In a van without a plan, two set out for Olympics | AspenTimes.com

In a van without a plan, two set out for Olympics

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Packing the van getting ready to go, Aspen Times reporter Tim Mutrie, left, and photojournalist Jacob N. Ware look for a spot to pack Ware's snowboard for a trip to the Olympics in Salt Lake City Tuesday afternoon. The two will be covering how well the three Aspenites, Chris Klug, Katie Monohan and ??? will do in the Games. Paul Conrad photo.

SALT LAKE CITY – Indecision can lead either to complacency, then full-blown neglect or, as in our case, last-minute corrective action.

With three Aspenites on deck to compete in the Olympics this week – beginning today with Casey Puckett of Old Snowmass in the men’s combined at Snowbasin – The Aspen Times had to be there. That was our thinking anyway. And yet, even as photographer Jacob Ware and I set out from Aspen yesterday afternoon in a rental van – which may well serve as our accommodations through Sunday – we’re not sure that we’ll actually make it “there.”

Sure, we arrived in Salt Lake about 8:30 last night, but getting to the events, and more importantly into them somehow, is another matter entirely. The Salt Lake Olympic Committee stopped issuing media credentials in June 2000, a date that passed The Times by without notice (perhaps in a Food and Wine Classic stupor).

Last week, we resolved to “cover” the Olympics from Aspen, meaning with phone call follow-ups with the local athletes coupled with wire reports. But when the games kicked off with Aspen snowboarder Chris Klug carrying the tattered World Trade Center flag at the opening ceremonies, accompanied by seven other athletes, that plan began looking glaringly inadequate.

“I need a photographer, a cell phone, a stack of cash and a car,” I told the managing editor in a frenzy last Friday. “We’ll figure out the rest.”

With the promise of receipts and thorough accounting, the editors provided the stack of cash, and Jacob, a veteran of Olympic commando-coverage, as we’re calling it, agreed to join in this week. He’s also got the all-important cell phone.

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With deadlines at stake, Jacob’s car, a 1979 International, and mine, a 1983 Ford pickup, weren’t up to the task. Dollar Rental Car upgraded us (for a nominal, editor-approved fee, of course) from a mid-size to a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, a rolling fortress with complete leather interior, separate climate controls for passenger and driver, and captain’s chairs for six. The only thing missing is a satellite TV.

As for the plan, we’ve secured lift tickets at Snowbasin for today to hopefully see Puckett in the combined and for Sunday, to see Katie Monahan in the women’s super G. According to Snowbasin officials, skiers can view the course from public-skiing areas, and that’s what we’re banking on. That, and the cell phone for interviews.

Cracking the course at Park City Mountain Resort to catch Klug in the snowboarding parallel giant slalom Thursday and Friday has proven to be a taller order as public skiers aren’t allowed near the course. (That’s according to a Park City Mountain Resort spokesman earlier this week, but we’ll see.)

Both days of the PGS are also sold out, at $100 apiece. But Klug’s mom, Kathy, contacted yesterday via cell phone, agreed to sell us spectator tickets for the 16-man finals on Friday, assuming Klug advances from Thursday’s qualifying round. (Kathy and Warren Klug are going to be watching Puckett at Snowbasin today, and to get the tickets, we’ve got to find them first.)

On the 410-mile journey from Aspen to Salt Lake yesterday, we made one notable stop – the liquor store in Fruita. “Real beer” is a commodity we hope to trade for accommodations at Katie’s place, an apartment in downtown Salt Lake City. However, Katie, a photographer friend of Jacob’s, was out on assignment last night when we arrived, and her brother/roommate Matt, wasn’t home either. (Two teenagers were waiting for us in the alley, however, trying to pawn a car CD player for a great price, complete with dangling cables.)

We then set out in the Salt Lake night to find a phone line to transmit this story back to Aspen, with Jacob at the wheel and me typing away on a laptop computer in shotgun. In our blind search for an Internet portal, we passed by the Olympic flame at Rice-Eccles Stadium, then hordes of people streaming toward an outdoor concert. And as music pours into a parking garage that validates for Kinko’s customers, and deadline approaches amid the nighttime fanfare, it’s clear that we’ve found the Olympics.

Finding the Aspen stories, however, remains to be seen

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