Race to the Worlds | SteamboatToday.com

Race to the Worlds

Final World Championships spots to be determined

Dave Shively

— For the country’s fastest snowboarders, the road to the World Snowboard Championships goes through Steamboat Springs.

The winners of Friday and Saturday’s Alpine snowboard races at Howelsen Hill will determine the final two men’s and two women’s spots on the U.S. Snowboard Team. The team will compete in the World Snowboard Championships Jan. 14 to 20 in Arosa, Switzerland.

This week’s races in Steamboat Springs are part of the second Race to the Cup event of the season. The event combines a parallel slalom race Friday evening followed by a parallel giant slalom race Saturday afternoon. Abbi Nyberg, U.S. Snowboarding Program manager, said points from the Steamboat race will be averaged with those from the first Race the Cup event, held Nov. 20 and 21 at Copper Mountain, to determine the world championship qualifications.

The stakes are high for racers like Tyler Jewell. The Steamboat resident and U.S. Snowboard Team member surely has secured a giant slalom qualifying spot for the World Snowboard Championships (spots will not officially be announced until after the races) based on his FIS point standing and first-place parallel giant slalom finish at the first Race to the Cup event. But he needs a strong showing in the parallel slalom races to earn the right to compete in both disciplines.

“This is my last opportunity to qualify,” Jewell said. “I’m going to race my best and let the chips fall where they may.”

Jewell said after three back-to-back parallel slalom races Dec. 20 and 21 at World Cup races in Bad Gastien, Austria, he felt the “last piece of the puzzle” was coming together in his parallel slalom riding – the ability to carve turns on steep and icy slopes.

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That may make the difference for Jewell at Friday and Saturday’s races in Steamboat.

“Howelsen is the most challenging hill we’ll race on all year,” Jewell said. “It can eat people up. It’s steep and has three different fall lines. It’s good either way and, in every way, my favorite hill.”

The competition will be as challenging as the course. Event organizer and racer Darren Ratcliffe said the men’s and women’s fields will feature eight Olympians and 20 World Cup snowboarders along with talented non-national team members – many of whom earned high enough finishes at Copper Mountain that a podium finish at Howelsen could catapult them to a qualifying spot. The women’s field also will be full of former and current Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club riders who fared well at the first Race to the Cup event.

Winter Sports Club snowboard program director Jon Casson said the entire Canadian and Swedish national snowboard teams will race in Steamboat this week, along with a smattering of other international competitors. Ratcliffe and Casson are promoting this country’s most significant Alpine snowboard race this season by creating a lively Friday night environment for race spectators. The free event bookends a pair of live music performances by Simple Deckadence around Friday’s parallel slalom finals, which will run from 6 to 8 p.m. A raffle prize giveaway and awards ceremony will follow.

“We’re hoping to get people out, under the lights to watch these guys and girls rip it up,” Casson said.

– To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com