Bruce Erickson: The wonderful wizard of UOP

PARK CITY, Utah. — This morning, like many mornings, the first person to arrive at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) is Bruce Erickson and this evening, like many evenings, he’ll be the last one to leave. It’s been this way since the late ’80s. Erickson holds the employment longevity record at the UOP with no end in sight. 

His current title is Lift Lead though his tenure began coaching freestyle aerial, mogul, and alpine athletes for the US Ski Team stemming from his athletic background in trampolining, aquatics and diving. Retired Olympic medalists like Liz McIntyre, Nikki Stone, Eric Burgoust, Joe Pack, Picabo Street, and so many others credit Erickson as an unsung contributor to their success. Erickson himself is quick to deflect kudos to more well-known names like father and son John and Ricky Bower and father and daughter (in-law) Ian and Kristi Cumming as the real people who’ve gotten the UOP as far and as famous as it’s become.  

Prior to the pool even being in existence, Erickson was tapped to help explore locations where to even build the then Utah Winter Sports Park. At the Calgary 1988 Olympics, the wind had plagued the bobsled, skeleton, luge track to the degree of needing to call out the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to use snow blowers to blow the rocks out of the track that the wind would blow in through. That dictated why Park City’s track is nestled into the canyon on the west side of the Park.

To this day, he chuckles as he fondly recollects the day the dynamite blasted the hillside away to make space for the iconic Olympic Nordic ski jumps that welcome worldwide visitors to Park City. “It was exciting because there was a plus or minus element to the engineering feat so it was unclear exactly how far the rocks were going to fracture. The locals that had gathered at Kimball Jct. with their binoculars were safe and were not disappointed with the visuals and the audios.”

Only five people worked for the UOP then.

Tara Geraghty-Moats, of the United States, jumps during ski jumping at the women's Nordic Combined Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, at Utah Olympic Park, in Park City, Utah.
Tara Geraghty-Moats, of the United States, jumps during ski jumping at the women’s Nordic Combined Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, at Utah Olympic Park, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Regarding working through the pandemic, he feels as though the UOP had the winter much easier than the traditional ski resorts. Explaining and enforcing to UOP participants that only family could ride the same chairlift was simple and for the most part, people understood and were just grateful for the opportunity. The UOP has one surface lift called the Mighty-Might and three chairlifts with, “one more in the planning stage.”

“One of the things I’ve always loved about the Park is that the youth athletes are training right alongside the people who have achieved greatness. It gives them something to emulate and there’s an unforced mentorship. The energy flows both ways as the Olympians enjoy training with all levels of development teams. You can come here and see a five-year-old taking their first jump right next to a multi-time Olympian on the biggest jumps. The same is true on the bobsled, skeleton, and luge track where all the athletes share the on any given day.”

On the topic of game-changing innovation, Erickson said, “We’re constantly evolving and perfecting several different products to simulate snow. The more the athletes are able to train, the more efficient their progression.”

Helping host the Olympic Games in 2002 has been a highlight memory for him personally and professionally and he admits he would love to see the Olympic Games return to Park City citing that, “We have the venues and we have the intellectual property in place already.”

“People have to understand, this is a very special place. I’m just a facilitator of action here, it’s nice to be part of the core process and to know that we are an Olympic Family,” said Erickson.

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