Olympics-fueled fantasies dominate sledding hills, ice rinks and ski resorts

Petula Dvorak
Columnist February 17

“Not headfirst!” the mom yelled.

“It’s skeleton, Mom!” the kid yelled back before bombing down the snow hill at Battery Kemble Park in Northwest Washington — headfirst, arms back, like an eagle. Or a battering ram.

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. View Archive

The mom covered her eyes.

On the other side of the hill, a snowboarder shoveled and shoveled the Sochi-like slurpee slush to make a jump for future Jamie Andersons.

On Capitol Hill, neighborhood kids did jumps and twists off sleds, cardboard boxes or even garbage bags they used to slide down the House side of the hill.

“It is illegal to do this, you know,” the Capitol Police officer making his rounds past all the kids told the parents. Then he smiled and waved, and I think he winked behind his mirrored glasses before moving on.

At Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Southeast Washington, three-time Olympic speedskater and local coach Nat Mills showed kids videos of Olympic speedskater Shani Davis. The ice was on fire after that, with little skaters channeling Davis, who once visited the rink.“They just want to keep skating after seeing Shani Davis skate,” one exhausted skate mom said.

Across the region, the Snowchi storm gave kids the snow to head out and fuel some Olympic dreams. Neighborhood hills became double-black diamonds, kids wearing thick socks turned slippery hallways into ice rinks, the porch railing became a slopestyle course.

At Whitetail Ski Resort in Pennsylvania, one of the closest ski areas to the Washington region, all the rental skis were gone before noon.

“We weren’t expecting this at all,” one of the clerks said.

Snow better than Sochi’s? A holiday weekend? Little heads fueled by Olympic dreams?

Nah. Who’d guess the resort would be packed? We ran into four families from our neighborhood.

“It’s just like men’s downhill,” my 9-year-old said after chattering across a huge ice patch on a run.

The terrain parks were packed with kids filming one another’s jumps and spills.

Behold Kevin, 16: Warrenton, Va., high school sophomore during the week, Flying Bandit of the terrain park on the weekends.

With an outlaw bandanna tied over his face — Shaun White style — Kevin flew off a jump and twisted, spun 100, 180, then 320 degrees before biffing on the landing.

“Ugh! I caught my edge. Kinda short on the landing,” he explained to me as we practiced the post-ride interview for his 2018 Olympics run.

He’s been watching the Games.

“If I tried all those tricks they did, I’d be dead,” he declared.

His pal, Jacob, 15, also a sophomore, said he watched the slopestyle competitions. “Jamie Anderson. She’s hot,” he said.

Pumped on Olympic action, they spent the day at the terrain park, trying to master 360-degree rotations and landings, unbuckling their boards and hiking back up, avoiding the lift lines so they could ride and ride.

On Sunday night, exhausted after Day 4 in the snow, my kids and I watched the men’s skiing finals. And then we watched bronze medalist Bode Miller as he was emotionally cornered by NBC reporter Christin Cooper. She kept asking him about his dead brother as he began to cry, then crouched in the snow to sob.

We joined in the collective cringe. Most of America was wishing the reporter would stop questioning Miller, who was too choked up to give a sound bite.

“What’s wrong with him?” the boy who suggested I sell his brother to an orphanage earlier that day asked.

“He had just won an important medal, and he was sad that his brother died last year,” I said.

“His brother died?” asked the child who had recently been timed out for pinching his own brother.

“Oh,” he said before moving closer to that brother and offering him some of his chips.

Some Olympic lessons you wouldn’t expect.

petula.dvorak@washpost.com

Twitter: @petulad

For previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.

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