As a winter storm stalled life in upstate New York on Feb. 7 morning, a Milford resident was high above it en route to a place far colder and with much more activity.
Doug Hall is in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games where he’ll serve as a technical delegate for the women’s skiing events. He’s tasked with making sure the slalom events held at Yongpyong Alpine Centre and speed events at Jeongseon Alpine Center go smoothly and are conducted in fairness.
“It’s obviously the chance of a lifetime. Not many people get to do this so I feel honored and fortunate being chosen,” Hall said in a phone interview on Feb. 6, the eve of his departure.
Hall has served in the role at various national and international events, including the World Cups in Canada and Killington, Vermont. He said a special part of working in the Olympics is seeing the Canadian and American skiers for whom he’s served as an official for more than three decades.
“I’ve basically watched them grow up,” he said.
Hall, who moved to the area with his wife to turn his grandfather’s old cabin into a year-round home, has watched and officiated for Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid), David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, Colorado), Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, Colorado) and Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colorado), to name a few stars on the skiing circuit. Of Vonn, the face of skiing in the U.S., Hall said he knew her since she was Lindsey Kildow, citing her birth name before marrying fellow skier Thomas Vonn in 2002.
“I’ve seen (athletes) that competes at the top of their game now, and I’ve seen them since they were 9, 10 years old,” Hall said. “I’ve seen their development.”
He said he still officiates the kids events at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid “for the fun of it.”
How does one find an opportunity like this in the first place? For Hall it’s been a life on the slopes in different capacities. As a high school student in Syracuse he spent many days and nights enjoying his passion at Labrador Mountain. He attended Colorado State University and participated on the club ski team, transitioning to racing in events such as the U.S. Masters over his lifetime.
He’s also worked at Vail Ski Resort in Colorado and at resorts in Vermont while he worked with General Electric. Professionally he spent a quarter of a century working for Kodak in Rochester where his children grew up, taking to the slopes and competition themselves. He has a “whole family of skiers,” he said, with his daughters, Alicia and Sarah, participating. His wife, Leslie, is a ski instructor and her son, Evan (Hall’s step-son) was ranked ninth in the nation in snowboarding at one point.
He also found time to coach, and that was the gateway to an Olympic trip decades down the line.
“With the coaching came the officiating, and doing all of those things together I had too many balls juggling,” Hall said.
Now retired, he said his full-time job is being involved in “many aspects of ski racing.” Predominately that’s being an official.
A technical delegate (TD) is there “to assure a uniform application of the race rules, thereby validating the seeding system and facilitating better and more uniform races,” according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. He or she has a long list of responsibilities, beginning with a check list of pre-event paperwork such as verification of software, security measures and entry lists. The TD works with the local mountain clubs and sees to it that the snow and terrain on the course is appropriate, and the protection around the course is adequate. That will be especially important this cycle as temperatures in Pyeongchang have been in the single digits with wind chills dropping those numbers even lower.
The TD, Hall said, is the “head honcho at the ski event” and works with what’s called the jury – a small group representative of multiple countries, in the case of the Olympics, that is responsible for the application and enforcement of the rules – to see that everything goes smoothly and fairly throughout competition. They’re the ones who have to make decisions on infractions and disqualifications.
“So you do this, you develop some experience and you do it for a number of years and get assigned regional, international events,” Hall said.
In some cases, as in Hall’s, officials are noticed for their work and move higher up the ladder by being nominated at the international level by the International Ski Federation (ISF). To become a FIS TD ( Fédération Internationale de Ski technical delegate) officials take exams, undergo mentoring, and then take exams on the hill. Once given the accreditation, an official can go international after a number of years.
“They will come to U.S. Ski and Snowboard [leaders] and say, give us a couple of names of people,” Hall said. “And they vote on it given knowledge and how they’ve worked previous events.
“My name got thrown into the hat and I’ve worked with all of these people before.”
At any international event, the trickiest part may be something most take for granted: communication. In terms of officials, there are citizens from three different countries. Hall said the three languages in use by the FIS are English, German and French.
“They almost always defer to English, so I’m very lucky in that regard,” Hall said. “I know some German, but wouldn’t want to conduct a race in the language. That would be very challenging for me.”
Hall wasn’t able to take anyone to South Korea with him; it’s “frowned upon,” he said, by the governing body and it truly is a business trip.
“If I brought my wife, I’d kiss her goodbye in the morning and say, I don’t know when I’ll be back,” he said. “Out of the three weeks I’m there I’ll have maybe two days I might actually have to myself.”