Howelsen’s season-opening Nordic combined skiing event features high stakes
Steamboat Springs — This year’s first jumping and Nordic combined event in Steamboat Springs may not have featured the top-tier Olympic athletes it has hosted in the past, but the multifaceted competition at Howelsen Hill still had plenty on the line Saturday.
For starters, the Rocky Mountain Division kickoff doubled as a Continental Cup qualifier, which is slated for next weekend in Park City, Utah. It also was a Nordic combined World Junior Nordic Championship Team tryout, and the competition’s special jumping-only event was the U.S. Cup’s season opener.
No, the big names like Todd Lodwick or Brett Denney weren’t tearing down Howelsen’s ski jumps or traversing its 5-kilometer and 10K cross-country course.
The dozens of athletes who were there, however, are vying for the opportunity to make themselves household names down the line.
“This competition is an avenue to get into the Continental Cup to hopefully score some World Cup points,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic Director Todd Wilson said.
Continental Cup points equate to World Cup points, and all early season results also go toward the upcoming Olympic Trials.
Adam Loomis and Nick Hendrickson, athletes on the U.S. Ski Team’s B team, took first and second, respectively, in the HS100, under-20 Nordic combined event. Loomis ranked fifth after his ski jumps and made up four spots in the race. Hendrickson made up nine places on the 10K, four-lap cross-country course.
Loomis already has qualified for the Continental Cup, he said.
“This event just gets the competition feeling out of the way and creates a little pressure with some fun,” said Loomis, a Wisconsin native. “There were some good hills here.”
Behind Loomis and Hendrickson was Canadian Wes Savill in third and the Winter Sports Club’s Erik Lynch in fourth.
In the HS75, under-17 division, Steamboat’s Wyatt Gebhardt took first after a third-ranked jump and second-ranked race. Gebhardt was followed by Park City Nordic Ski Club’s Stephen Schumann and Jared Shumate, who placed second and third, respectively.
Park City’s Sophia Nester was first in the female under-17 division, edging out Steamboat’s Esther DelliQuadri.
Wilson said his older group is poised to send at least a few athletes to Park City for the Continental Cup, though qualifiers weren’t immediately available Saturday. His younger group needs some work, but he’s excited in their early winter potential.
“These kids aren’t the same ones they were last summer,” Wilson said. “That’s what makes it exciting about coaching kids. They grow up and change so much from season to season.”
The World Cup currently is in its first of four periods with Nordic combined athletes competing in Lillehammer, Norway. Next weekend’s Continental Cup will give Steamboat skiers a chance to possibly break into the World Cup’s second period after Christmas.
“If these guys down here have been getting first and second and third, top-five places or top-10 places this season, they’re going to have more points than whoever is 50th in the World Cup’s first period,” Wilson said. “These guys have a chance to get into the World Cup in the next period.”
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The snowfall has been lacking so far this season causing the Steamboat Resort to move back its start date to Dec. 1 due to a “well below average” snowpack.