Katie Hartman is in a good place - literally a very good place considering the triple-digit heat that's blanketed this area for the past several days.
Hartman woke up Tuesday morning to five inches of new snow on Mt. Hood and pouring rain in Portland. The hot, harsh reality of what's going on back in Colorado comes courtesy of a telephone call from an uncle who lives near Fort Collins and is among the High Park fire evacuees simply wondering what comes next and when a break might occur.
"I'm trying a rain dance up here for Colorado . . . I know it's bad," Hartman said, her voice a little more serious than you might think.
The indefatigable former University of Colorado skier isn't in Oregon to escape the heat. Fact is, she and three of her peers are trying to generate a little heat - in a positive way for their gender - as they pursue their Olympic dreams.
The dream is relatively new for the talented Hartman, who recovered nicely and nearly miraculously from a torn ACL to ski an extra season for CU, and a younger junior skier named Lena Andrews. It's not so new for former Olympians Hailey Duke and Megan McJames, both members of the U.S. Ski Team in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Both also earned World Cup berths via the North American Cup Circuit and fared pretty well - McJames winning the overall GS title and Duke taking third overall in the slalom.
But they're no longer on the U.S. Ski Team because they can't afford it. That's right. They still might ski well enough to represent their country, but that might not get them to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Economic recovery hasn't occurred fast enough to suit anyone, and this is what it's come to in the U.S. Olympic world: Choices must be made on which athletes receive funding. Former gold medalists and the top echelon endorsement earners - say, a Lindsey Vonn or a Shaun White - have no problems keeping equipment up to date/fine tuned or purchasing plane tickets to international competition out of their own pockets if need be.
But for the lesser lights (and that isn't meant derogatorily), coming up with the necessary cash can be a problem. McJames and Duke were hit hard; they lost their spots because they couldn't afford to keep them.
(Just askin': Isn't there a Super Pac out there that can steer a little cash their way instead of to the already annoying political TV ads we'll have shoved at us over the next five months?)
McJames, of Salt Lake City, and Duke, of Boise, first started The Athlete Project (www.athlete-project.com), then formed a team - Independent Ski Racing, LLC - and are taking a shot at fund-raising through their website. Hartman insists that it's not a particularly new concept on the men's side of the sport, but it hasn't been done that often or that successfully on the distaff side.
And that's where she enters the picture: She and Andrews have teamed up with the pair of former Olympians in hopes of finding sponsors, funding their skiing and continuing to compete for as long and far as they can.
Hartman and former CU teammate Erika Ghent had talked of forming their own team and trying to raise funds to further their skiing, but that venture fizzled when Hartman said Ghent preferred to "base out of Vail and I wasn't ready to hook back up to a club team."
So Hartman shifted her focus to the U.S. Ski Team "just to wait and see what was going on with them, what they were up to . . . they spent the spring going through their roster, figuring out next year's goals, their fund raising - and they ended up cutting a pair of Olympians, just asked them not to return. When I heard they didn't have anywhere else to go, we got in touch and said, 'Let's figure this out.'"
"Normally, when you get cut, you're expected to just quit - maybe get a desk job," McJames told Salt Lake City's Deseret News. "But we kind of felt that it was unprecedented to get cut after earning a World Cup spot. I felt like I'd worked so hard, to let my dream of racing on the World Cup just die, well, I couldn't . . .
"We don't want to be against the U.S. Ski Team at all. We just feel like this is our opportunity. And really, they've all been supportive of what we're doing. This world is so small."
Hartman, among the nominees for the NCAA Woman of The Year (the winner will be announced in September), said she and her new teammates are trying to raise $50,000 each to cover their skiing expenses for a year.
"We're trying to reach out to each of our homes, our communities," said Hartman, whose website - www.skihartman.com - is under construction. "I'm trying to reach out to the Buff Nation. Once a Buff, always a Buff. The support I've gotten at CU - all the support I got for five years - was just unbelievable."
Hartman said Andrews, the youngest member of the foursome, "is at the age of wanting to make a decision - go to school or pursue skiing. My goal is for her to be able to choose - and it's really not that easy."
That's because, according to Hartman, the U.S. Ski Team seems to be more prone to bringing in male than female skiers out of college. "That system needs to change and I want to be a leader with that . . . I want to reach out to anyone who recognizes that we're pushing boundaries," she said.
Hartman called her time at CU "an anchor more than a stepping stone" for her career and personal development and added that with the burgeoning international competition, some skiers now say it's more difficult to qualify for a Division-I giant slalom than it is to make an Olympic developmental squad.
Her point: For a junior skier with Olympic aspirations like Andrews, having to choose between attending college or trying to ascend the international ladder to make the Olympics amounts to a bad and unnecessary choice. "My goal is to compete to give women more of an opportunity in the sport . . . for them to go to school and still compete at the international level," Hartman said.
She's as passionate about this as she was about rehabbing the torn ACL in her left knee and resuming competition during an extra season last winter for the Buffs. And that worked out pretty well; last season she had 11 top 10 finishes in 15 races, with one win and a pair of podium appearances. She was an academic All-American (3.5 GPA), won the Pac-12 Conference Medal Award and was second-team All-American in the GS, missing a second All-America honor in the slalom by one placement - and that was despite being so incapacitated by stomach flu symptoms that she was spending more time out of her skis than in them. (That's as much of a picture as needs to be painted.)
Before leaving for Oregon, Hartman had been working out and running with a brace on her left knee. When she recently skied Mt. Hood for the first time, the brace came off - and not much else recently has felt that good.
"Now, I can go out and not worry about that and know what I can do without it," she said. "Mentally and physically, it was amazing, just a big stepping stone for me. It was a huge accomplishment."
Her CU resume shows she can accomplish almost anything she attempts. You shouldn't be surprised at anything that happens for her and her new team - Independent Ski Racing - between now and the 2014 Winter Games.