Travel Tuesday – Colorado

This week we head to The Centennial State of Colorado. This picturesque state is home to popular ski travel destinations for tourists around the world. Colorado is a laid-back state, that welcomes all.

Aspen

Aspen, known for its array of things to do on and off the slopes, is the place to travel to while the snow is still fresh.

Aspen, Colorado

This city is home to four different resorts on well over 5,550 acres. Buttermilk, Snowmass, Aspen Mountain (aka Ajax to the locals) and Aspen Highlands provide you with everything you could imagine in a ski town. These resorts all vary in what they provide to their guests. The unique ski terrain at all locations, showcase the beauty and fine heritage that make-up Aspen.

Telluride

This ski town is home to spectacular views and has over 2,000 acres of amazing ski terrain. The 148 trails satisfy skiers and snowboarders of all ages. From intense off-piste tracks to the gentle groomers, Telluride is sure to please the entire family.

Telluride, Colorado

The snow remains deep here due to the shelter from the wind. The main town has a nightlife scene, so if you’re looking for the best of both worlds, we recommend lodging there.

Vail

This city has the largest area for skiing in the state, 5,289 acres to be exact. You will never run out of things to do while visiting this town. This popular ski destination has it all from many shops, bars and restaurants to being close to the Denver International Airport, which makes for easy travel in and out of the city (sometimes.)

Vail, Colorado

There are 2 types of terrain within Vail. One side serves the families and exquisite groomers, the other for the newbies. Both provide a variety of steeps, bumps, and glades that allow you to soak up every minute of the beauty that is, Vail. 

How To Transport Your Snow Gear

Using your own snow gear is vital for great runs, especially on a powder day. Why bother with the hassle of lugging your gear through the crowded airports, hoping it makes it to its final destination. Ship Skis will get your skis, snowboard, boots, and luggage to and from any ski resort you are staying at. We’ll even pick up your gear directly from your house, business or hotel. Grab a quick quote today, and experience what it’s like to travel hassle-free!

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Epic Deal: Vail Resorts Announces Partnership with Niseko

One of the downsides of having a ski resort season pass is the it limits you to skiing in just one part of the country. That’s okay for some folks, but nomadic types eventually want to seek out new powder in other parts of the world. Vail Resorts figured this out a long time ago. That’s why Epic Pass holders receive unlimited and unrestricted skiing and riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe.

On February 25, 2014, the mega-resort company introduced the ultimate perk: Epic Pass holders are now entitled to five days of skiing and riding at the Niseko Resort in Japan. Colin Hackworth, Representative Director of Nihon Harmony Resorts, representing Niseko United, said:

Niseko, Japan, is revered around the world for its consistently light, dry powder snow and warm Japanese hospitality. We welcome the opportunity for more Epic Pass holders to experience this very special part of the world and look forward to seeing them on our trails.

In 2008, Forbes Magazine honored Niseko as one of the Top 10 International Ski Resorts. Niseko also obtained bragging rights from National Geographic, who listed it as the world’s best powder resort. Niseko boasts an average awe-inspiring 590 inches of snow each year. The resort enjoys a prime location, about 100 kilometers south of Japan’s fifth largest city, Sapporo.

Niseko Annupuri forms part of the Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park and is the most eastern park of the Niseko Volcanic Group. The winds from the Eurasian continent deliver some of the driest, fluffiest and abundant snow in the world. As if that was not enough, the resort is set against the backdrop of Mt. Yotei, an active volcano. When night falls,  stadium-style lights illuminate the mountain and facilitate 2,560 vertical feet of night skiing and riding. Deep-powder trails meander through the lit birch trees, creating a surrealistic and phantasmagorical skiing experience.

Four base areas, including Annupurri, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Hanazono, comprise the mountain, which offers a versatile mix of wide open trails, scenic tree runs, epic backcountry and first first tracks, for those willing to set an early alarm. Even better, the resort caters to all skiing and riding abilities. An extensive lift system of 26 chairlifts and three gondolas deliver you to 72 trails. Adventurous types, yearning to get a fantastic workout and reach higher ground, can take the invigorating hike to the mountain summit.

