Listen: Copper Mountain groomer describes experience at Olympics, reconnecting with old friend in Taiwan
The last time Paul Hoagland was back in his own Summit County bed was more than a quarter of a year ago, before he was brought into a Taiwanese vocational school as a show-and-tell exhibit, before he said no to a foreign dish called “Stinking Tofu” and before he worked both the Olympics and Paralympics.
Hoagland, originally from the bitter cold of the Green Bay, Wisconsin area, is now a Dillon resident and winch cat operator at Copper Mountain Resort. And thanks to his experience and success at Copper, Hoagland was invited this past winter to help groom the Jeongseon Alpine Centre ski and snowboard complex at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” Hoagland said.
LISTEN: Copper Mountain Resort winch cat operator Paul Hoagland describes his three months in Asia, working the Olympics, Paralympics and meeting up with an old friend in Taiwan
His task on a daily basis while in South Korea was to ensure that the snow quality was good enough for the world’s most-elite athletes. The amount of man-made snow and minimum depths of a meter-and-a-half needed were a challenge out on the race courses, but Hoagland still found the silver linings.
“Yeah, it was a challenge,” Hoagland said, “but that was the fun part. Working in the snow and working with the snow cat. Long hours.”
To make matters more difficult, the -26 degrees Celsius temperatures in South Korea reminded Hoagland of his time back in Green Bay. It was so cold at times that equipment was affected, but Hoagland and the rest of the crew chugged along, all the way through the end of the Paralympics on March 18.
Along the way, Hoagland experienced one of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics’ most defining moments: When Czech skier/snowboarder Ester Ledecka — who has trained extensively here in the High Country of Colorado — came out of nowhere to shock the world and win the super-G gold medal on the same course Hoagland helped construct.
“We were off watching in the finish area,” Hoagland said, “and to see Ester Ledecka come in — whatever it was, 26th, 27th — and end up winning it, and to see her expression on screen when she finished it, to see her bamboozled — ‘Did I win this or not?’ — was the most memorable (moment) for the Olympics.
“Everyone thought the race was over,” Hoagland added, “and then when she came in and ended up winning by two-hundredths of a second, or whatever it was, the crowd went wild.”
Those details are just part of Hoagland’s quarter-of-a-year journey to the Olympics and Paralympics and his side-trip to Taiwan. There, for the first time in 17 years, he got to see a woman named Julia who he welcomed into his Green Bay-area home as a foreign exchange student nearly two decades ago.
To listen to the rest of Hoagland’s story about his trip the Olympics and Asia, check out our podcast conversation online at SummitDaily.com
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