My-Turn-thumbBy Brad Hawkins

The Methow Valley abounds with recreational opportunities. Your trails cover many miles and are accompanied by the tranquility of aspen woods and the impressive Cascade Mountains to the west. They provide opportunities for both locals and visitors to partake in the unique benefits of the Methow. As your state representative, I am very proud of the investments your communities have made in your cross country ski area.  The ski area not only generates valuable tourism dollars, it promotes healthier lifestyles and proud traditions for multiple generations. It even supports Olympic athletes who, on a world stage, shine a positive light on your valley and culture.

As your state representative, I could not be more proud of the accomplishments of Olympians and Winthrop-natives Brian Gregg and siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen. These three Olympians represented all of us while competing for the cross country ski program of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team. It is for their hard work and devotion to the valley that I sponsored a House Resolution to honor their extraordinary accomplishments during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. My office will proudly be sending copies of the official resolution to your athletes and communities.

Their success in cross country skiing was, of course, no accident. Brian Gregg, now a resident of north Minneapolis, started his ski career with his twin brother at the Methow Valley Nordic Ski Club, practicing under two-time Olympian Laura McCabe. At the age of 15, Gregg set a goal to become an Olympic athlete. Now after 14 years of determination and hard work, Gregg has accomplished just that.

The Bjornsen siblings experienced a similar upbringing, both skiing for the Methow Valley Nordic Ski Club during their youth and now skiing for Alaska Pacific University’s Nordic Ski Center. Sadie and Erik actually started out downhill skiing as kids but after their parents realized the rich terrain the valley offered, the skiing duo made the switch. They also grew up with McCabe as their neighbor and role model. More winter Olympians from the Methow Valley are sure to come, including the possibility of 21-year-old Winthrop biathlete Casey Smith.

I’ll admit that snow was far from my mind during my visit to the Methow Valley in August. I met then with members of the Twisp Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Soo Ing-Moody, who shared with me the importance of tourism — and skiing — to the valley’s economy. The region has been a long-known destination for outdoor recreation. But what draws tourists to the 125-mile stretch of trails is the fresh powder that attracts skiers and snowboarders alike.  People can even bring their snowshoes, an activity that seems to be growing in popularity. The valley’s recreation culture largely supports the economy, especially around the holidays. In fact, Christmas traffic can account for up to 30 percent of the valley’s lodge and other business revenue.

Tourism dollars benefit our economy and can help our state and local communities maintain investments in recreational opportunities. These Olympians embody the outstanding recreation opportunities the Methow Valley has to offer and the winning spirit of your communities. Cross country skiing is a tradition that is key to both the economy and identity of the Methow Valley. I hope their accomplishments serve to further promote the Methow and all it has to offer outdoor recreationists across the world.

It is my honor to acknowledge what these athletes and competitors have accomplished. I hope you all join me in applauding our Olympic heroes for representing our state and country well these past weeks in Sochi. I am very proud to have your amazing community as part of the 12th Legislative District. It is my privilege to serve and represent you.

 

Brad Hawkins (R-East Wenatchee) is a state representative for District 12. He can be reached at (360) 786-7832, by e-mail at brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov, or at www.representativebradhawkins.com.