Then, there’s the restaurants and nightlife, which offer an enticing blend of European and Japanese cuisine. At the end of the day, instead of the hot tub, relax in the natural hot springs, courtesy of the volcano.

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Oh Canada: Skiing and Sportsmanship in Sochi

Peruse the Internet, the library or magazines, and you’ll find countless articles about how athletic participation encourages the positive aspects of sportsmanship. If you have kids, that’s probably one of the many reasons why you teach them to ski. Unfortunately, some of that goodwill toward humanity often disappears on the slopes, as people fail to observe the basic rules of the Skier Responsibility Code.

Sometimes, the insanity of air travel causes inadvertent rudeness, as people smack you on the head with their skis when they rush toward the check-in line. The stress then carries over to the slopes, and chaos ensues.  This is one of the many reasons you should use ship-skis.com.

Begin your trip without the hassle of checking in your skis, and take the anxiety out of your ski vacation. But we digress. This week, a Canadian cross country ski coach went above and beyond the call of duty at the Sochi Olympics. In doing so, he displayed the true spirit of the Olympics, and of sportsmanship as well.

The Russian and the Canadian

Thanks to the early elimination of his own team, Canadian cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth was not in a particularly good mood.  Still, he wanted to watch the end of the semifinal in the men’s free sprint. This is what good coaches do. They watch the best, and analyze what their own skiers lack.

Sometimes, however, even the best will fail. As Wadsworth watched in horror, he noticed  Russian skier  Anton Gafarov coming over a rise. Gafarov, a projected medal winner, was having an exceptionally hard time.  After crashing on a downhill corner, he broke a ski. Then, he crashed again, thereby skinning a long layer of P-Tex off his ski. It was now wrapped around his foot like a snake.

Still, Gafarov wanted to finish the race, even if it meant that he would stumble across the finish line. Wadsworth looked around and noticed that nobody was doing anything to help; not even the Russian cross-country ski coaches. He later told the news media:

It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap. You can’t just sit there and do nothing about it.

That’s when he decided to help. Wadsworth ran onto the slope with a spare ski, fastened it to Gafarov’s boot, and drew thundering applause from the crowd. Even Gafarov finished the race three minutes behind his competitors, thanks to Wadsworth he still finished, and that’s what counts.

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Romance in the Snow: Ski Resort Valentine’s Day Events

As Valentine’s Day approaches, what better way to celebrate than a ski resort getaway. These ski resorts have put together some memorable events, to help you celebrate in style:

Lake Tahoe: Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will share the love this Valentine’s Day by offering a limited number of $14 lift tickets. Skiers and riders can purchase a lift ticket in advance for just $14, valid for February 14. You must purchase your $14 Share the Love in advance and  online at  squaw.com and skialpine.com

Mountaintop Valentine’s Day Dinner Package

This Valentine’s Day, ride Squaw Valley’s aerial tram to High Camp, and enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding snow-capped peaks of Squaw Valley. The dinner package includes a rose for the lady and sparkling cider on the tram ride up the mountain. Once at High Camp, guests will savor a three-course meal complete with a glass of wine, while a live pianist sets a romantic mood. Indulge in the seared diver scallops or one of our other options for your main course.

Valentine’s Day Lodging Package at The Village at Squaw Valley

The Village at Squaw Valley will celebrate Valentine’s Day this winter with a Valentine’s Day Romance Package including $110 dollars off Village lodging and a couple’s message. To book, please call The Village at Squaw Valley at 1-866-818-6963 and ask for the Romance Package.

