By KEVIN ROBERTS
Stacey Blumer hurtled through space like a high-altitude skydiver without a chute. High above the mountains, she tumbled head over heels through the icy air in a death-defying corkscrew somersault. Far below, onlookers gasped as the Southington daredevil’s shadow ripped past them down the mountain.
Don’t worry. Blumer landed safely to wild cheers. The scariest part was waiting for judges to flash her official score.
For most people, the thought of spinning, twisting, and tumbling above a mountain’s icy slopes might make them faint. For Blumer, now Stacey Blumer-Evans, it was just another day at the office.
“My favorite and most difficult jump I did was called a lay-tuck-full, a single-twisting triple, or for those that remember the old ski movie, ‘Hot Dog…The Movie,’ a kick-ass-blaster,” she said. “I take off the jump and for the first flip my body is straight (layout), I spot the landing between flips and pull my knees into a tuck position for the second flip and as I kick out of the tuck, I spot the landing and do a full twist on the third flip and put my skis down and ski out the landing hill.”
Blumer was a nationally recognized freestyle skier who collected seven U.S. freestyle championships. She scored a World Cup championship and finished in first place in the Nor-Am Cup in aerials, one of the types of freestyle skiing, in 1994. She traveled about the country and the world, and her journey took her to Nagano, Japan, for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
Blumer’s skiing odyssey didn’t start in the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada range, or the Swiss Alps. The world-class jumper began much smaller and much closer to home. The Olympian got her start on the slopes of Mount Southington Ski Area.
Blumer may not have gone to Southington High School—she graduated from the Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford in 1987—but she grew up in Southington before becoming a pioneer and ambassador. Southington Sports Hall of Fame committee chair Dennis J. Stanek Jr. said that Blumer-Evans was a no-brainer for induction in the Southington Sports Hall of Fame.
“Some people may question whether an athlete not playing a traditional sport at Southington High School should be included, but our committee unanimously felt that it wasn’t a prerequisite,” said Stanek. “Stacey represented the United States in the Olympics, and she learned how to ski at Mount Southington.”
Blumer’s not just a champion, but Southington’s champion, and now she’s an inductee of the Southington Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by my hometown for my contribution to the sports world,” Blumer said. “Being inducted motivates me to want to do even more to promote living a healthy lifestyle through sports for children, young girls, especially. Right now, I’m coaching my daughters’ sixth and eighth grade volleyball teams and always try to find ways of getting the messages of the Olympic values in their heads.”
Blumer, and her family—husband Troy Evans and daughters Cadence and Kendra—are very involved in skiing. The family, which lives outside of San Francisco, has a second residence at Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe—on the California side—and spends a lot of time there.
“Troy is on the National Ski Patrol,” Blumer said. “Our daughter Cadence will be an assistant coach for the young kids program and our younger daughter Kendra is on the race team this winter. I volunteer with an organization called Achieve Tahoe, which is an adaptive sports program based at Alpine Meadows. When the conditions are good, we like to back-country ski out the back door of our condo.”
Skiing is in Stacey Blumer’s blood, and any fears she had went away when she hit the slopes of Mount Southington as a young girl after being brought there by her parents, Dr. Arthur Blumer and Andrea Blumer.
“I was six when my parents first took my sisters Amy and Cherie and I to Mount Southington,” Blumer said. “We all took a lesson where we were taught how to side-step uphill and get up from a fall, and that was pretty much all there was time for. After the lesson, Amy and I just took off and figured it out on our own, chasing each other all over the mountain.”
By the second day, Blumer said that she and her sister were challenging Hill 5, “Thunderbolt,” the most difficult trail at the ski park at the time. By the time she reached high school, her Waterville Valley Academy coach Nick Preston instantly recognized Blumer’s “tremendous potential.”
“She was a superb natural athlete,” Preston said. “She also grew up in a skiing family, and close to Mount Southington, which afforded her the opportunity to ski regularly and at night. She also had a relentless training ethic, which included soaking up all the coaching she could get.”
