Pin(head) it to win it |

Pin(head) it to win it

U.S. Telemark Nationals opens at Howelsen

Brett Stein races through a gate on the giant slalom course at Howelsen Hill on Friday. Stein was visiting Steamboat Springs for the Telemark Nationals.
John F. Russell

— It was all downhill for the U.S. Telemark Nationals and Steamboat Telemark Revival’s opening race, which started Friday morning with a giant slalom event at Howelsen Hill.

“The GS race is nice,” U.S. Telemark Ski Team racer Drew Hauser said. “There’s no uphill.”

That changes with today’s classic race at the Steamboat Ski Area that features an uphill skate section.

“It’s the most physically demanding,” Hauser said of the classic race. “But it’s what makes the sport cool. There’s a little of everything – a race, a jump, a skate.”

Friday’s race resembled a typical gated giant slalom course on the front face of Howelsen, but the first of four national championship races also had some peculiar elements.

Judges stood near the jump halfway down the course and at the gates. Penalty seconds were added to a racer’s time for not clearing the required, marked distance for their race class or for not landing the jump or rounding a gate in the telemark style (determined by a boot-length’s space between feet).

It was a diverse competitive mix between the 115 entrants across six classes of skiers, from the skin-tight suits of the open class racers to the matching baggy pants and puffy fur-lined coats of the junior tele-ski squad from Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School. Ages ranged from 7-year-old members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s telemark ski program such as Hill Fitzgerald and Max Powers to seasoned racers such as 69-year-old Steamboat native Ray Heid.

“My wife said I’m crazy, but this may be the only time the tele-nationals are in Steamboat, and I’m fit enough to do it,” Heid said.

For U.S. team members such as Shane Anderson, the stateside race provided a rare opportunity to lower point profiles at U.S. Telemark Ski Association-sanctioned events. With only two World Cup events in the U.S., skiers such as Anderson are left to fund their own trips to Europe to compete against the world’s best.

“It’s also points for next year to stay on the team. You’ve got to fight for it,” said Hauser, a 17-year-old from Silverthorne who will be leaving for the World Cup Finals in Bad Hindelang, Germany followed by the FIS Telemark World Championships in the Thyron Region, Switzerland. “We’re all self-funded. The guys that win will be the No. 1 in the country,” he said. “We’re the Ted Ligetys and Bode Millers of the U.S., but we’re not getting money from ski companies or eating prime rib for dinner. We’re fighting for our right to survive on the circuit to get to compete against the Europeans. I can wear my (U.S. team) jacket to a resort (in Summit County), and people ask, ‘there’s a U.S. telemark team?'”

Eleven-year-old Hunter Gansman summed up the sentiment of many junior racers present.

“I just want to do as many tele turns as possible and have fun,” Gansman said.

– To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail

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