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Telemark market heating up

Regional races at Howelsen Hill promote free-heel skiing in Steamboat

Steamboat Springs' Ken Recker rounds a gate on the face of Howelsen Hill during the 2007 U.S. Telemark Nationals giant slalom race in Steamboat Springs. Steamboat will not host the Nationals this year; however several top-level races are on the calendar, including this weekend's Steamboat Telemark Regional.
John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs — Unlike the downhill path of this weekend's Steamboat Telemark Regional race at Howelsen Hill, the number of local skiers freeing their heels is going up. — Unlike the downhill path of this weekend's Steamboat Telemark Regional race at Howelsen Hill, the number of local skiers freeing their heels is going up.

— Unlike the downhill path of this weekend’s Steamboat Telemark Regional race at Howelsen Hill, the number of local skiers freeing their heels is going up.

Erik Skinner, Freestyle Program Director at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, said the number of telemark skiers in Steamboat Springs is skyrocketing – the club’s program has grown by 20 skiers this winter and now is at 55.

“The growth of the program this winter has been phenomenal,” Skinner said. “It was a little surprising. Our (telemark) coaches have had to work hard to keep up with the numbers and it’s been challenging at times.”

Skinner, who runs the freestyle program that oversees telemark skiing, said the growth is a credit to the coaches who have spearheaded the program the past several years. But he also thinks that hosting top-level events in Steamboat Springs has increased interest in the sport – especially among younger skiers.

It’s a big reason the club is hosting a regional event this weekend that is expected to draw a large field of top-level athletes.

“Events like the one we are hosting this weekend provide an opportunity to drive the sport,” Skinner said. “I think we’ve seen that with this year’s numbers and hopefully that trend will continue.”

The local races increased the sport’s exposure locally, but Skinner also thinks this weekend’s races are a chance for every telemark skier in the area, even those who normally spend their days playing in the powder and trees on Mount Werner, to give competition a try. Skiers don’t have to be members of the SSWSC to take part.

“I hope we get some non-club members out for these races,” Skinner said. “It’s a lot of fun, and I would love to see more skiers come out and race.”

The regional race will include a giant slalom event Saturday evening and a Sprint Classic on Sunday morning.

The giant slalom race uses traditional gates but also includes a pro-style jump in the middle of the course. Sunday’s Sprint Classic also will include gates, plus a rapaloosa (a 360- degree BMX style berm) that leads to a short cross-country section and the finish line.

The events are open to all telemark skiers in Steamboat Springs, at a cost of $25 per event. Skiers also will be required to purchase a $10 lift ticket for each day of racing (a total of $35).

Skinner said athletes should show up between 2 and 4 p.m. Friday to register for races. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Registration for Sunday’s race begins at 8 a.m., and racing starts at 10:15 a.m.

“We will have skiers from Aspen, Summit and several other mountain towns,” coach Ken Recker said. “I know we will have 20-plus skiers from our club, and that doesn’t include the open class.”

Recker said the races help local skiers improve their national points and qualify for larger races like the U.S. Nationals. This is one of several races Steamboat is hosting this winter. The club also will host the Telemark Revival on Tuesday.

-To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com


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