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One for The Road: Kearney in Utah Prepping for Bumps

For all the years that Norwich’s Hannah Kearney has been trotting the globe in pursuit of mogul skiing success, she’s never had to take everything with her along the way. For the next two months, however, she is.

Kearney’s recent low-key announcement that she’d be back to defend her two FIS skiing titles, moguls and overall freestyle — she let the word get out on her Facebook page on May 30 — came as she was planning a significant road trip. With the water ramp in Lake Placid, N.Y., that she uses for training down for repairs, Kearney embarked last week on a three-day, 2,300-mile drive to the U.S. Ski Team’s freestyle training center in Park City, Utah, to do the offseason work she’d normally do locally or in the Adirondacks.

It’s a first for Kearney, the only member of the U.S. freestyle contingent who doesn’t live or regularly train in Utah. It adds a welcome new element, and it’s one that’s requiring her to bring a load of stuff for the journey.

“I have my dog (8-month-old Finn) in the back seat, my golf clubs, a hiker pack and my ski rack,” Kearney reported on Thursday as she tooled along I-80 somewhere in Illinois. “When you’re in Park City you should need a car, so this is a combination of needing a car and needing all that stuff to make the drive happen.

“It’s not by design but a way to make the most of it. I can go hiking some trails and play on some nice golf courses.”

When she’s not setting the foundation for what may — or may not — be her last season on the snow.

That the 28-year-old retains the fire to compete is no surprise. She made it clear that her Olympic days were done with February’s bronze medal in Russia. While Sochi was a disappointment for Kearney, rallying past 20-year-old Canadian star Justine Dufour-Lapointe on the final day of the season for her latest World Cup double evened the score.

Kearney used the moment of U.S. Skiing’s promotion of Garth Hager to head moguls coach to make her plans public.

“I felt weird calling it an announcement; I figured I’d post it on my Facebook page because I was training, doing all the normal things I would,” she said. “It’s just good timing. (Hager’s promotion) was a reminder to me.”

The motivation for Utah came out of misfortune. A fire damaged the Lake Placid water ramp where Kearney has done her past aerial training; repairs will keep it out of commission at the time she needs to start her offseason work.

The USSA’s Utah Olympic Park has such a ramp. The 5-year-old Center of Excellence, the program’s training center, is also located there, as is most everyone else — skiers and coaches — in the U.S. freestyle system.

“There’s a nicer gym out there, more people regulating you; the training will fall into place, and all of my other teammates are there,” Kearney said. “It’s straightforward. I only got grandfathered in because of my age but, basically, if you’re in U.S. Skiing, your life is there. I just never did that transition because I was so young (17) when I made the team.”

Kearney also believes her preparations are as well-served with on-snow time as in-gym time. Her two-month Western road trip will conclude when she aids her former coaches with the Waterville Valley Black & Blue Trail Smashers at a two-week July camp at British Columbia’s Whistler resort.

For athletes in her sport, the Olympics provide a natural time to reassess. Asked 12 months ago, Kearney — who recently completed her freshman year as a Dartmouth College undergraduate — would have assumed another FIS campaign in 2014-15.

“I wanted to make sure the decision was based on authentic feelings,” she said. “If I get to camp and don’t feel motivated, feel old, then I’ll retire. But I have the luxury of deciding when I want to.

“I’m moving forward. I still love the sport. I feel I can do well.”

Alexander Seeking Assistance: Lebanon native Nick Alexander is going the social media route to gain support for his Olympic ski jumping career.

Using his Facebook page as a starting point, Alexander announced on June 3 an Internet fundraising campaign to help cover costs for training camps and national competitions scheduled this summer. Alexander has set a goal of raising $8,640 by mid-July and had amassed just shy of 10 percent of that target by Sunday evening. Money raised will go toward such necessities as airfare, equipment, lodging, food and health insurance, the latter of which expires in August.

“The summer season is quickly approaching, and I am in danger of not being able to afford the cost of training this summer,” Alexander wrote on Facebook. “I need your help to become one of the top ski jumpers in the world. I can’t do this alone.”

The donation site can be found at www.rallyme.com/rallies/751/supportnickalexander.

The 25-year-old Alexander is a two-time Olympian and two-time national champion. He finished a team-best sixth in the final group of the team jumping event at the Sochi Olympics in February.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.