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Alpine racers to team up, raise funds

Kevin Hendrickson cuts hard around a gate during the Brewster Brawl giant slalom Town Challenge race on Saturday. The race was the first this season on the new All Out trail race and training venue at Steamboat Ski Area.
Courtesy/Trevyn Newpher

— Steve Hoots said it’s the idea of giving back that drives him while working with the local town ski racing circuit, even when the list of tasks becomes long and the hours run late.

Now, the circuit itself is about giving back.

The Steamboat Town League Alpine Telemark Snowboard Series has gone through several changes in recent seasons. First, it ditched the name “Town Challenge” to promote a less competitive atmosphere. Now, it’s taking several of the races in that series and furthering the sentiment.

Four races on this year’s calendar will be events featuring teams of four skiers each. They’ll race on teams sponsored by businesses, and the whole thing will be a way to give back by raising money for scholarships for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

The first team event is coming up Jan. 5 at Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat Springs.

“It’s nice to give back to the things you love,” Hoots said.

Hoots said the decision to shift the series’ focus is a life cycle thing.

Whereas many of today’s racers were there 30 or 40 years ago, when the series was new and toed the line between raucous party and white-knuckled competition; today, it’s more balanced between friendly get together and lightly competitive ski racing.

“As our people have matured a little more, they’ve wanted to give back to the ski industry, back to the kids,” Hoots said. “People want to participate in a fundraiser, like a golf fundraiser. That’s what we’re patterning this after.”

The series has tried for years to appeal to a younger audience but has found limited success in those efforts. Organizers cite changes in the snowsports as part of the problem. Three and four decades ago, the vast majority of local outdoors enthusiasts were skiers, and given the equipment of the time, going fast was one of the main objectives.

Today, similar people are split between Alpine skiing, snowboarding and Telemark skiing, and those groups are further divided into those who love to focus on the terrain park, skiers and riders who spend their time hiking for backcountry access and those who stick inside the resort.

“Our participants have been getting older, and we haven’t been pulling in younger people, so changing this to a fundraiser seems to be a trend in what people do as they get older,” Hoots said. “They want to start donating back, giving more.”

The end result this season will be 15 separate scholarships to help young racers in the Winter Sports Club pay for some of the costs associated with competing. There will be one scholarship for each business sponsor.

The team-scored events are scheduled for Jan. 5, Jan. 19, Feb. 2 and, in a team finale at the annual Winter Carnival, Feb. 9. Each event will be a giant slalom at Howelsen.

Racers will be divided into categories, one for each discipline: Alpine skiing, Telemark and snowboarding, and one for every 10 years of age.

The winner in each division earns a “win” for his or her team, and the foursome with the most wins is the overall champion.

The four-race series is still a part of the larger Town League series, and there are four additional races this winter. The first was in December. The next non-team event is a super-G set for Feb. 18 at Mount Werner. A two-day race combining a giant slalom and slalom follows March 4 and 5, and the series wraps up March 9 and 10 with another GS/slalom combo.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9


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