Passing the Torch

Soldier Hollow joins the Utah Olympic Legacy

When the 2002 Olympic Games ended, Soldier Hollow opened to the public by adding a tubing hill, housing a charter school, and hosting a variety of events each year such as the Sheepdog Classic.
“Soldier Hollow is one of the only venues where you can see everything from everywhere. It’s really nice for spectators,” said two-time Olympian Sara Studebaker-Hall. “It offers a unique atmosphere and has a lot of options for terrain.”
As one of three venues built to host events during the 2002 Olympic Games, Soldier Hollow was the setting for the games’ biathlon and cross-country ski competitions.
While the center has been able to sustain itself, fifteen years later, it is now in need of some updates to remain a viable venue.
Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation (UOLF) acquired the Nordic Center in May of 2016. Plans to make Soldier Hollow a world-class venue once again are already underway.
Melanie Welch, director of marketing and sponsorships for UOLF, said the foundation offers Soldier Hollow the benefit of utilizing existing resources. “The venue has been aging and is in need of updates to infrastructures. The foundation has the means to do that,” Welch explained.
“To keep these venues going is good for Utah’s economy,” said Stuart Ashe, Soldier Hollow general manager. Doing so also puts Utah into a good position to win a bid for another Olympic Games.
Immediate improvements include a biathlon tunnel which is a new requirement for hosting World Cup events, new snowmaking machines, and an expansion of the tubing hill.
The tubing hill will feature a conveyor belt to pull tubers up the mountain replacing the current rope tow. Skiers will be able to purchase their trail passes and rent ski equipment from the new ski shop in the basement of the lodge.
UOLF has been running the Olympic Oval in Kearns and the Olympic Park outside of Park City, proving the organization is capable of keeping Olympic venues relevant and can evolve them into community centers and visitor destinations. The plan for Soldier Hollow is to do the same.
Ashe plans to add activities to have more reasons for locals to come to Soldier Hollow. “We want it to become a place where the community goes…when you have visitors or are in need of a venue for an event, you can come here,” said Ashe.
Ashe hopes to create an advisory board consisting of a diverse group of members from the community including those serving as government officials, state park positions, parents, and others to help determine what activities are appropriate for the area to produce more traffic, bringing in more revenue.
“We need to make revenue for our youth programs to be affordable,” continued Ashe.
Last year, Soldier Hollow added biathlon to their Nordic program in an effort to grow their youth program. Studebaker-Hall, Soldier Hollow’s program director said introducing children to athletics is good for their overall development. Kids do better in school, are happier, and live healthier lives.
“Kids are exposed to a lot of different sports through the Nordic program.” With the merger, Studebaker-Hall said there are more opportunities to join other clubs for practices and more access to the other venues’ activities. Children may discover a love for ski jumping or speed skating through the Nordic program.
“We want to foster winter sports but we also want them to become great people. We talk about goal setting. The kids learn how to balance school with training. They get to be outside which helps with their focus,” continued Studebaker-Hall, “and with the skill of Nordic skiing…this is something you can do your whole life.”
According to Ashe more improvements will come, transforming the venue into a year-round attraction for locals and tourists. Soldier Hollow also plans to host more national and international events bringing athletes from all over the world to Midway—keeping the Olympic spirit alive in the valley.