Winter Olympics? Latinos May Be Inspired


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Karen Cortés

Millions of viewers worldwide will watch the Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics on Friday, and while a triple Lutz or luge race may not be in your weekend plans, young Connecticut Latinos may look for inspiration from Olympians like snowboarder Jacqueline Hernandez or speedskaters Eddy Alvarez and Jonathan Garcia to try a new winter sport.
Local businesses and community organizations, including Hartford’s Police Activity League (PAL) are supporting programs to make popular Olympic sports accessible to everyday athletes.
Ski Sundown’s Lori Shield says that there has been a marked uptick in the number of visitors to the New Hartford mountain with the publicity surrounding the winter games. “Kids get Olympic fever, and adults are inspired to rekindle their interest in winter sports,” says Shield.
Sundown hosts groups sponsored by the Hartford Police Activities League each year, bringing young people out to hit the slopes and learn new sports skills. Ski Sundown provides ski and snowboarding equipment, instruction and snacks for the PAL participants. PAL is currently seeking grant funding to bring kids in on a weekly basis so city students can make repeat visits that include lessons.
Sundown also is home to ski clubs for dozens of schools across the state. Young people take weekly lessons and have free time to ski. “In six weeks, they’re skiers,” says Shield.
Shields is hopeful that some of PAL’s previous participants will return to Sundown when they host the group on March 6. “We want our property to reflect the market we live in,” says Shield.
Sergeant Karla Medina of the Hartford Police Department supervises the city’s Police Activities League. In addition to the ski group, the Hartford PAL provides mentoring, art, athletics and mentoring program four nights a week for Hartford youth. “All of our programs are facilitated by community volunteers and police officers who serve as mentors trusted by parents,” says Medina.
A future Olympian may also surface from the PAL youth hockey program at TrinityCollege coordinated by professional  athlete John Wenz.  Hartford PAL Hockey provides the opportunity for boys and girls in the City of Hartford to play ice hockey at no cost to participants.  For the inaugural 2013-2014 season, the program was open to kids from ages 7-12.
David J. Jorgensen, Board Chair of the Police Athletic League PAL’s youth hockey program says, “Hockey is an Olympic sport that none of our kids had ever had the opportunity to play before we started the PAL youth hockey program.  We play every Sunday morning at Trinity and plan to expand the program to multiple days per week since we have been provided equipment and ice–all donated– from other venues in and around Hartford.  The kids love it, as it’s an ‘outside the box’ experience for them.”

Inspired to give winter sports a try? Here are some other ideas:

The Interlaken Inn Resort and Conference Center in Lakeville is offering a ski getaway with lift tickets and rentals included. Overnight getaway near Mohawk Mountain Ski area is $289 per night plus tax, includes all-mountain lift tickets and complete ski / snowboard rentals for two people, plus breakfast for two.
The Simsbury Farms recreation complex in Simsbury features public skating at its newly renovated covered ice rink– and is adjacent to Simsbury on the Green Restaurant, open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday.
Kids and adults alike can try snow tubing at Woodbury Ski Area. Combined, Woodbury has close to a mile of Snow Tubing runs with 15 distinct tubing runs served by four dedicated tubing lifts on two different hills.