- By Pam LeBlanc American-Statesman Staff
Most of us will never make it to the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rub shoulders with elite athletes.
Thanks to the Ski With a Champion program at Deer Valley Resort in Utah, any competent skier can spend time skiing with an Olympian. During my recent visit, I arranged to spend the day with Heidi Voelker, a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team.
Yes, I was intimidated. But in the last few years, I’ve ridden bikes with Lance Armstrong and swum with Olympians including Aaron Peirsol and Tommy Hannan. I’ve tried (with no luck) to keep up with pro triathletes including Rip Esselstyn and Desiree Ficker, and gotten lapped at a bike race by ultra-cyclist Andrew Willis.
Could I keep up with Voelker? Of course not — if she was trying. But she understood my limitations (I’m a Texan, after all) and kept a snappy but reasonable pace as we explored Deer Valley Resort, where she serves as Ambassador of Skiing.
Voelker started skiing when she was 2. I started in my 30s. She earned a silver medal at the World Junior Slalom in 1987. I was busy writing for the Plano Star Courier that year. She competed in 1988, 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics. I watched them on television.
Still, she slowed to a comfortable pace to accommodate me. The nice thing about skiing with someone who knows a mountain is that they can find the good snow and the good pitches and avoid big crowds. We did all that.
And after three or four hours of steady skiing, we headed to a nearby restaurant for a piping hot pot of cheese fondue.
Voelker is one of a stable of athletes available as ski guides through the Ski With a Champion program. Other participating athletes are Shannon Bahrke, Trace Worthington, Jillian Vogtli, Kaylin Richardson, Chris Waddell and Kris “Fuzz” Feddersen.