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Freestyle skiing returns to town

Sprint U.S. Grand Nationals come back to Steamboat

— For the fourth time in five years the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Grand Nationals will return to the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area.

The idea of world-class athletes turning and jumping off the bumps of Voodoo ski run brings a smile to the face of Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation.

“Freestyle skiing has always been, and remains a huge part of Steamboat’s claim to Ski Town USA, and we are excited to be hosting this event once again,” Wirth said.

Just a few months ago, Wirth said he thought the announcement might never happen.

Steamboat was trying to work out a deal with the U.S. Ski Team, but the two organizations were unable to reach an agreement.

It looked like Whiteface Mountain Resort in Lake Placid, New York; Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, and the Heavenly Resort in Lake Tahoe would host the only freestyle World Cup in the United States this winter.

But when Heavenly sold in August, the new owners backed out of the commitment to host the event and the U.S. Ski Team turned to Steamboat.

“We were flattered,” Wirth said. “Just the idea that the ski team turned to us first speaks to the heritage of freestyle skiing here in Steamboat and the quality of the events we have held in the past.”

The idea of the freestyle World Cup stopping in Steamboat Springs also brings a smile to the face of Salt Lake City silver medallist Travis Mayer, who is also very happy to see the event come back to his hometown.

“Steamboat has one of the premier freestyle facilities in the country and is the place that launched me on the way to the 2002 Olympic silver medal,” Mayer said. “Steamboat has a rich tradition in the sport of freestyle skiing that’s deeply rooted throughout the entire community and individuals such as Nelson Carmichael, Ann Battelle, Park Smalley, Jeff Good, Donnie St. Pierre, Kris Feddersen and Maria Despas. It’s a heritage that allows young skiers to believe in big accomplishments.”

Mayer knows a thing or two about accomplishments.

He won the silver medal last February, and recently signed a four-year sponsorship deal with the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation. The ski area is hoping this World Cup event will give Mayer a chance to showcase his talent in front of a local and national audience.

“I don’t know if we would have picked up the phone when the U.S. Ski team called if it wasn’t for Travis,” Wirth said.

Mayer admits that he may have pushed a little bit to get the event back in Steamboat, but only because he thinks it is one of the best freestyle facilities in the world.

Mayer and Wirth think the event will be a winning situation for Steamboat no matter where the Olympian places in the event.

“Freestyle is clearly one of the hottest sports in all of skiing, consistently generating some of the highest television viewer ship ratings in the sport,” Wirth said.

Wirth estimates the event will cost in the neighborhood of $250,000, and will give the ski area national exposure when it is televised on NBC.

The Sprint U.S. Grand Nationals will open training on Feb. 3 with the mogul competition slated for Friday, Feb. 7.

There will also be a World Cup aerial event on Feb. 9 and an exhibition syncro aerials competition, which may be held at the Howelsen Hill Ski Area.

“This is just awesome,” Mayer said of the event coming back to Steamboat. “Anytime you can compete in you’re hometown it’s special especially a year after the Olympics.”

The World Cup mogul season will open Nov. 30 in Tignes, France and will include four World Cup stops before Christmas.

The aerialist then join the mogul skiers for two events in North America Jan. 12 at Mont Tremblant in Canada and Jan. 18 at Lake Placid.

The World Championships will take place Jan. 29 – Feb. 2 in Deer Valley Utah, before Steamboat hosts the final event from Feb. 7 – 8.


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