Colorado: Loveland Mountaintop Matrimony 

Now in its 23rd year, The Mountaintop Matrimony is for couples getting married or renewing their vows and takes place at 12pm, outside the Ptarmagin Roost Cabin, elevation 12,050 feet. The Ptarmigan Roost cabin sits at the top of Chair #2 at Loveland Basin. Couples must sign-in on the morning of the event. Plan to arrive at the Ptarmagin Roost Cabin by 11:30am the morning of the event. The chairlift ride is approximately 12 minutes. As noted on the Loveland website:

The ceremony is a “mass wedding” done for all couples at the same time and lasts approximately 30 minutes. At the conclusion of the ceremony, all participants and guests will ski or snowboard down the mountain for a casual after party with cake, music and prizes. The runs leading back to the base area from this point are beginner and intermediate. The after party will start at 1:30pm at the base of Loveland Basin.

Participating couples that pre-register (link below) will be eligible for the “2 for 1” lift tickets the day of the event, a total of $61. Pre-registered couples will also be eligible to purchase lunch vouchers for $10 with a $12 value. Wedding cake, raffle tickets and beer coupons will be provided complimentary for pre-registered couples. Pre-registration ends on February 12, 2014.

Couples must obtain a valid Colorado Marriage License and bring it with them to the ceremony to be signed. Click Here for Clear Creek County marriage license information.

Dress in “ski-wedding” attire, and win a prize as the best dressed couple!

Keep the romance in your travel plans by eliminating travel-related  stress. Have shipskis.com send your skis to the resort of your choice!

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The 10th at the Breckenridge Theatre Tells the Story of the 10th Mountain Division

During World War II, the 10th Mountain Division Sandy Treat learned to ski on a trip to Lake Placid with his family when he was six, and became an integral part of the history of skiing in Colorado, long before he moved to the state, as a volunteer for the 10th Mountain Division.

Treat trained with the 10th Division at Camp Hale and, as an experienced skier, also instructed his fellow troops; using his cross-country knowledge, Treat showed soldiers how to ski through trees with 90-pound packs on their backs. He moved to Colorado with his family in 1986 and became one of the most dominant male Master skiers of his class in the Rocky Mountain Region and a major part of the skiing community.

Treat served as historical adviser for a new play at the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre titled “The 10th.”  The play is part one of three part series, which tells the history of the Breckenridge Ski Resort. According to the website:

The 10th follows two recruits who join the 85th Regiment at Camp Hale in the Pando Valley for the purpose of becoming alpine soldiers. Thrown into a battalion already reeling from a disastrous mission in the Aleutian Islands, the new recruits must deal with a splintered division populated by an overly-educated army force of Dartmouth and Harvard graduates, oversize egos, cantankerous mule skinners, and the looming six week mission in the dead of winter known as “D Series.”

Fortitude, faith, and fighting spirit combine to create a brotherhood of soldiers never seen before – or since.

Performance Dates:
February 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28
March 1

Treat will appear at the gala opening night ceremony on February 7th.

Ticket Prices:
Adult $25 (plus $2 surcharge)
Youth $20 (plus $2 surcharge)
Group of 10 or more $23 (plus $2 surcharge)
Note: Tickets purchased thru the Box Office are an additional $2.

Ski Cycle Play Pass $100 (Your all-access pass to the creation of a monumental story about Breckenridge, Summit County, and Beyond. The Ski Area Play Cycle is comprised of three stories: The 10th, The Roadhouse, and The Kingdom. Includes admission to all three plays in the cycle, a special invitation to each Gala Opening, and exclusive behind the scenes events, tours, and meet and greets. After purchasing the pass please call (970) 453-0199 to reserve your seats.)

The 10th Mountain Division is not often covered in theater, film and fiction. For a fascinating novel about this amazing group of soldiers, check out Loveland.

This book makes engaging airplane reading on your way to Breckenridge. The story takes place in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, with flashbacks to Camp Hale and World War II. Loveland, one of the lesser know Colorado ski areas, plays a key role in the story.

Relax, read and enjoy the flight, while knowing that shipskis.com is delivering your skis to their destination.

