Ski Lines: Bringing sports competitions into your home

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The FIL World Luge Championships will take place later this month in Germany, and broadcast live throughout the United States from the new sliding center at Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid. The color commentator will be ex-racer Kate Hansen, working remotely from Los Angeles.

And, where will all this television production come together for the event’s Jan. 30 broadcast?

In Saratoga Springs, in the offices of Carr Hughes Productions, which for some time now has been one of the world leaders in providing sports content to television networks.

In the past year, television has been the only portal for most of us to see sports. Many events have been canceled, while others have been cut way back. Watching an event in person these days is a rare experience.

You don’t need to tell Jim Carr about this. His firm is now rebounding from a tough 2020.

No events. No TV.

Carr Hughes now is a mainstay of network television, mainly NBC these days, but also CBS, Fox, and ESPN over the years. What events do they produce?

“Just anything that doesn’t involve a stick and a ball,” said Carr, a Saratoga Springs native.

The firm’s resume includes 14 Olympics, including the Alpine events at every Winter Games since 2002, track and field in the Summer Games, a plateful of world championships, including Alpine, the Tour de France, and the Breeders’ Cup last fall for which Carr Hughes recently won an Eclipse Award that adds to the five Emmys the firm had previously won.

What Carr says is “producing content” is much more than just flipping a switch.

For instance, at the Breeders’ Cup, there were 144 camera feeds on location.

By comparison, the Super Bowl typically has about 125.

Obviously, this is not a one-man operation. Carr Hughes currently has 10 full-time employees, including Rotterdam native and former Daily Gazette sportswriter Don Krone who, as an operations expert, has more than 20 years of experience organizing event coverage throughout the world.

Need 10 cameramen in Oslo, or hotel rooms for 20 in St Moritz, or catering for your crew in Sapporo?

Chances are Krone has a contact who can get the job done.

Carr got his start as an intern at WPTZ in Plattsburgh when he was a college student. He parlayed that into a full-time job at the station and an assignment to cover the 1988 Winter Olympic in Calgary, Alberta.

His timing turned out to be perfect. In the 1980s, the appetite for television sports was expanding with ESPN and other cable outlets, and there were a growing number of competitions held in Lake Placid in the post Winter Olympics years.

At first, the television production there was handled by AMPS — Adirondack Media Production Services — a start-up founded in the early 1980s. It was an ambitious undertaking. While it lasted only a few years, the quality of work done by those involved, and the contacts made as a result, led to opportunities that evolved into regular national and international assignments.

Jim Carr Productions, based in Saranac Lake, was established in 1992. Two years later, he moved operations to Greenfield Center, then bought the editing equipment needed to package programming in 1998. He teamed up with Bob Hughes in 2002. Hughes, a former luge athlete, had worked with Carr since the 1990s hustling to get television coverage for his sport. He was the outside guy for Carr Hughes until he retired in 2017.

That year, Carr took a major leap and purchased a TV studio on wheels, a 40-foot, double-expandable box truck that serves as an on-site broadcast center at events. Its debut was at the Travers Stakes that summer.

This was a healthy, seven-figure investment. Since networks have just a limited number of these mobile broadcast centers, Carr Hughes’ ability to go on location has become an important part of the business. And it packs on the mileage; it was in Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup in the fall, and it can be leased to other production companies.

It was an especially tough time for all television production companies between last February and June.

“Everything was shut down,” Carr said. “We were expecting to produce coverage for the Olympic Trials and there was nothing for us. Canada wasn’t an alternative once the border closed down.”

But racing at Saratoga helped, and there were ventures outside sports, like some work for QVC, the home shopping network.

Everyone is eager for life to get back to normal, and much that reflects normalcy is what is seen on television — and Jim Carr is ready to play his part. He knows the broadcast landscape around the world after delivering major coverage now for a quarter-century.

And Saratoga Springs is where it all starts.

MAJOR HONORS FOR GORE PATROLLERS

Three veteran Gore Mountain ski patrollers won major regional and national awards recently.

Amy Reinink of Saratoga Springs received the Eastern Division Outstanding Outdoor Emergency Care Instructor award for her leadership of first aid training for the 700 member Eastern New York Region.

John Beach from Niskayuna won the Eastern and National Outstanding Alpine Patroller Award for his leadership of a unique training program for 13-15 year olds.

Mike McClure of Brant Lake won the Eastern and National Outstanding Patrol Director awards for his leadership of the Gore patrol.

The National Ski Patrol has more than 31,000 members nationally, more than 9,000 of those in the Eastern Division.

TWO YEARS AND COUNTING

The World University Games, the largest winter sports competition in our region since the 1980 Winter Olympics, is now less than two years away.

Scheduled for 11 days in January 2023, the games will features more than 2,600 athletes in 12 sports.

The competition will be based in Lake Placid, but events will be spread across northern New York, from Potsdam to North Creek.

NO. 1 AGAIN

The U.S. Women are again leaving their mark on the international cross country skiing scene.

Jesse Diggins, who lives in Boston, just won the Tour de Ski, a championship that is awarded for overall results in a grueling eight World Cup races held over 10 days. In 2018, Diggins,with teammate Kikkan Randall, won the women’s team sprint event, the first gold medal won by Americans in Olympic Cross Country competition.

For an inside look at how the U.S. Women have emerged in international competition, read “World Class,” by Rutland, Vermont-based author Peggy Shinn.

Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].

Categories: Sports

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