Preston said Blumer was an absolute pleasure to coach. As for her skiing, Preston said Blumer could score podium points in any or all of the freestyle disciplines, which made her a strong combined skier. Blumer did aerials, moguls and ballet, all different types of freestyle skiing.
Aerials involve a skier going off a jump at a high rate of speed, doing acrobatic moves in midair, then trying to stick the landing. Moguls involve down a slope that has bumps (moguls) and jumps alternatively set up. Ballet skiing is like figure skating in midair, with jumps and spins mixed together.
“I loved them all, but aerials was my best event,” Blumer said. “I wish there was still a combined category, but that went away when ballet didn’t make the cut for the Olympics.”
In a sport such as freestyle skiing, injuries are always lurking around the bend. Blumer had her fair share, but the worst came in 1994. She was the top freestyle skier in the Nor-Am Cup in 1994. She was also mere weeks away from a possible selection to the U.S. freestyle skiing roster for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. That’s when her worst nightmare happened.
“The only time I doubted coming back was when I blew out my Achilles a month before the 1994 Olympics,” she said. “My original plan was to go Lillehammer—win a medal, of course—retire, finish school and get on with life. That injury was the toughest mentally and watching my teammates go off to Norway was really hard.”
Blumer went to school at the University of Vermont and graduated while she recovered, but her competitive fire didn’t let her stray too far from skiing. She regained her championship form, but she still hadn’t secured a berth on the Winter Olympics team.
It seemed like 1998 would be the year, but only 11 of the 14 spots on the U.S. freestyle skiing team were filled, and Blumer wasn’t one of the 11 chosen.
“The whole thing was unfortunate,” Blumer said. “The head of the U.S. Ski Team was trying to send a message to young up-and-comers that he thought would make them work harder and ultimately win more medals in the future. The criteria to qualify for a spot was one Top 3, two Top 5s or three Top 10 World Cup finishes in the competitions leading up to the Games.”
Blumer missed out on that requirement, but she was still eligible for a discretionary spot on the team, and those spots were chosen by the coach.
“The head of the ski team decided to leave those discretionary spots empty,” Blumer said. “The USOC did not accept that and we [Jim Moran, Evan Dybvig and myself] got our spots.”
The freestyle skiers took the United States Ski & Snowboard Association and the United States Olympic Committee to arbitration, and the ruling went in their favor.
“There were times during the hearing that it didn’t look like it was going to go our way and we were discouraged, but on the second day things took a turn for the better and the decision was made in our favor,” Blumer said.
The Olympics didn’t go the way Blumer would have liked. She finished 20th in women’s aerials, but Blumer said the chance to compete in the Winter Games was “amazing.”
“Would I have done things differently? Yes, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat,” she said. “Being in the Olympic Village felt like another world where everyone was on the same page and nothing else mattered. People from so many different countries and backgrounds with a common goal creates an almost palpable intensity that you can’t describe.”
Blumer moved away from competitive skiing not long after the Olympics. She got a job, settled in California, married and had two daughters. Blumer received one final Olympic thrill in 2002 when she carried the torch in San Francisco.
“It was during the time that we were trying to get the 2012 Summer Olympics in San Francisco,” she said, “and I got to carry the torch up the steps of City Hall and have a photo op with Mayor Willie Brown.”
Blumer deserved to carry that torch. She was a pioneer in her sport and inspired other girls and women after her. And it all began on a 425-foot vertical drop atop Mount Vernon Road in Southington.
“I like to think I left my mark and pushed women to go bigger,” Blumer said.
It’s no surprise that members of the Southington Sports Hall of Fame selection committee have named Blumer as a member of the Class of 2018. On Wednesday, Nov. 7, Blumer will be honored in a ceremony at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville.
To reserve tickets, contact Jim Verderame at (860) 628-7335 or Val DePaolo at (860) 620-9460, ext. 104.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com