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Sports club in full swing

Nearly 650 athletes already enrolled for winter

Melinda Mawdsley

A small patch of snow packed at the bottom of Howelsen Hill has become the early season home of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s freestyle and snowboard programs.

Rails have been set up, and kickers have been built, allowing skiers and riders to get a jump — literally — on the 2004-05 winter season.

Weights, dry-land training and weekend trips to Copper Mountain have consumed the mornings and weekends of Winter Sports Club athletes in all disciplines — alpine, Nordic and freestyle skiing and snowboarding — offered by the local club.

For more than two months, the nearly 650 youths and adults registered in the Winter Sports Club have been busy preparing for races and competitions that begin as early as Monday.

“The kids are so excited and so are the parents and coaches,” said Jon Casson, snowboard program director and junior ability coach. “Everything’s in place to have another great season. We’re off and running.”

And riding: There are more than 130 athletes enrolled in the snowboard program of the Winter Sports Club. The snowboard season begins Monday, but January and February are the bigger competition months for the program.

Rule changes in freestyle skiing prompted many athletes to put time in this summer on the newly constructed water ramps east of town. This year, athletes will be allowed to do inverted tricks such as flips.

“We’re psyched to have the change,” said Erik Skinner, freestyle program director. “I think there will be a huge difference between the kids that jumped a lot and those that didn’t jump this summer.”

Nearly 100 athletes are enrolled in the freestyle program. The higher ability skiers are heading to Arapahoe Basin this weekend, eyeing the chance to train on snow in preparation for a national event Dec. 7 in Park City, Utah.

December is a busy month for the Nordic program and the town of Steamboat Springs. For three-straight weekends, Howelsen Hill will be hosting events, including a Nordic Combined World Cup B event Dec. 10 to 12.

A seminar for those interested in becoming an event volunteer or a Nordic event judge is being held at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at Olympian Hall.

Many of Steamboat’s Nordic athletes — nearly 130 are registered — took advantage of fall snow on Rabbit Ears Pass, said Todd Wilson, Nordic combined program director.

“Skiing on Sept. 21 is definitely a bonus,” Wilson said. “It’s not every year we get to do that. … The kids seem real excited. Our ability groups started training Sept. 1 with a basic routine of physical fitness, strength, endurance and speed.”

The Winter Sports Club’s largest program is its alpine program. With nearly 400 enrolled as of early November, it is shaping up to be a busy season for the athletes. Chris Puckett, the new Competitive Alpine Program director, has things headed in the right direction.

“We’re definitely focused on athletic success,” Puckett said. “That’s different for everyone, but we want to make sure everyone gets what they can out of our club. Maybe what I’m pushing more than in the past is coaches’ education.”

Exceptional coaches lead each Winter Sports Club program with successful backgrounds in their respective sports. At the alpine level, Puckett is emphasizing that, though coaches may have individual styles, all are communicating and coaching from the same source.

“That’s important for me because the younger kids need to know what we are doing at the top,” he said.

The alpine skiers now training — the youngest have not started officially — have been putting in months of work on fundamentals. Four of Steamboat’s top female skiers, Lisa Perricone, Tina Roberts, Heidi Hillenbrand and Caroline Jarolimek, took advantage of a two-week camp in Austria earlier this fall.

“They had a jump on the season and came into mini-camps a few steps ahead of the other kids and jumped into the later stages of fundamental progression,” said Tom Davis, who coaches the J2 (15- and 16-year-olds) skiers.

The alpine skiers have been traveling to Copper Mountain since the beginning of October to train on snow. For some, the competitive season begins Nov. 21 at Jackson Hole Ski Area in Wyoming.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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