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Why You Should Think Twice About Going to Sochi

There’s a certain irony in the fact that a former communist country is now hosting the most expensive Winter Olympic event in history. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

The Dream and the Nightmare

Prior to the announcement of the Russian application for the Olympics, many citizens believed that the mountainous regions of Sochi, in the gorges and on the slopes of Krasnaya Polyana would be the logical venue.   The people of  Russia envisioned increased, world-wide respect for their athletes, along with the development of a world-class ski resort.

Their enthusiasm was short-lived. Imagine their surprise when they discovered that the main events, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, would take place in the warmest region of Russia; the Imeret Lowlands, a sub-tropical swamp located on the shore of the Black Sea in the basin of the Mzymta River.

That was the first surprise. It gets worse. Putin, the country’s controversial homophobic president, assured the Olympic Committee that the Olympic facilities would be completed on schedule and that the country would spend $12 billion on preparation. The record-breaking budget for the 2014 Olympic Games now stands at $50 billion and rising.

Now Let’s Talk About the Working Conditions

The transformation of Sochi from a small resort town to international Olympic host evokes images of the building of the slave labor performed at the Egyptian pyramids. The construction projects involves the efforts of at least 70,000 workers, including tens of thousands of migrant workers from outside of Russia.

Human Rights Watch reports that some of these workers have faced exploitation and abuse. Many were denied wages for weeks or months.  Others toiled through 12-hour shifts with only one day off per month, had their passports confiscated, were denied employment contracts, and faced unsanitary and overcrowded employer-provided accommodations, with up to 200 migrant workers sharing a one single-family home. Those who dared to protest their abuse faced expulsion from Russia.

And Here’s Johnnie

Johnnie Balfour is not your typical migrant worker. An impressive profile on IMDB indicates that he’s been around the block a few times, and that’s just his film profile. The Australian snowboarder has built snowboard cross courses for the FIS World Cup. Until recently, he was building courses for 2014 Sochi Olympics. On January 25, 2014, he reported on his blog that he was returning home. Prior to his decision, he reported a blow-by blow of the working conditions at Sochi.

Sochi airport just a small domestic terminal and doesn’t look finished. It was pretty simple to get through the place and grab my bags. I spotted a Sochi 2014 desk surrounded by volunteers and attempted to ask what the hell I do now. I got blank stares. One girl finally stepped up with her hand out and said “Accreditaion”. She checked my accreditation and said, “No this is wrong, you must get it fixed”. I finally worked out that she was telling me to go to the main office at the resort of Rosa Kutor and work it out. She then turned her back and walked off leaving me standing there completely lost. Well, I guess I should try this bus schedule.

Just before I walked out of the main doors and into the rain, I was grabbed by yet another volunteer. “Name! you tell me name now!” I complied and was told to wait. A couple of minutes later I was met by Oleg, the sport manager for snowboard and skicross. I was then piled into a car and we were off and a ridiculous speed in the pouring rain and fog and on the wrong side of the road for most of the time. There were police everywhere who didn’t even give us a sideways glance as we ripped past them at light speed on the wrong side of the road.

We pull into a driveway of a block of buildings that look like a council housing estate in England. It looks like it was built 50 years ago, not 2. The road is half built and there is mud and water pouring down the street off the mountain. This place is a dump and looks like it could fall down at any moment. I am pulled from the car and shoved in front of a pimply kid seated behind a plastic table. He is surrounded by boxes of building supplies and broken tiles, the place smells of concrete dust. Pimple kid hands me key and points at the next building, “Top floor, room 10”. I turn to leave, “No, you come”. He drags me to another room full of folded laundry, he hands me a two sheets, a pillow case and a roll of toilet paper. As I am signing for my issued bedding and toilet paper, I feel like I am back in the army, this is exactly like basic training. I didn’t sign up to go through that again!

With a single metal bed and a toilet filled with filthy water, his harassment was not far from the truth. Then, there’s the payment issue.

In the six months leading up to this moment, we have been in constant contact with these people, sorting out contracts, methods of payment etc. So far nothing has gone as planned.

