Steamboat skiers step it up in high stakes Holiday Classic

Former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Mary Kate Hackworthy finished 21st during the Murphy Roberts Holiday Classic on Thursday, Dec. 23, at Howelsen Hill Ski Area.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Every year, the Murphy Roberts Holiday Classic attracts the best Alpine skiers around, aside from the World Cup competitors.

U.S. Ski Team members competed with collegiate athletes who took on some of the best club skiers in the country.

Almost everyone was highly motivated by the $4,000 prize for the victor on both Wednesday, Dec. 22, and Thursday, Dec. 23.

On day one, which concluded with a night race under the lights, Carissa Cassidy, of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, was the women’s winner, while Simon Fournier was the men’s winner. The University of Denver skier continued his dominance into day two, pocketing his second check of $4,000. The women’s race was shaken up a bit with SSCV’s Madeleine Dekko taking the win and the cash.

The courses were tough, and as skier after skier blew off course in run two of the men’s race Thursday, it reminded every athlete that anyone could win.

Noah Riemenschneider, a Steamboat resident of six years and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier, was in the running on day two after an extremely fast first run.

He was third going into the second run, and as the pack thinned out, the pressure built. Riemenschneider navigated the tricky course well and crossed the finish line with the 15th best second-run time. He finished the day in fifth, taking home $200.

“I think I did pretty good. I can definitely do better on second runs here,” he said. “Considering what happened yesterday, I think it’s a move up.”

On Wednesday, Riemenschneider finished run one in third. His second run was so fast, it could have granted him a win, but he straddled the final gate, knocking him out of the running.

Considering he didn’t go into the event with any sort of goal, competing with the best of them was a solid result.

“I really just wanted to ski as best as I can,” Riemenschneider said.

SSWSC athlete Nicole Nolting enjoyed the opportunity to see how she fared against older and faster skiers.

“It’s really cool. This is my third holiday classic, so I’m just out here to have fun, but it’s cool to have the good field,” she said.

Nolting earned 41st on day one and 31st on day two. She admitted her runs weren’t perfect, but she didn’t hold back, so she was happy with how she finished.

SSWSC’s Lilly Sewell excelled under pressure. She finished third and first in the development races last week, giving her confidence going into the higher level races this week.

On Wednesday, she finished in the top 30 after run one. She didn’t finish her second run, though.

Sewell had an even better first run Thursday, finishing 16th. She completed her second run and, once again, had the 16th best time. She earned 12th, the highest finish among current SSWSC athletes.

The field was littered with SSWSC alumni, including Bates College skiers Sequoia Anstine and Jaelie Hovey, as well as University of Denver skiers Cole Puckett and Trey Seymour, who earned 12th and 23rd Thursday. U.S. Ski Team members and former Steamboat skiers Jay Poulter and Cooper Puckett also partook on day one but didn’t compete Thursday.

They set an example for the younger men, such as Charlie Welch and Laiken Roth. Welch finished just outside the top 30 on both days, taking 33rd and 32nd.

“It’s been a work in progress,” Welch said.

While he wasn’t pleased with his results, he enjoyed seeing friends who had moved away and other SSWSC grads who now ski elsewhere.

The high school juniors were on the younger end of the spectrum of competitors. Nevertheless, they did well.

On Thursday, Roth improved on a 37th-fastest first run, earning the 22nd-fastest time on his second run to grant him 24th. He said he learned a lot from watching the more experienced athletes take on the steep and variable course.

“You really got to attack it if you want to be in a good spot after the first run,” he said.

“Even if it’s not clean, it’s fast,” Welch added. “The guys just rip it.”

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