clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Nearly 60 of the 242 Olympians have ties to Utah, thanks to facilities, support and welcoming communities

PARK CITY — Bradley Wilson’s heart has two homes — Montana and Park City.

The mogul skier who will compete in his first Olympics this month was born and raised in Butte, Montana, and swears he’ll go back some day. But when he and his brother began to get serious about their ski careers, the family decided to move to Utah.

The 25-year-old moved to Salt Lake with his parents and older brother, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Bryon Wilson, when he was 14. Through a combination of online classes and long commutes back to Butte, Wilson was able to graduate with his childhood friends in Butte while training in Park City.

Six years ago, the entire Wilson family moved to his adopted hometown of Park City.

“I love (Montana) so much,” he said. “I’m going back for sure. … But I’m going to keep my place here because, honestly, this is impossible to beat. We have so much here. It’s insane. As far as living a healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t get better than Park City.”

The Wilson brothers aren’t alone in finding a second home in Utah that enabled them to better pursue their winter sports aspirations.

Of the 242 Olympic athletes on the 2018 team, nearly 60 athletes moved — full or part time — to the home of the 2002 Winter Olympics in search of training, support and to use the world-class facilities. There are also a sizable number of international athletes who live and train in Utah as well.

“If I didn’t make this move, I wouldn’t have made the team,” said 17-year-old short track speedskater Maame Biney, who talked her father into letting her live with a host family in Park City as she pursued her Olympic dreams.

“It was a really hard conversation. I realized I needed to go faster. … My goal was to make the team, so I was asking my dad, ‘We need to think about me moving to Utah.’”

Her father was opposed at first, but then the Sorenson family, whom they’d met when the Park City natives were in Virginia for a competition, opened their home to the teen. She made the move last July, and the results were quick and profound.

Biney won the women’s 500 at the Olympic team trials in Kearns, and her unmitigated joy at making her first Olympic team made her an immediate fan favorite. She said she would have had none of that success had she stayed at home with her father in Reston, Virginia.

“The biggest difference was the experience,” she said. “I did get faster moving out here, and my experience has been better because I’ve been to World Cups, and it’s really helped. I think it’s the best decision my dad and I have made together.”

Those who come as teens alone find welcoming host families, but admit it’s a difficult choice to make at such a young age.

“I moved to Utah by myself, and stayed with a host family,” said freestyle skier Alex Hall, who grew up in Switzerland and will also be competing in his first Olympics in PyeongChang. “It was definitely hard, but it was cool because when I moved to Park City it was during ski season, and the first four or five months, I was just living in Park City during the winter, wasn’t doing any school, so I just skied. I was traveling with the Park City Ski Team and meeting a bunch of new friends who had the same passion. I missed my parents, but it was nice meeting so many new people.”

More Olympics coverage

Living legacies: How eight homegrown athletes trace their Olympic roots to the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games

Salt Lake's Nathan Chen not the only big name to follow during the 2018 Winter Olympics

So just what is our Olympic expert's most awkward Olympic moment?

'Wait, is this for real?' Utah's Olympians talk about how they learned that they're going to Pyeongchang

Hall went on to attend and graduate from the Winter Sports School — a charter school in Midway that allows athletes to juggle the demands of training, travel and competition with their educational goals.

With Utah’s famous snow and high-altitude ice (dubbed the fastest ice on earth because of the number of world records set at the Utah Olympic Oval), there are also logistical reasons for athletes to live and train in Utah.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and U.S. Speedskating organizations are both headquartered here, and the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, Sports Commission and state and local governments have teamed up to maintain world-class training and competition facilities.

All of that’s led to some high-profile, highly successful transplants. Aerial skier Ashley Caldwell lives and trains in Park City, and she will be competing in her third Olympics, where she will attempt to land some of the most difficult tricks being attempted by women.

Other notable Olympians who live and train in Utah are cross-country skier Liz Stephen, freestyle skier Devin Logan, the entire Nordic combined team, short track speedskaters J.R. Celski, Jessica Smith and long track speedskaters Brittany Bowe and Shani Davis.

Olympic athletes that have connections to Utah

Bryce Bennett: Alpine

Ben Berend: Nordic Combined

Kevin Bickner: Nordic Combined

Maame Biney: Short Track

Mac Bohonnon: Aerials

Brittany Bowe: Long Track Speedskating

Maddie Bowman: Ski Halfpipe

Ashley Caldwell: Aerials

Ryan Chochran-Siegle: Alpine

David Chodounsky: Alpine

Jonathan Cheever: Snowboardcoss

Shani Davis: Long Track Speedskating

Alex Ferreira: Ski Halfpipe

Bryan Fletcher: Nordic Combined

Taylor Fletcher: Nordic Combined

Jonathan Garcia: Long Track Speed skating

Lana Gehring: Short Track

Jasper Good: Nordic Combined

Kimani Griffin: Long Track Speedskating

Erin Jackson: Long Track Speedskating

Tim Jitloff: Alpine

Breezy Johnson: Alpine

Nolan Kasper: Alpine

Jaelin Kauf: Moguls

Casey Larson: Nordic Combined

Jonathon Lillis: Aerials

Devin Logan: Snowboard/Slopestyle and Halfpipe

Eric Loghran: Aerials

Ben Loomis: Nordic Combined

Mia Manganello: Long Track Speedskating

Joey Mantia: Long Track Speedskating

Wiley Maple: Alpine

Keaton McCargo: Moguls

Alice McKennis: Alpine

Kiley McKinnon: Aerials

Troy Murphy: Moguls

Morgan Schild: Moguls

Carlijin Schoutens: Long Track Speedskating

Brita Sigourney: Ski Halfpipe

Jessica Smith Kooreman: Short Track

Liz Stephen: Cross Country Skiing

Darian Stevens: Ski Slopestyle

Resi Stiegler: Alpine

Aaron Tran: Short Track

Maggie Voisin: Ski Slopestyle

Andrew Weibrecht: Alpine

Kendall Wesenberg: Skeleton

Mitch Whitmore: Long Track Speedskating

Jacqueline Wiles: Alpine

Bradley Wilson: Moguls

Torin Yater-Wallace: Ski Halfpipe