Steamboat skiers start strong at Howelsen in Holiday Classic
Holiday Classic slalom race schedule
Sunday, FIS open race, slalom
2 p.m. Women's first run
3:15 p.m. Men's first run
5:45 p.m. Women's second run
6:45 p.m. Men's second run
*Awards are Sunday night
Monday, FIS open race, slalom
9 a.m. Women's first run
9:45 a.m. Men's first run
Noon Women's second run
1:15 p.m. Men's second run
Steamboat Springs — Nick Veth is well aware how daunting Steamboat Springs’ Howelsen Hill can be to a slalom ski racer.
Veth has trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for four years, graduating last spring from The Lowell Whiteman School (now Steamboat Mountain School), and the hill has troubled him so much that when he woke up Saturday, he hadn’t successfully finished a race on the hill in two years despite eight attempts.
On Saturday, he finally landed a blow in what’s been a one-sided relationship, however, beating the hill and the day’s competitors to win the first race in the three-day Holiday Classic slalom skiing event in Steamboat Springs.
“This means a lot for me,” Veth said. “This is my first win of the season, the first win in a year or two. Every win helps a lot.”
The action continues Sunday at Howelsen, starting at 2 p.m. The day’s finale, second runs for the men and women, is set to take place under the lights starting at 5:45 p.m.
Those races undoubtedly will be faster than Saturday’s as they bring in older, more experienced racers, many from the college ranks. Saturday was about the younger class, skiers between 16 and 19 years old, and Veth was thrilled not just to shine, but to shine here.
The 19-year-old grew up on the steep slopes at Taos, New Mexico. He harbors dreams of moving on, perhaps to the University of New Mexico and its standout ski team or, even better, to the U.S. Ski Team’s development squad.
His results recently haven’t helped. He didn’t finish seven of 10 races he’s started this season in the United States.
On Saturday, however, he had it dialed in.
The course threw many for a loop as they came over the knoll too fast, sliding to their backs as they tried to cut inside a gate. Others lost it lower, after a rhythm section that threw them off balance.
“It’s a technical hill. It’s really short, so you need to sprint, but it’s steep,” Veth said about Howelsen. “It’s not easy. Everyone tries to go fast, but you end up going too straight and messing up. You need to be fast and round.”
Veth maintained his composure. He scored the day’s fastest first run time, then the sixth-fastest time on his second go. It added up to fast enough, and he won the day with a combined time of 1:22.04, 0.22 seconds faster than Canadian Joseph Young, who was second.
Alex Barounos, a British racer who has trained with the Winter Sports Club, was third, and another Steamboat skier, Zak Kjos, was fourth, marking a strong day for the club’s men.
“For Nick, it was a big step in the right direction,” club men’s coach Ryan Wilson said. “He’s had a tough year and a half, and it really wore him down. Today, he had the confidence to send it.”
The day belonged to Vail racer Montana Marzario on the women’s side. She laid down a dominating first-run time that was 0.41 seconds faster than anyone else, then backed it up with the fastest second-run time, as well.
She finished 1.14 seconds ahead of anyone else.
Argentinean skier Angelica Simari Birkner was second, and Vail’s Erika McCormick was third.
Steamboat product and University of Colorado skier Katie Hostetler posted a fast result, placing fourth. Current Steamboat racer Serina Kidd was sixth.
“A lot of our women are coming back from injuries and this is still a prep period for them,” club FIS coach Eric Cates said. “Quality skiing was the game plan, and they all executed that. It wasn’t their fastest skiing, but it was really solid, quality skiing.”
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