Logistics drive NBC telecasts
November 29, 2014
Mother Nature, steep terrain and complicated logistics present challenges for more than the skiers in today's World Cup slalom on Aspen Mountain.
The conditions are equally challenging for the television crews covering Aspen Winternational for NBC television.
"Weather is the biggest challenge for a production crew logistically," said Dan Hicks, the longtime Olympic voice of NBC.
After years announcing golf and swimming for NBC and the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), Hicks moved to ski racing more recently. He worked the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
"Skiing is a unique challenge (for television coverage) with Mother Nature, with the mountain itself … just getting crews up and down can be a challenge," said Hicks, who had a longtime fascination with ski racing before he had the opportunity to broadcast the sport.
"Ski racing … reminds me a little of golf, which is spread across acres. The action can be miles away," he said.
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But a ski slope is a bit more slippery than a golf course, adding to the logistical complications.
"The challenge also is to present skiing (on television) in a way … that reflects the speed of the sport," Hicks said. The on-course crews and their ability to concentrate and focus during a ski race is a tribute to their abilities, Hicks said.
"Their ability to concentrate like that … and it's (cold)," said the Arizona native who grew up as a football, basketball and baseball standout in Tucson, Ariz.
A basketball knee injury turned the University of Arizona graduate to broadcasting and golf.
From Tucson to CNN to NBC and eventually to Aspen.
Hicks is in his 15th season of golf coverage with NBC.
"I always enjoyed the sport (ski racing) from afar," Hicks said. "I enjoyed the Olympic events as a fan.
"I'd always admired the athletes, but after being around them the last few years as I've been closer to skiing, I … am amazed at the speed, quickness," Hicks said.
The challenges for the racers, he said, are tremendous physically but even more so mentally.
"The mental aspect with … dealing with danger and injuries, I think it's fascinating. It's a beautiful sport," said Hicks, who also is the play-by-play voice for Notre Dame football.
Hicks will be back on the air today, handing lead duties on the NBC national telecast of the World Cup slalom.
Television coverage on the main NBC network is set for 1 p.m. Aspen time — the start of the second run on Aspen Mountain.
Today's first run of slalom will start at 11 a.m.
"Ski racing, like golf, is called off the monitors," Hicks said. And the nature of ski racing with multiple starters and two runs lends itself to taped presentations, he said.
Today's telecast will include taped segments from the morning run added into live coverage of the second run of slalom.
"No, I didn't grow up skiing at all," Hicks said in an interview with The Aspen Times. "I grew up on the desert floor of Tucson."
But a friend in college coaxed Hicks to Mount Lemon, the inauspicious ski area in the mountains outside Tucson.
"I was in jeans, totally unprepared. I don't know how I survived that," he said. "That was my first ski experience."
But certainly not his last.
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