They have wanted to pay us into Russian bank accounts for a few months now and we have fought them long and hard on this point. Yes, you read that correctly, they want us to open Russian bank accounts. How do we do this? Well, we don’t, apparently they have already opened accounts for us! How the hell they can open an account in my name without my details or signature is beyond me and sounds very dodgy!

Before we left home we didn’t win the fight about the bank accounts but we did win the fight for them to pay us within ten days of us signing the contract. Well, that has now changed too. They are now telling us that they will pay us ten days AFTER we have gone home. I have a very strong feeling that we are never going to get paid. During the meeting I told them on no uncertain terms that what they are trying to do is total bullshit and if they had disclosed this information earlier, I would not have agreed to come here.

The authorities told him to “shut up” and stop writing about this stuff in his blog. So much for Glastnost!

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The Sochi Olympic Games Mascot Mess

Say hello to Zoich, a contender for the role  of mascot for the 2014  Sochi Olympic Games. Even if you could bare to kiss him, he will not turn into a prince. Too bad. A prince on a white horse is exactly what is needed to save the 2014 Sochi Games debacle.

The silly-looking mascot is only part of its problems. The Mascot Contest On, September 1, 2010: The Organizing Committee of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralymplic Games, working conjointly with  with the Russian newspaper Izvestia, announced a competition to select the mascots for the 2014 games.

The competition received 24,048 entries from across Russia and from Russians citizens living  abroad. The competition lasted three months.

Thanks to the support of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee:

  • Applications were available at all of  BoscoSPORT’s branches,
  • All of Rosneft’s automobile repair centers, offered competition forms
  • Volkswagen Group Rus’s showrooms supplied applications
  •  As did every MegaFon sales office.
  • The Ingosstrakh insurance company dedicated 323 of its company to spreading the news about the mascot competition, while distributing 30,000 application forms.
  • Russian Railways gave all passengers on board its Sapsan trains the chance to draw a sketch of their proposed mascot while in transit.
  • Aeroflot  flight attendants handed out application forms to passengers flying between Moscow and Sochi.
  • Sberbank of Russia kept the public informed about the competition, through its corporate literature.
  • MegaFon featured a series of television programs entitled “The Star Mascot,” broadcast on the MuzTV channel.

The winner of the contest would receive two free tickets to the games.

Enter the Frog

A YouTube video announced the Zoich the Frog addition to the competition. It showed the feisty frog  drinking martinis with the Cookie Monster, para-trooping into a city while attached to a string of balloons, kicking a skiing dolphin, who was one of its rival mascot candidates.

Although this was supposedly a contest for the people,  well-known Russian cartoonist Egor Zhgun created Zoich, and eventually admitted that the Russian Olympic Committee had paid him to enter the contest, in order to drum up excitement.

They told him that he could draw whatever he wanted, as long as he did not tell anyone. Russian Times notes:

Zhgun is known for his sharp-witted graphical comments on all sorts of things which make a buzz on the net, from presidential elections to major sport events to the launch of the new season of the series House MD. His works, usually made as mock movie posters resembling those of real-life blockbusters, have won his blog a grateful audience of more than 20,000 subscribers.

Zoich was one such sarcastic work. Even its name (more properly spelled Z014) is actually a misread number 2014, written as a mixture of Latin and Cyrillic letters. The mascot, resembling the mind-controlling hypnotoad from the cartoon series Futurama, has swirling Olympic rings in its eyes to promote Olympic values and has a crown “to remind about statehood and spirituality” as the author explained in his application form.

Given that Olympic mascots should be free of political innuendo, Zoich did not win the race. The story, however, makes one wonder about other underhanded deals associated with Sochi.

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Olympic Motivation: Squat in Moscow and Ride for Free

Snow-sport participation enhances your balance, agility and coordination, but you still need to get in shape to ski or ride. You probably know this already.  This year,  as Russia hosts the 2014  Sochi Winter Olympics many people might catch Olympic fever, and head to the slopes.  A shocking surprise awaits those who fail to get in shape before doing so. The Russian Olympic Committee came up with a highly creative way to drive the point home.

