Dashing through the snow: Steamboat skiers sprint down Main Street
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Before the crowds cram onto the sidewalks in downtown Steamboat Springs, while the snow on Lincoln Avenue is freshly groomed, a shoop-shoop sound can be heard.
It’s the sound of dozens of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes making Vs in the snow with their cross country skis as they warm up for the 100-meter Nordic sprint.
They lined up by age group, one in each lane, separated by lines made of needle-clad twigs. On the signal, the Nordic combined and cross country skiers shoved their poles into the ground, propelling them forward, faster and faster.
“If you go out first, I think it gives you a better shot,” said 11-year-old Shea Rossi. “So you don’t get held up behind everybody.”
Aspen Bennett-Manke, 14, agreed that the best way to win, was to have the fastest start.
“Because the lanes are so close together, when you start skating, your skis cross,” she said. “If you’re ahead of everyone else, you can spread out your skis and not crash into anyone else.”
There were only a few inches of packed powder between their skis and the pavement on Lincoln, so Rossi said most people didn’t bring their best equipment.
“You have to make sure to wear your worst pair of skis,” she said. “They’re all scratched up.”
The race is significantly shorter than what the athletes are used to. Bennett-Manke typically races 5-kilometer races, while the younger athletes may race a 3K or even a 1.5K course, which is nearly a mile.
In practice, they’ll sprint intervals, and of course, to conclude a race, the skiers give it their all in the final stretch, lunging across the line as some did on Saturday.
Ethan Maines, 11, didn’t need to lunge as he crossed the line with a huge lead in the first heat of the U12 boys. Wearing a bright orange head band signed by Continental Cup participants, he sped to victory.
He shared the podium with 10-year-old Nathan Rind, and Arthur Tirone, who was celebrating his 12th birthday.
“I like everybody coming to watch us do the sport we love,” said Tirone.
Tirone said his sprinting tactic was to stay strong the whole way, while Maines skated hard and focused on his breathing.
“Mine was to get a really quick start,” said Rind. “And if I fell behind, not to get worried and just keep going.”
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and its athletes have such a huge role in Winter Carnival, putting on a show for locals and visitors on main street as well as Howelsen Hill.
Maines loves that he gets to ski down the Main Street of his town, and Rind loves the community feel and that he gets to ski with people he may not already know.
Bennett-Manke said she enjoys taking a break from all the work to take in the Street Events, but both she and Rossi agreed that the Night Extravaganza and light show at Howelsen Hill is the best part of the whole weekend.
“I hope the firework works this year,” said Bennett-Manke.
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