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Totem poles and other artifacts are on display at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The museum, founded in 1949, is world renowned for its collections. (Kevin Arnold / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. While in the city, check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. The bridge spans 450 feet across and is situated 230 feet above the Capilano River. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A totem pole decorates Stanley Park in Vancouver. The park covers about 1,000 acres, and offers residents and tourists a wealth of options, including walking, running or biking the 5.5-mile seawall path, a pitch-and-put golf course and more. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A young girl interacts with a sea otter at the Vancouver Aquarium. Tickets for adults cost $22, $17 for seniors (65+) and youths (13-18), $14 for children (4-12) and kids get in free. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pedestrians walk by Aritizia on Robson Street, the famous shopping street in Vancouver's west end. In the stretch of three blocks, tourists looking for retail therapy can find stores specializing in shoes, clothes, lingeri, candy, souvenirs and luggage, not to mention hair salons, currency exchanges and restaurants. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Library Square building in Vancouver houses the city's public library. (Danniele Hayes / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Patrons eat in the dining room of Six Acres, a pub and restaurant located in Gastown. Six Acres is "tucked in the oldest brick building in Vancouver," its Web site claims. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A traditional pagoda sits on the shore of a pond in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden in the downtown area of Vancouver. Though Canada's third largest city, Vancouver has historically been thought of as the "terminal city," the end of the line and the last remote town before the continent comes to an end at the Pacific Ocean. (Ross Barnett / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Granville Entertainment District is an area in Downtown Vancouver known for its vast assortment of bars, danceclubs and nightlife. The entertainment district is centered on a seven-block stretch of the Granville Mall and immediately surrounding streets. (Tourism Vancouver) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre was built in 1968, and was a gift from the lumber magnate to Vancouver's citizens. If you're visiting Vancouver on a Friday or Saturday night, you can catch laser shows to music from Green Day, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Olympic rings are illuminated in the harbor outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver is set on the waterfront of Vancouver. (Stephanie Lamy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Richmond Oval, located south of Vancouver, served as the long-track speed skating venue for the 2010 Winter Games. (Ben Hulse / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Skiers and snowboarders gather on top of Whistler Mountain. Whistler was the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic Games. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Norway's Johan Remen Evensensoars through the air during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup skiing event in Whistler, British Columbia, in 2009. The venue was the site of ski jumping events during the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. (Darryl Dyck / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Cypress Mountain hosted the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events during the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth zooms around a corner during the sixth training run for the World Cup skeleton race in Whistler, B.C., in 2009. (Frank Gunn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Vancouver skyline, Burrard Inlet and Lion's Gate bridge is pictured at sunset. The Lion's Gate Bridge connects North and West Vancouver with downtown. The suspension bridge is 5,890 feet in length. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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