By Brian Kevin
In our March issue (on newsstands now), hot off the heels of the Sochi Olympics, we explored whether Maine could ever host the Winter Games. For some added perspective, we called up Carrabassett Valley’s favorite son, two-time gold-medalist snowboarder Seth Wescott, and asked him to weigh in.
So what do you think? Should we toss our hat in the ring for 2022?
I think it’s a little tongue-in-cheek to consider it for Maine. There are a number of events we could accommodate. Maine could host all the freestyle skiing events and all the snowboarding events. We could host a phenomenal slalom and giant slalom. And it’d be cool to brainstorm, like, where to put the bobsled. You could probably get away with that at Camden SnowBowl or something, because bobsled doesn’t take a ton of vertical.
Oh yeah, I’ve ridden the toboggan chute there. That’s pretty much the same as Olympic bobsledding, right?
Oh sure, totally. Just add a few turns and it’s all good. But seriously, though, there are places where you could do these neat events and have stuff end up in these little towns, and that brainstorming part would definitely be fun.
I hate saying this because Sugarloaf is my home, but we don’t honestly have the terrain to run an Olympic downhill. A couple of winters ago I was in Switzerland when the men’s alpine downhill was going on, and it’s two-and-a-half minutes of those guys going 80 miles an hour. That takes an insane amount of vertical footage, space for safety netting, room for spectators, and so on. So to accommodate that is a whole different ballpark. You would literally have to look at cutting a trail top-to-bottom on Mt. Katahdin and installing snowmaking machines just to put it in the realm of what some of these guys are racing for downhill.
When snowboarder pals from abroad come to visit, what do they think of Maine?
I think they’re genuinely impressed. A lot of the Europeans have seen southern Vermont, but not Maine, and the ones I’ve had come to Sugarloaf over the years have had a blast. It’s probably not what they’re used to in the Alps, but for them it’s a very legitimate ski area — and not just for the East, but for the United States. So it’s always refreshing to hear someone’s opinion about it.
Still, it’s a bit of a haul from, say, the hockey arena in Portland.
A lot of people probably wouldn’t know this, but in Torino, for instance, we were two hours out of the city. I think Denver is doing some positioning to make a bid further down the road, and in two hours, you can get from there to ski areas like Vail or Beaver Creek. Sure, in Sochi, you’re within 20 miles of everything, but it took $50 billion to do that. The US isn’t going to spend that kind of money, so the Games will have to go to a place that’s more physically spread out in order to use all the natural assets there already. Travel will just be a non-issue.
So the notion of a whole state or region hosting the Olympics — rather than a single city — doesn’t seem totally farfetched?
It doesn’t, actually. And if you’re going down that road, then the fantasy of New England might become a potential someday. I don’t know quite how it would work. They’d probably have to use Mt. Washington. Maybe you put snowmaking down the auto road and that becomes the downhill or something, because then you’d have the vertical to work with. And with North Conway there, it’s closer to hotels for all the people who’d want to see an alpine skiing event.
Yeah, we determined that the whole state of Maine doesn’t have the number of hotel rooms that the International Olympic Committee requires of one candidate city. So maybe we could do home-stays?
Sure, I got a couple of guest bedrooms.