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Nordic citizen race series opens with sprint relay under the lights

T.J. Thrasher, of Steamboat Springs, takes part in the 2016 Rabbit Ears Marathon for Nordic skiers. The Steamboat Springs Nordic Council hosts the race as part of its annual races series which begins Dec. 7 at Howelsen Hill with a sprint relay.
file photo

2016/2017 Sven Wiik Cup Nordic Race Series

6 p.m. Dec. 7 Howelsen Hill Relay

10 a.m. Dec. 31 New Years Relay

10 a.m. Jan. 8 Home Ranch Citizen Race

10 a.m. Jan. 15 Ski Haus Classic

10 a.m. Feb. 26 Catamount Marathon

10 a.m. April 2 Rabbit Ears Marathon

Find details at the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council’s Web page

— A week ago there wasn’t sufficient snow on the floor of the Yampa Valley to cross-country ski a loop, and now, the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council is ready to host the opening event of the Sven Wiik Cup Nordic Races Series.

The Howelsen Hill Relay will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 7 under the lights in downtown Steamboat Springs.

“Last year was the first year we did this format. and we had so many people come up afterwords and say, “You’ve got to do that again.’” Nordic Council race director Scott Myller said. “There’s something about skiing under the lights at Howelsen and the excitement from the number of people.”

The genius of this Nordic opener is that skiers don’t need to be in mid-season form to feel comfortable putting down their $5 entry fee and turning it loose. The relay format, calls for two-person teams alternating for 1 kilometer loops, with each team member making three loops for a total of just 3 kilometers for each skier.

2016/2017 Sven Wiik Cup Nordic Race Series

6 p.m. Dec. 7 Howelsen Hill Relay

10 a.m. Dec. 31 New Years Relay

10 a.m. Jan. 8 Home Ranch Citizen Race

10 a.m. Jan. 15 Ski Haus Classic

10 a.m. Feb. 26 Catamount Marathon

10 a.m. April 2 Rabbit Ears Marathon

Find details at the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council’s Web page

Don’t have a partner? Just show up early at Howelsen, and race organizers will find a match for you.

“The start/finish is at Vanatta field, literally out the side door of the lodge,” Myller said. “You head out toward the chariot track, cruise down the track, take a hard right up a (small) hill, ski behind the concrete bleachers, then down and back to the start. One K is pretty easy to put out for. And then another one, and another.”

This season marks a milestone in the longstanding history of the Sven Wiik Cup — it’s the first season when its namesake won’t be watching with a big smile of approval. Sven Wiik, the 1960 U.S. Olympic Coach who inspired so many local skiers to stretch their limits, died July 5 at the age of 95.

The New Years Relay will be held on Dec. 31 at Sven’s home course at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center. The format for this race calls for three team members, with the first skier out of the stadium required to ski the classical style. There are races with individual legs of 2, 3.6 and 7.2 kilometers.

The intent of the Nordic Council’s race series is to make both competitive athletes and recreational skiers comfortable with taking part.

That will especially be the case, Myller said, with this winter’s Home Ranch Citizen Race on Jan. 8 outside Clark in North Routt. For people who don’t look forward to 11- and 12-year-olds flying by them on the course, it’s worth knowing that Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes will be out of town on that date, Myller said.

The biggest race of the season doesn’t arrive until April 2 on Rabbit Ears Pass —one of the few locations in the Colorado Rockies with a long, groomed Nordic track.

Though there have been a number of other cross-country ski competitions on Rabbit Ears over the years, Myller said this will be the second year for this particular event and the Nordic Council has high hopes for it.

“We are really trying to have this become Steamboat’s signature Nordic event,” he said. “We like to say it’s the last race of the season in the nation. Nobody’s got snow in April but us, and we’ll have a big party afterwards.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


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