(more…)

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The First Euro-Asian Ski Resorts Conference

On October 8th -9th 2013 , The World Tourism Organization, at the invitation of the Municipality of Almaty and with the support of the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of Kazakhstan celebrated the 1st Euro – Asian Ski Resorts Conference:

“Developing New Destinations for Snow Tourism” in Almaty.  Although Borat, rather than skiing, is the first thing you think of when you hear Kazakhstan, this conference triggered some thought-provoking new ideas.

The theme of the conference was based on the following premises:

  1. Snow sports play an important role in the domestic and international tourism market. Studies indicate that approximately 2000 ski resorts  are operated in around 80 countries around the world. These resorts accommodate approximately 6 million beds for winter sport enthusiasts.
  2. International winter tourism usually takes place in larger resorts in Europe, North America and Japan.
  3. Due to environmental and market changes in these destinations, the winter sport industry is now seeking new destinations.

According to the conference website:

The objective of the Conference was to acquire an overview to further develop and expand the international ski tourism market in order to ensure its steady and sustainable growth. For this purpose, it aimed at exchanging state of the art experiences between the traditional, established hot spots of ski tourism and the new and developing ski resorts in winter destinations in Europe and Asia.

Proposed Destinations

Kazakhstan

The city of Almaty has  an international airport , which offers direct flights from London and other major European cities. Its majestic mountain  peaks rival those found in the French Alps, and the region boasts  reliable snow conditions between December and April. While the region already have two small working ski areas, Chimbulak and Ak-Bulak, plans are in effect to develop seven more, and turn the region into the Chamonix of Central Asia.

Other proposed destinations include:

  • China
  • Georgia, in the Caucus Mountains
  • Turkey
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • South and North Korea

As a skier and a lover of travel, where would you like to go?

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Heather Mills Loses It

There´s much to admire about Heather Mills. The former model and bride of Paul McCartney has dedicated her life to animal welfare. When a collision with a police motorcycle resulted in amputation of her left leg below the knee, she continued her modeling career, but used a prosthetic limb.

She sold her juicy story to the tabloids, which earned her enough money to fund the Heather Mills Foundation,  which recycles used prosthetic  limbs unable to afford new ones. As if that was not enough, Mills also used the money in her campaign to ban and remove land mines.

Even better, she was, until yesterday, an esteemed member of the British disabled ski team, and was offered  a trial in the British disabled ski team’s development squad for the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia. Unfortunately, like many talented individuals, she turned into a prima donna.

“I´m Going to Make Your Life a Misery¨

Apparently, members of the International Paralympic Committee saw that Mills was wearing  a modified boot,  which differed from the committee-approved boot.  IPC Ski Committee chairman Sylvana Mestre tried to explain to Mills that her boot was illegal, and that she must switch back to the standard equipment, or risk disqualification.

Mills, in turn, fell into a fit of rage, screaming  “You’re a bitch, you’re a bitch, you don’t know who I am. I’m going to make your life a misery.” Them is fighting words!

Of course, there are the proverbial two sides to every story. In spite of her skiing success, Mills struggled with he Paralympic training, because her slalom practice triggered ejection of her prosthetic leg. Mills contacted London Prosthetics Centre. They created a new boot design, which worked like a charm.

Mills’ management claims that wearing the Paralympic-approved  boot cover causes performance restricting friction, pain, inflammation and blisters.  This is a valid point. Too bad Mills chose to deal with the conflict in such an unprofessional manner.

About the Sochi Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games were the brainchild of  neurologist and neurosurgeon, Professor Ludwig Guttmann.  In 1944, he founded a medical center at Stoke-Mandeville Hospital ( for the treatment of people with spinal cord injuries. Later, he became a founder of the International Stoke-Mandeville games, designed for people with spinal cord injuries.  Rome hosted the first summer event in 1960. The first Paralympic Winter Games took place in 1976 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.
Paralympic Games

The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will feature five winter sports:

  • Alpine Skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Ice Sledge Hockey
  • Wheelchair Curling

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